i went to hout bay yesterday.
i drove through the crooked hills quite recklessly, eddie vedder on full tilt, the fresh sea air engulfing my little car as i rolled the driver-side window down, down, down.
it’s my cure-all and go-to for anything: to head to the sea.
happy. sad. anxious. heartbroken. content. mad. homesick. grateful. or feeling nothing in particular at all.
yesterday i just wanted to be alone. to steer my car wherever i felt like it and to walk up and down the shipyard looking at all the boats and dreaming nautical-themed dreams.
there is just something about the sea that feels like medicine.
i wasn’t alone for too long, though. this hippie-busker dude asked if he could paint my portrait for 30 rand (4 bucks). i initially brushed him off, but then i thought, “ah well, never had my portrait drawn. it’s only a few bucks.”
so we sat down. and as he scrawled and sketched, he asked about my life. i asked about his.
turns out he’s this afrikaans trapeze artist/singer/director/martial artist who has been stabbed in the neck, divorced, put in naval prison, and went all the way to new york when he was young only to be told by john hammond (bob dylan’s producer from back in the day) that he sounded too much like cat stevens. and he does. i listened to his stuff on a cd while he drew me on paper. i told him i had been in new york only last month sitting on bob dylan’s old stoop, listening to “positively 4th street”.
he has lived in berlin and london and paris. he’s directed plays and doesn’t pay rent. and he’s in a band.
i asked him, “if you could be 26 again, the age i am now, what would you want to know? what would you tell yourself if you could go back?” (rule: you should always ask for the wisdom of people ahead of the game when you have the chance…)
he looked up from his drawing and said, “recite the Lord’s prayer. know that thing backwards and forwards. it covers everything…(pause)…that’s what i’d tell myself.”
he asked if he could buy me coffee at the mariner’s wharf.
my first instinct was, “uh nah, this guy could be shady.” but hey, it’s free coffee and i could learn something. so he kindly bought me a coffee and we sat in and amongst the families and tourists eating fish and chips and chatted about his life. he actually took out his multi-paged resumé (up until this point, you might think he was chock full of shit, but it was all there on paper. who am i to doubt him.) and i asked him what he had done to get thrown into naval prison (answer: he objected to being trained to kill. which is legit, i thought.), and why him and his norwegian wife had divorced (answer: mother-in-law) and if he had ever felt inclined to do some more “reasonable” things in life, like being a cashier or marine biologist instead of a street-dwelling wayward batch of random talents (answer: no.)
after awhile, i told him it was a pleasure to meet him, shook his hand and went on my way.
and as i walked off, i smiled.
that random hippie is exactly why i love traveling an open road alone. you meet people you otherwise wouldn’t have, and you’re forced to give people a chance that you might pass off if you’re with other people.
and it’s always good to give people a chance. especially society-defying hippies.