Friday, March 24, 2006
It's easy to understand how small and worthless one's life is as you roll by millions of years of forming rock. This just outside of Vernal, Utah last Sunday.
I was once told by a wise old man how much you need to live for today. He should have known, he had seven bullet holes in and seven bullet holes coming out of his body. He lived a hard life in the neighborhood of E. 66th & Kinsman.
I was 14 at the time, he was 50-55. John Cole pressed cloths at the drycleaners next to the house where I grew up in Lakewood. I remember him being very old. He smoked unfiltered Lucky's and at almost any given moment, he had one dangling from his lips. I think he grew up in Georgia or Alabama, his mom eventually made her way to Cleveland to live with her brother, John's Uncle. In those days, he never really had a chance to make it on the mean streets of Cleveland so eventually he found himself in Uncle Sam's Army--in Germany. Not one of those bullet holes came from war. At least not the kind suburban kids thought of as war.
Even though he had every right to be a very angry black man, he was one of the most courteous, wise and penetrating souls of my entire childhood. Sure he cussed and loved telling me the stories of his own youth, stories which seemed unreal and quite separated from my own troubled times--but then, that's why I probably related to him. I never really fit into the whole suburban scene as a kid. We left all my childhood friends back on the near west side in 3rd grade.
John never took drugs and couldn't understand the kids that did at the time. He refused to even let me sip part of his cold Stroh's at the end of a hot summer day in that steam room. I never told him so at the time, but I respected him for that. He also taught me to just let it all go at times. "Can't control the world, kid" John would say, "but you can control what ya say bout it...and who you say it to!" "Never waste time arguing with your shadow," he always lamented me.
Now that I'm almost 50 myself, I don't think John was that old anymore. Funny heh? I increasingly come to remember him at certain times. I don't know when John Cole passed from this world but I'm certain he no longer breaths with us. I thought of him as I passed thru the Uintah basin last weekend. I stopped to take this picture soon after he came to me. I call this shot ‘John's Cliff’s’. It reminds me of the wise, proud, stoic and strong influence he was in the days of my youth.
Much like the cliffs in this picture, I hope I argue much less with the shadows these days.