He’s there every day, on a magnificent Conde McCullough bridge, the ocean in sight, sweeping the sidewalks from end to end. Neon orange stocking cap, a garden variety plastic kitchen broom, Seahawks jersey (#72), Thermos, backpack.
The routine started a couple weeks ago and he’s never missed a day. Consistent rain hasn’t yet fallen this Oregon November and I wonder if he’ll sweep when the weather turns wet and windy.
His technique is rigorous. He handles the broom well. He doesn’t talk to himself aloud.
I know his face pretty well. How could I not when I’ve driven across a narrow two-land bridge and pass within five or six feet of him? I guess I might not know his face if I wasn’t looking for it. I never want to ignore a face like this, nor any face I encounter.
He’s an older man, clean shaven, neat short gray hair. I’ve never seen him smile.
Conde’s bridges certainly deserve this special care, but still, his appearance unsettles me. Who is he? Why is he sweeping? Where does he live? How does he live? This is the kind of story I want to investigate as a writer.
There are countless stories like this one. They multiply before my very eyes. I see so many people moving along Highway 101 doing strange things and living with nothing except for what they carry on their backs, their bicycles, in their wagons, wheelbarrows, baby strollers, grocery carts and rolling suitcases. Many of these people have dogs.
I do not recall seeing this scene ten or twenty years ago with anywhere close to the regularity I see it now. I now see it five or ten times a day. And I live in rural Oregon.
Something has truly gone wrong in America. People are getting ground up. I want change. I want a Presidential candidate to address this story and not with cliches.
How can I help?
Perhaps a start would be talking to the bridge sweeper.