Page's Turn

Hank

July 22, 2011

With the AC blasting in my car this morning, I venture out to Starbucks on Wisconsin Avenue for my usual venti latte. On the way, I call a friend, complaining of the stifling heat as I drive through the leafy streets of Georgetown.
 
“I’m so glad I’m not a man in a suit,” I say, pulling into the parking lot and stepping out in a sleeveless coral linen dress.
 
That’s when I spot Hank, a homeless man who sometimes hangs out on the brick wall next to the sidewalk. I often give him a dollar. He responds with a “God bless you. Have a great day.” I usually don’t engage in conversation other than, “Good morning. Have a nice day.” I’m just happy to be blessed by someone instead of cursed! But on this day, when the temperature in my car hovers at 100 degrees, I feel compelled to say something. Hank is wearing long dark pants, a plaid flannel shirt, a beige windbreaker, and hat.
 
A homeless woman huddles in the heat (Photo by: Page Evans) A homeless woman huddles in the heat
“Hey, I’m a little worried about you. You really should get out of the sun. This heat is dangerous and you have so many layers on,” I say.
 
“Oh, no. I’m just fine. I’ve got plenty of clothes on,” he says.
 
“I know. That’s the problem. It’s way too hot to be wearing all that--especially that flannel shirt.”
 
“I appreciate you saying something, but the flannel keeps me cool. It’s like insulation.”
 
I repeat my spiel about that being the problem.  And then I ask if he has a place to go. He leans in closer to me, as if telling a secret, “You know, I have mental problems.”
 
I really don’t know how to respond. It is pretty evident, but what do you say? So I ask if he has enough water.
 
“I’m just fine right here, but thank you for your concern,” he says, gesturing
to a sweating bottle of Smart Water that another customer had given him.
 
“That’s good. Make sure you drink plenty and stay in the shade.” Then I tell him about the newly renovated Georgetown Ministry Center on Wisconsin Avenue near Water Street. Finally, I have some useful information to share. The center, which aids the homeless in this area, re-opened last week. It is fully air-conditioned and open daily.
 
Georgetown Ministry Center, newly renovated (Photo by: Page Evans) Georgetown Ministry Center, newly renovated
According to GMC’s Director, Gunther Stern, there are about 60 homeless men and women living in Georgetown. “Of them, I would venture most, if not all, are mentally ill,” Stern says. “We contact them either at our center or on our walks around the community.”
 
During this hot spell, Stern and other volunteers at GMC have been out providing bottled water and sandwiches to those who need it. But he encourages the homeless to visit the center. “People who stop in can take a shower, wash their clothes, enjoy a fresh cup of coffee and sit.”
 
When I tell Hank about the center, he seems intrigued. “Is that the place near the church? I haven’t been there in a long while.”
 
“Yep, it’s just down at the bottom of Wisconsin. Gunther Stern runs it,” I say, pointing in the direction of the river.
 
“Gunther’s still there? I’ll have to go down there and check it out.”
 
Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I finally feel we’ve made a connection. At least, I hope we have.
 
 
 


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Liking my PINK bike

June 28, 2011

I spotted the tricked-out pink and green number in the window of Tickled Pink, a Rehoboth Beach shop known for its Lilly Pulitzer dresses. But this wasn’t a dress or any other cute, clubby attire. It was a bike--a beach cruiser with white and pink tires, a white seat and floral frame of daisies. One look and I had to have it.
La bicyclette (Photo by: Page Evans) La bicyclette
As mid-life crises go, this was certainly less expensive than a convertible Porsche. And it still provided me with the rush of wind in my hair and speed I seemed to crave. 
 
There’s something about a bike with no gears that is so basic and uncomplicated. In Georgetown, we need gears to climb the hills. We rush around, hitting speed bumps--real and metaphorical--along the way. At the beach, we cruise along the ocean or pedal past cottages lined with hydrangeas. 
 
Of course, I really
A bicycle, not red or blue, but pink and green (Photo by: Page Evans) A bicycle, not red or blue, but pink and green
didn’t need a pink and green Lilly bike. I already had a choice of beach cruisers--albeit, chipped and rusted ones--at my parents’ cottage. So why this one? For starters, it was just plain pretty. Having grown up with two older brothers, I spent a lifetime getting hand-me-downs in every shade of, uh, let’s see...navy blue or red. There were no dolls in our household, let alone pink bikes. So when I saw the floral two-wheeler, it appealed to my girly side.
 
It also appealed to my girls’ girly sides.  “It’s so cute, Mommy. You’ve got to get it,” Peyton convinced me. Her motives weren’t entirely altruistic, because the minute I rolled in with it, my daughter promptly took it for a spin. 
 
This week, as we head to the beach for the Fourth of July, the first thing I plan to do is hop on my multi-hued bike. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate freedom.
 


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Sometimes I hate to admit when my mother is right.

June 8, 2011

Last year, she called from the train on her way home from New York. She’d just seen “Red,” the play about the artist Mark Rothko. “I don’t care what you have to do to get there, but you simply must see this play,” she told me. “It will knock your socks off.”

She was right. It did.

Recently, she called to remind me about a poetry reading at Politics and Prose. “You will love Billy Collins. He is funny, charming, and he loves jazz.” Aside from being an artist, art-lover, and poetry aficionado, my mother LOVES jazz. 

“Sure, sure. I’ll try to make it,” I told her. You know when you say yes to things before life gets in the way. You forget there are kids to pick up, dogs to walk, meals to cook, beds to make, stories to write, bills to pay, meltdowns in the making. Some things, like attending a poetry reading, take a slight effort. It’s a detour from our daily routine. 

When the rain started and my former husband called to say one of our girls was having a meltdown over a lost lacrosse stick, I almost pulled the plug on the poetry reading. But my mother’s voice loomed over me. And when the black Suburban behind me honked incessantly because the weathered Honda Accord in front of us was ‘blocking the box” on Connecticut Avenue, I wanted to call Mom and tell her I just couldn’t make the poetry reading. I couldn’t deal with rain, rude drivers, and rush hour traffic.

But as I entered Politics and Prose, what struck me first was his voice. With all the people packed in the bookstore, I couldn’t see Collins at first. But his deep voice and deadpan delivery drew me in. His poetry was funny, poignant, and accessible. I never thought I’d laugh so much at a poetry reading.

 

Feedback 

 

The woman who wrote from Phoenix

after my reading there

to tell me they were still talking about it

just wrote again

to tell me they had stopped.

 

Aside from reading his poems that night, Collins talked about the writing process. He said he enjoys “moving a poem to a destination totally unseen.”

I thought about what that meant--whether in writing or life. Do any us know where we’re going? We might have plans, strategies, ideas. But we really don’t know where our lives will take us. 

The one thing I do know is that nothing happens without an effort. I really didn’t feel like attending the poetry reading. Frankly, what I felt like doing was staying home and watching “Dancing with the Stars.” But afterward, I was glad I’d made the effort. I left Politics and Prose that night feeling energized and uplifted. And I called my mother, giving her some positive feedback.

“Didn’t I tell you?” Mom said.

“You were right, Mom.” Then she proceeded to quote a line from a favorite poet, Theodore Roethke: “I learn by going where I have to go.”

We all do.


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