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The old man wore his grey hair long and disheveled and carried a clipboard and a walkie-talkie.

old hippie

Not him, but kinda like him.

He sat in a reception area at the airport. I could tell by the logo on his shirt and the name on the back of the clipboard that he was waiting for someone.

I had a clipboard and a walkie-talkie, too. Back in the days before 9/11 it was enough to get me into most parts of the airport without question, even though I was only a shuttle bus driver. Of course it helped that I looked more like Brian Bosworth than Jerry Garcia, the opposite of my new-found friend.

Usually, when I had spare time at the airport, I would wander around behind the scenes. It was usually more interesting than anything I found in the waiting areas.

Something intrigued me about him. I can usually spot searchers and wanderers — the wanderers of the sort who aren’t really lost. He had stories of the advertising business in New York and of beach houses in the Hamptons. His stories were those of a working-class Jewish kid from Brooklyn who made the grade only to say “enough” at some point, lose it all, and move West, where he found a job with a walkie talkie, a clipboard, and the names of people who needed rides.

He seemed far too happy for a man with such a story.

He pulled a book out of his fanny-pack. “This is mine” he said. I forget the title, but I realized how important it was to him — that word “mine”. He had just been published for the second time. This time it was a collection of romantic remembrances from his youth leading up to his glory days in the City. An inspiration.

“I want to do what I love,” I said to him as I thumbed through the book, “but I’m afraid there’s no money in it.”

“Do what you’re good at,” he said to me, “and the money will be there.”

I don’t remember the title of his book, but I do remember the name of the small publishing house that released it.

It was “Cerebral Impact”.

The impact this encounter had on me can partially be seen in my upcoming novel:

photo credit: CasparGirl via photopin cc