I was having a hard time liking this place, but then I found this piano in the park. I play; therefore, I am. Then the street kids descended on the park like a huge pack of rats, and surrounded me, blasting rap music and talking trash. That cheered me up.
The skateboard kid pick-pocketed the cell phone out of the girl’s pocket. But she kicked his scrawny butt (without touching him) and he gave it back. “Sorry we play so bad,” she apologizes to me.
“It’s okay.” Usually when kids put themselves down, they are hoping you will correct them. “It sounds good.”
“And thanks for taking our picture.”
“Yep.” No sweat.
“I can’t even play the piano,” the riff raff kid tells me. “But I can skate.”
“I see that.”
“I’m not even supposed to skate here.”
“You’re not hurting anyone.”
“I know. It’s a dumbass rule.”
“Sounds like it.”
“I wish I had a hammer. I’d smash that piano.”
“No you wouldn’t.”
“You’re probably right,” he admits. “But I’d think about it.”
“Of course.” How could you not.
He had the yard of his shop filled with mowers and such, was having a garage sale in the shop, getting rid of decades of junk he’d collected. When he came out asking what I was taking snapshots of, I figured he was one of many Oregonians who figure someone snapping pictures must be part of a conspiracy, or just an invasion of his privacy, something Oregonians take seriously, just another grumpy old man, which I understand, and it’s rude to come to someone’s sale and take photos instead of buying, but Burt was happy about me taking photos of his place, his life. I always say you need to know someone at least five years before you really know them, before you call them a friend, but sometimes someone’s just so honest and true that you know you’re seeing the real person, one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met, an old Oregonian that makes me happy to be be here. I’d stopped to look for records, but I found something better.
This here is the hat I wore in the movie about Prefontaine, Without Limits, with Donald Sutherland. The movie people came to my shop to find some old mowers, and then they asked me to ride it in the movie. It’s odd because back a long time ago, back in early 60s I applied to be a groundskeeper at the university. But I didn’t get the job. So I opened this appliance repair shop, back in 1964. The appliance fixing was slow, I started doing mower repair, and over time, that’s what I ended up doing mostly, mowers…Then the university called me up, many years later, told me my name had finally come to the top of the list and they offered me a job as a groundskeeper. But I told them I was already doing something else. I was doing this. But then in the 90s, all of a sudden, I’m playing the groundskeeper in a movie, taking place in the 70s, when I might have been a groundskeeper if things were different…I’ve always loved movies, used to run the projector at the Liberty Theatre in North Bend, on the coast, Coos County, worked there until they closed in 1959, which they restored and opened again now…It was different when I worked there at the theatre, back in the 50s, you had to do your own promotions for the movies…we’d go around and paste up ballyhoo all over town…I used to bring to bring my girlfriend to see shows there. We made love there…Then I moved to this area, opened the shop…here’s a poster of McGovern, I worked on that campaign, you can have this campaign poster…here’s a bumper sticker, roll this bumper sticker up into the poster…I don’t know how you got past all my buzzers, I have the place all set up so I hear buzzers when someone comes in, but I didn’t hear anything, just looked out the window and saw you taking pictures….I’m sure glad you stopped. I sure appreciate you taking an interest in me.