An Interesting Man Named Dale

One day in St. Augustine I grew tired of sitting on my boat and decided it was a fine time to make a trip to land. I hadn't been to the hard in four days and I was feeling rather lethargic from my isolation. I've never had a problem with being alone but I find that if I am alone within a short distance of people, I gain a certain melancholy about my position in life. Where my boat was anchored in the river was close to the fort and I could here the jovial voices of people exploring the historic site quite clearly. For whatever reason this made me feel like I was missing out on something in life or that I was just not exactly doing what I needed to be doing, so I jumped down into my dinghy and headed for land to find whatever opportunities awaited me.

The Great Cross as Seen From My Onewheel in St. Augustine

I have a Onewheel, an electronic board that rides similarly to a snowboard, and I enjoy exploring the different towns and cities I visit by flying down the sidewalks aboard it. My justification for owning it is simply, that I don't have a car and it allows me a much larger range to roam and explore. It also makes getting groceries and supplies much easier. The only problem concerning the Onewheel is that I don't entirely trust it being completely waterproof, so I don't ride it in the rain. As I was making my way down St. George street, I noticed the familiar smell of rain. Within seconds a torrential downpour was upon me and I had to get off my board to seek shelter.

Since I had no particular goal in mind I decided to wait out the rain under a canopy next to an ice cream parlor. While I was sitting there a man walked by wearing all black leather clothes. He had a confident gait that showed no sign of wear despite his obvious age. As he got closer he said “Hello how are you?” as he walked into the ice-cream shop. Since he was walking so fast I didn't have time to say much beside a “Hello” from under my breath. For a few moments I contemplated what a strange character he was and didn't think much more about it. Before long the rain started to let up a little bit and I headed back to the marina with my board precariously protected from the rain by my chest. I had walked about a block, hunched over my board, looking like some strange long-haired Hunchback of Notre Dame, when I heard a voice say:

“Come on over here and get out of the rain if you want. It's a good spot.”

I had a hard time hearing where the voice came from so I looked around sheepishly until the voice called to me again.

“I've got beer and cigarettes no need to walk in the rain.”

This time I was able to pinpoint the sound coming from a deserted shop front. I could see a green tarp tied over an overflowing shopping cart. Behind it I saw the man from the ice cream shop. This time I was able to get a better look at him. He wore black leather pants with a black leather jacket, he had on a green shirt and wore a large knife on a necklace that hung mid-chest level. Although his outfit was eye-catching his hat was the most interesting part of his dress. It was a round brimmed hat with crocodile teeth tied in the hat band. I felt a tinge of nervousness as I headed over toward him, wondering if he was of good morale constitution or not, but for some reason I felt like I needed to go see what he was about. It was also an easy sell since the rain was still coming down fairly hard.

“Hey how are you? My name is Damond.” I said.

“Well hello there, Damond. My name is Dale. Are you a believer in the Almighty God?” He said in a rolling, easy to listen to voice.

“Nice to meet you Dale, you have the same name as my grandpa, and yes I am a believer in God. A good friend of mine gave me a bible that I keep on my boat. He wrote down different passages about the sea on the inside cover, and its quite special to me.”

“The King James version? That's the only true word of God.” He belted critically.

“I believe so.” I said, a little taken aback.

“So what do you do for a living, Damond.”

“Well, I suppose that's not the most clear to even myself. I currently write articles for a magazine and I guess I would say I'm a writer. At the moment I'm living on a sailboat sailing down the East Coast.”

“A sailboat aye? That sounds nice, I'd like to have a sailboat someday, and live out there on the water.” Dale chimed

“Well they aren't to hard to come by, there's lots of free or really cheap boats for sale.”

“Oh really? Maybe I should do that, I don't know how to sail, but I do love catching food from the water.”

“You definitely should, there's no other way to live in my opinion.”

“So you said you're a writer? I write a little myself.” Dale said.

“Yeah I like it, it's fun and pays the bills for the time being. What do you write?” I asked

“Oh I like to write down stories, or sometimes I write po-emes.”

“Really! I like hearing poems and sometimes I write them, although I don't have much of a knack for it. They always come out much too dry, I think.”

“Well I've got a po-eme for you. I was in solitary in Kansas State Prison for a while. There was a hole in the middle of the cell where I went to the bathroom. I would take rags and stuff the hole to keep the cockroaches from crawling out to bite my feet when I was sleeping. If I spread my arms I could reach both sides of the cell it was so small. I wanted to capture the darkness and isolation felt in such places. Where a man longs for contact from other people, and of course for a woman's touch.”

He then began to tell his poem. I don't recollect the exact words and I don't think it is my place to repeat his poem. The words he said made the hair on the back of my neck stand up as I could feel the immensity of the circumstances that he had been through. He was very good at telling his poem with long drawn out stanzas followed by equally long pauses. When he finally got to the end I sat and pondered its contents for a few moments.

“That was one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard.” I said truthfully.

“So you like it?”

“Yeah, that was amazing I wish I could write like that, but I suppose you had plenty of time and inspiration in that cell.”

“Yeah it was not a good time in my life, but I am doing much better now.”

By this time the rain had started to clear and one of Dale's friends had come to join us. I decided it was about time to be on my way again. It's not good to leave a boat waiting without her captain to protect her when something inevitably goes wrong.

“Well I must be going. It was nice to meet you, Dale. I'm sure I will see you around, I'm not sure how long I will be holed up in St. Augustine.” I said as I started to walk away.

“See you around, and don't forget to keep God close.”

As I walked away I had a large grin on my face, and couldn't help but feel as if I had experienced something truly special. When you set out on your own with no plans, its often amazing what you can find. I think if we take the time to just look and see what is around us we have opportunities around every corner. Sure there was no monetary gain from my conversation, but there were many life lessons to be learned. I think Dale could teach us all a little bit about appreciating what we have. He was a man with very little, but he had a truly positive outlook on life, something that not a lot of us carry. Whenever I feel like I should be in a different position in life, I try to think about people like Dale to remind myself that we all have certain things to be thankful for, and that you can learn something from everyone you meet. A lot of the time we just don't give them the chance.

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