Sometimes you just wish for more

Saturday we went down to Portland's Saturday Market. We were walking through the park by Lloyd's center to catch the Max downtown -- Ezra running ahead as usual -- when a homeless guy caught my eye. Head half shaved, half dyed, metal sticking out of various holes all over his face, tattoos all over his arms and face, classic punk clothes. Early 20s. You can see him in your mind's eye, I'm sure.

He was sitting on the edge of the sidewalk with a piece of cardboard in front of him. On it was some of the coolest looking craftsmanship I have ever seen. In his hands were a pair of pliers and a small chain that he was making, fastening little metal rings together. Also in front of him were two other pieces of cardboard that had been neatly lettered in black and silver ink: "Hand Made chain malle jewelery" and "Don't just walk by. At least take the time to say hello. I'm not invisible."

That second one caught my eye.

I called Ezra back and stooped to see his wares that were spread out for sale. Using needle-nosed pliers he was forming intricately patterned chains out of all different sizes of copper and steel wire rings. Perfectly even in size and perfectly shaped, the rings were connected to form bracelets, necklaces, and keychains. He didn't look up.

I thought of telling him that it was really cool stuff and leaving, but decided to see about striking up a conversation instead: "How's it going, man?"

His voice surprised me -- nasal and so quiet I could hardly hear his words. "I'm kind of discouraged. Nobody's buying anything. Everybody stops and says, 'that's really cool stuff, man' but nobody's willing to buy anything."


He told me that he had learned his craft from a friend of his from Alaska and that he was more than willing to take special requests. He could make them seamless, fastening them permanently around your neck if you like so that the only way to get it off is to cut it off. Don't worry about the copper, it's great as long as you don't get it wet. Get it wet and it will turn your skin green.

His hands were busy with his work the whole time.

People don't understand, I'll work with budgets. It's not like it's that much to pay for something that takes so much work. At least I'm not just begging, you know? I make the clasps by hand, too. Except if you want it seamless, then there's no clasp. I made one for my girlfriend, a big thick one for her neck. It was real nice -- I could have sold it for forty bucks.

I picked one up and fingered it in my hands. This was some of the coolest stuff I have seen in a long time. I asked him the prices and he pointed out the $10 bracelets, the $15 necklaces, and the $5 keychains. I cursed inside at my lack of money to spend.

I can't say strongly enough how much I wanted to tell him that I appreciated his art, that I wished I had a basement for him to work in, that maybe I could help him get set up to sell his work in a shop for what it's actually worth instead of for the pittance he's getting. I wanted to tell him how much he is loved and how much value I saw in him and how much there is out there for him to experience.

Instead I handed him a five dollar bill for this piece of handmade craftsmanship:

Melissa handed him the apple she had been saving in her bag to stave off morning sickness later and we left.

Sometimes you just wish for more, I don't really know what else to say. And sometimes you need to turn those wishes into action, and you don't do anything about it. Sometimes you feel entirely inadequate and, in your unsure-ness, you do and say nothing at all. Sometimes the cost of friendship is just too high. Sometimes your plans for your day get in the way of Someone Else's plans for your day.

Sometimes you go home and your heart aches for days.

No comments: