Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Thank You Random Man...

     Five months from the start date, May 1, 2016, I made my way down to Southwest Florida to stay with my mom while I work to save for the trip. The first week I was here, I looked up the local brewery and mentioned to my mom how I wanted to try it out. When we walked in and sat down, the bartender came over, set down a couple coasters and welcomed us in a relaxed accent. After the first beer, my mom asked him where he was from, him making us guess. "Portsmouth, England," he said. But apparently he'd been in the states for nearly twenty years. Midway through the second beer, my mom started (what I later learned was going to be a routine affair midway through the second beer) casually mentioning to the bartender, or whoever would listen, that I was going to be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in the spring and wasn't that so cool?! A lot of the times we got blank stares, many people either didn't know what it was, or did't believe that hiking from Mexico to Canada was "so cool." However, this unsuspecting bartender replies how he himself is traveling cross country with a few buddies. Going all the way to San Francisco in April. How he would be stopping in New Orleans, Denver, Las Vegas, San Diego, among a few others. My mom turned to me, turned back to him, a smile creeping across her face. "Yeah, we're renting a van and it'll take a couple weeks, but we have plenty of room if you'd want to join." I smiled, commented how great that would be, putting it to the back of my mind, laughing at the absurdity of riding out west with this man. We cashed out, walked to the car and I got in the driver's side waiting for my mom. I sat there, shook my head and couldn't believe I was actually thinking about passing up the offer.
     The next couple of weeks, I managed to get two jobs, get Christmas shopping taken care of, go to the beach a few times, all the while going back and forth whether I should go back to the brewery and see if the guy had changed his mind, whether he was being friendly and giving two blondes in a bar some entertainment, or whether he had actually meant it. Yesterday, I went back to the brewery, the same bartender behind the bar, ordered a West Coast IPA and sipped. As I was drinking, he kept looking over at me, knowing he had seen me somewhere, but couldn't place where. Three quarters of the way through my first beer, he walked over to me and said, "You're going on a hike, aren't you? You were sitting here with your mom a couple months ago!" I smiled, nodded my head and asked if he was still planning on making the trip out west. He nodded, "Yeah, yeah! My buddy's wanting to come a little sooner so that he has more vacation time." I laughed, "Oh, I'm sure. You wouldn't still be offering a ride, would you?" He grinned, nodded and asked where I needed to end up. San Diego, I told him and he assured me it was right on the way.
     Now, I can imagine the responses I'm most likely going to get from friends and family, from readers, if there are any. Why in the world would I EVER ride out west with some guy I met twice when I could easily get an airplane ticket, most likely for the same price? The thing is, they're stopping in New Orleans. Right now, if I could pick somewhere to stay a year, anywhere, that's where I would be. I could tell you it's because of the parties, the street performers painted in silver and gold, dancing on milk crates, the magnificent architecture and the most amazing food ever, but really, it's because of these violinists playing in the square-- a guy, young and skinny who played in a way that made you believe that if you looked away, the music would be gone and you couldn't bear to think of leaving that sound. When I walked closer to the wall beside me where I would be in a little more shade, I saw her. A young girl playing her violin under a large umbrella and when she turned, only slightly, there on her back was a baby with ear phones on, asleep and rocking along with her mother's movements.
     For the rest of the day, there was no amount of garbage in the streets, or tourists pushing past that made me forget the feeling of those two violinists with the baby. I want to say taking a ride from this bartender (let's call him T) was based solely on my hatred of flying, or because really, it was quite convenient. Truthfully though, I couldn't pass up Nola.