This is R.C. Bates. He's a poet I've met a few times in Silverlake, just east of Hollywood. He walks up and down Sunset Boulevard, past hipsters drinking spearmint tea at the Casbah Cafe, through artists, musicians, and other Silverlake dwellers - many with the LA Weekly rolled under their arms; he walks by the cafes crowded with hungry twenty-something types who awoke around noon from a hard night of partying - he walks.
Months ago, as I was sitting on a bench in front of the Silverlake Conservatory of Music, while waiting for my daughter to finish her guitar lesson, R.C. approached me. He held before me his collection of thin poetry books, each filled with his words. I so admired his courage to put his thoughts into book form, and his bravery to look people in the eye and try to sell bits of his soul, that I bought one. After rummaging in my purse for money and finding none, I wrote him a check for five dollars.
Today, while my daughter was at her lesson, I walked up Sunset boulevard past the eclectic shops of antiques, collectibles, incense and vintage wear toward an outdoor farmers' market.
There were tables of crusty breads, pastries, cherries, apricots, homemade candles, buckets of irises, sunflowers and orchids; the sound of a live jazz band floating through the air. I was happy.
There was R.C. Bates at the other end of the market in his top hat, leather vest, faded jeans, and sandals. In his leathery hands, jeweled by thick silver rings, were his colorful books of poetry.
I walked up to him, and was happily surprised that he remembered me from months ago.
After catching up, we jumped in to a philosophical talk on life/death, yin/yang, lightening/sunlight, positive/negative, then mutually agreed that life is too short to focus on the darkness. Then he walked with me back down Sunset Boulevard toward my daughter.
"So, last night I got my scooter ripped off," R.C. said out of the blue. "I thought...that poor guy who took it..."
"Why? Was it a piece of crap?" I asked.
He threw his top hatted head back and laughed. "Exactly!" he said, "the poor slob is going to find the tires are popped, the engine always quits.." he laughed some more. Then he abruptly stopped laughing and said, "The way I see it, the guy who took that piece of junk probably saved my life. I could have been riding it today and might've
been hit by a car."
"What a great way to think about that," I said. "You'll never know, but you could-a been right. Maybe he saved your life."
Then we both laughed. I laughed, because if in the same situation, I'd have been pissed; he laughed...I don't know why... maybe because I laughed.
"I wish more people thought like you," I told him.
"Well, I've learned that usually things happen for a reason, and rather than get mad at the guy who took it, I figure his karma will catch up to him. And life is too short to think negatively."
"I know people who moan and groan about everything, and waste so much time focusing on what's awful," I said. "I only wish somehow It'd be possible to give them your attitude."
Then, as we approached my daughter who was walking up the street with her guitar case strapped to her back, I told him how much I admired him for selling his poetry.
"Ah man!" he laughed and said, "My wife was after me for a long time, she'd say 'stop watching T.V. and get up and write,' so I did."
I knodded,"Yeah, I say the same thing whenever I'm done watching t.v. 'I could have done something, but instead I watched other people doing things."
"Yep, life's too short," R.C. confirmed in his laid back rasp of a voice that tripped off his tongue like a brook sliding down boulders, which I still heard faintly as I walked away, playing over in my head...life's too short.
His attitude lingered with me for the rest of the day.