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Morning Coffee-“He Lived In The Streets”

We spotted one another immediately. He waved and I walked over to him. He got up and said “this is the first time I ‘ve ever been to Starbucks.” He looked like a man that traveled alone. He looked much older than the photo I had seen of him. He didn’t offer to buy me a cup of coffee; I felt uneasy. He was tall, dressed plainly, had a shaved head and a goatee with some gray coming through it. When he looked at me his big brown eyes pierced right through me. His black skin looked weathered.
I was drawn to his photo from an online dating site. I rarely sought men out on the site, but there was something about his photo. He was sitting down with a saxophone between his legs and he looked striking and powerful, and his skin was as black as black can be. I sent him a “wink” to see if he was interested. He responded saying “when and where do you want to meet?” I said
“hold on a moment, I would like to chat with you on the phone, send me your phone number.” I called him. “Hello, he said, “Hi Alex, this is Sherri, I contacted you online?” “Oh, it’s you” and then I wanted to hangup, but I didn’t and we began some small talk and then he said “I hope you don’t like to go out a lot because I don’t” and I got uneasy again and said “well, I don’t go out that much.” I wanted to meet him. I wanted to see him in person. He was a musician, he seemed interesting, and he had a gig in Sweden and Finland the following week.
Starbuck’s was crowded and I had to wait awhile to get my coffee. As I walked backed to our table, Alex was saying “Goodbye Michael” to someone leaving. I thought maybe it was a fan of his. Alex grew up in upstate New York. His parents had him when they were teenagers. “My parents were good to me. We had fun together.” Many of the jazz greats came through his city, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Holiday, Cab Calloway, and he would see them all. Besides the sax, Alex played the piano and some other instruments. He was self taught. He came to NYC in his early 20’s and got jobs in finance to support himself. He was experiencing racism, being passed over for promotions and unkindness, so one morning he packed a bag and went off to live in the streets. He lived in crack houses, never getting involved with the crack or the prostitutes. “I had to watch my back all the time, because I never knew when someone would come up behind me and kill me on the spot or throw me off of a roof.” I began to feel uneasy again. When he first went into the streets, music was banned from being played in public places such as the subway, but that soon began to change. He didn’t know that he would be in the streets for 20 years. He saw men die in the streets. The cold would get to them, they couldn’t move and they wouldn’t wake up. He knew that he had to get off otherwise he was going to die. I had asked Alex if he wanted to sit in the sunshine in the park, but he held himself and said “I can’t stay out in the cold anymore. “ I felt uneasy again. Tell me about yourself Sherri.” “I grew up in a violent family in New England and I knew as a little girl that something was very wrong and I didn’t want to live my life like my parents did. I was physically, emotionally and sexually abused and it has taken me years to clear away all of the mess. In l995 I went to live at a Buddhist Retreat Center for two years and that did it. When I came back to NYC I was happy and transformed. It wasn’t easy those 2 years, but I did it and here I am.” Alex looked at me with great compassion. He appeared as a black angel to me. Our lives were different but we had a common thread of going through hell and coming out on the other side. What keeps Alex warm now is his music, a decent roof over his head, and thoughts of being with a good woman.
“So when are we moving in together” he said smiling at me. “You are so beautiful and I know you understand everything I have said to you.” I smiled back and we got up to leave and Alex kissed me on the check and said “goodbye.” “Please call me when you come back from your trip.” “I will” he said.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, October 27th, 2009 at 6:20 am and is filed under Industry News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Morning Coffee-“He Lived In The Streets””

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