Walk This Way!

Elmer the husky and I set out for our third walk of the day. Destination on a bright and dry Friday: the grocery store to see homeless Mark from the Old Crow Book Club and buy a copy of the newspaper advocating for the homeless that Mark peddles for a few bucks a week.

As I walked with my new dog, it occurred to me that I was walking specifically to meet my homeless friend so he could meet my dog and derive some small cheer from that experience. It also occurred to me that my habit of venturing out to see Mark is in no way unique. Many people in Portland and across Oregon and elsewhere undoubtedly venture out alone, with dogs, or friends and family to meet a specific homeless person in their circle and help administer to their needs. This is a subject almost wholly unwritten about as far as my reading goes, but I seem to write about it all the time because it intrigues me.

We stopped at a red light. I heard screaming down the street and looked. A young homeless woman wearing a bra and pajama bottoms was weaving toward us and having a loud and angry conversation with the wind. She had apparently been wronged and was pissed.

Elmer sat down. He watched her as she passed and his ears stood at attention and his face appeared confused. As Mark once memorably told me, “Dogs don’t speak tweak.”

We rounded a corner and the entrance to the grocery store came into view. No Mark. One day, I’ll never see him again, perhaps sooner than later.

Elmer and I walked the sidewalk across the street from the store. I saw an elderly bearded homeless man with long black hair standing where Mark usually sits. He had to be pushing 70-75. An elderly homeless woman slouched in a walker next to him. She was eating a hot dog.

The man saw me and Elmer and broke into a big smile.

“Hey,” he yelled, Aerosmith said to ‘walk this way!’”

A homeless man quoted a lyric from an Aerosmith classic. He yelled it!

I waved and Elmer and I walked away. I just knew that man had seen Aerosmith back in the day, probably in 1978 during the Draw the Line tour at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland. He was on top of the world then. He held that lighter high in the air.