I‘ve been distracted. Birthday parties. Rays games. Ghost hunting in Sarasota. Bike riding with Joe. Interviewing Sarasota County Commissioners. Watching Batman. You know. The basic distractions.
This guy’s name is Ian. Or at least Ian is one of his names. He also goes by Adrian and Avery. According to Ian, who likes to set up shop in the courtyard by the clamshell fountain in downtown Sarasota, his parents were a “headstrong lot,” too stubborn and too squabbling to decide who to name their son after. Since they both had unisex names – Adrian and Avery – they decided to call him both.
“Now listen,” says Ian. “I think both names are beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. But my parents had it coming. What did they expect giving their son two names like Adrian and Avery? I go by Ian now, which I consider a nobler name. It’s a noble name, isn’t it? Ian.”
“Yes,” I said. “It’s a nobler name.”
I asked Ian if I could take his picture. He was nervously rolling cigarettes like some people twirl straw wrappers. (If you look closely, you’ll see that all those blue papers beside him contain tobacco. Grainy, dirty bits of brown tobacco the color of rawhide leather. Also the color of Ian’s skin.)
So I said, “Hot damn, Ian. That’s a lot of tobacco.”
And he said, “You roll your own too?”
And I said, “Don’t smoke. Hey, can I take your picture?”
And he said, “What for?”
And I said, “Because I like the composition of your loitering.”
And he said, “If you want to take my picture you’ll have to sit here and listen to me for a minute. That’s my sitting fee – you listening to me talk.”
And I said, “Ah OK. Go on.”
And just like that Ian went on. And on. And on. He spoke with a slight British accent that reminded me of when Madonna started speaking with a brogue back when she was writing children’s books. I listened to Ian for 20 minutes and in those 20 minutes I learned that he’s a reporter investigating corruption within the local power structures, including the daily newspaper, and that the biggest problem with people today is that no one wants to make eye contact anymore.
I later realized that when I took these pictures Ian neglected to look me in the eye. It turns out that homeless people are as fearful of us as we are of them. The next time I see Ian I might tell him this, except that in listening to his stories I feel the people he fears most are … his parents.
So be good to your kids, guys. Try not to name them two unisex names at once. It’s hard enough finding your identity as a kid.