A Black man of indeterminate age sat at a picnic table outside of Jake’s Place, a favorite neighborhood dive of mine. I often write about the homeless in this joint because homeless men and women often patronize Jake’s, and when they do, invariably a story unfolds.

The dude was lookin’ sharp! Panama hat, black t-shirt, black jeans and tan wing-tip shoes studded with green rhinestones. No socks! He held an acoustic guitar with a leopard-print strap. A tiny battery powered amplifier rested on the table.

He had busker written all over him. He also exuded the unmistakable vibe of being homeless.

I’d seen this hep cat multiple times in and around Jake’s but had yet to meet him or hear him perform.

This was the time. I went inside, bought a beer, and took it outside. I sat at a table next to his and offered him $5 for a set.

He said “right on,” stashed the dough, and began tuning up. He asked what I wanted to hear. I said his best songs.

He seemed satisfied with the tuning, strummed a few times, adjusted his capo, and started playing and singing a song.

It was something unknown to me and vibrated a pronounced hippie soul sound.

After he finished, I said the song was unfamiliar to me. He said it was a newer hip hop tune he’d discovered through an algorithm on YouTube. We discussed the pros and cons of algorithms in our lives and we both said we missed the glory days of choosing music based on the album’s cover. (Hello Ohio Players and The Bangles!)

Next he launched into what he said was an original. He didn’t write many songs of his own anymore. In fact, it had been years, but recently he’d thought about writing some new ones.

By now a small crowd of Jake’s Oregon Tavern Age regulars had gathered around us for the show. They all seemed to know the musician.

After winding down the original, he noodled a few country blues licks and then we struck up a conversation.

His name is Darrel. He gigged the patio of a nearby Italian restaurant on a little stage he constructed from scrapwood. He played for tips and meals. This was how he survived. The wingtips made quite an impression on diners; he’d studded the rhinestones himself.

Everything you needed to know in life, according to Darrel, was contained within the 12-bar blues progression (true).

Someone said Darrel was quite the midnight mover, strolling the neighbor late at night, guitar around his neck, lit up on Dago red, and playing.

Darrel laughed when he heard that.

Our conversation drifted to his musical history. He’d always played solo but recently wanted to form a band. I said being in a band of any musical genre is one of the hardest things a creative person can attempt (and I would know!). That’s why thousands of them die every week in America and why the Rolling Stones are not of this Earth.

Darrel agreed about the difficulty of being in a band but said, “Really, aren’t we all in a band one way or another whether we know it or not?”

What a line! I said I hadn’t heard anything that profound in a years. He should write a song about it.

He smiled and coaxed up a little blues run on the guitar. “Maybe I will.”

Darrel provided more of his background. He was born back East and, “When I came to Oregon, I stopped getting into trouble.”

“Oh shit!” I said. “That’s a great subject for a song.”

“I agree,” he said.

A few minutes later I was standing at the bar with Darrel buying him a drink. Anything he wanted. He’d made my month!

He ordered a PBR.

I believe it is worth stating these moments never occur in brew pubs or wine bars.