Racing to a Sunday morning workout, I circled a few blocks looking for parking. Time was ticking down to the start of a class. I was forced to park further away from the gym than usual. The spot I found was at least a block further away than I had ever parked before. Oh well, I thought. I am heading to a workout, I think I can manage running an extra block.
Running back to my car after the workout, I saw a man standing next to a tower of buckets and other gear. I saw a bus stop sign next to the tower and thought, “Wow, that’s a lot of stuff to try and get on a bus. That takes a lot of gusto to give that a go.”
I said about as much as I was passing the man and he had a laugh. I stopped and asked him where he was heading and what he was going to do with the piles of “gear”.
“I’m a busker and I’m heading downtown.”
I was heading in that direction. Without a second thought, I asked him if he would want a ride downtown.
“Really, are you serious? That would be so cool. I can give you gas money…”
“Yes, I can take you. No, you don’t need to give me any money, I am heading that direction and with all the gear you have, getting on and off the bus will be tough. I have room, it is not a problem. But before we load up, would you be up for letting me take a few pictures of you here?”
“Yeah, you can take as many as you want. I can’t believe you will give me a ride.”
Before taking off for my car and my camera, I looked up at the bus stop. “Number 66/67…no way!” I thought to myself. Just a few days earlier, Jamal had asked me if I knew where bus stop 66 was. I had no idea. Now I do. At once, I felt like it was all meant to be that I had been forced to park furtherer away that morning.
On the 10 minute ride downtown, a great conversation with Rick Rude ensued that I could never have anticipated.
“Are you from Seattle?”
“Yes, born and raised. I ended up going into the service when I was 17 and I went to Antarctica.”
“What??!! That’s cool.”
“Yeah, I had a radio show. I was Ricky Rude, the Antarctic Dude.”
“Ricky Rude, the Antarctic Dude…” I repeated with a laugh.
He enthusiastically replied with his opener to his show, “Your listening to McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Heard locally on 100.1 FM and hey, who knows, maybe in the rest of Antarctica on shortwaves, that would be 60 12 kilohertz, you’ve got Ricky Rude, the Antarctic dude. Let’s have some fun.”
“What branch of the military did you go there with?”
“I was in the Navy with a squadron called the XE6th. I did 4 years of sea duty and never even looked at a ship. We were the summer support team. I had a blast down there. We did six months in Antarctica at McMurdo Station and 6 months at Point Magu base in California.”
“So you did that from 17 until you were 21?”
“I actually got out when I was twenty. I had a year to go. I got kicked out because they caught me with marijuana. You know, I was 17 when I went in and I wasn’t done partying when I went in.”
Rick shared that he came back to Seattle, worked for an aerospace machining company, moved on to managing the Buzz In restaurants, then I started roofing and framing leading me to be a carpenter for damn near 25-30 years. Now I’m just doing this (busking as a street drummer). You know it’s tough some times. I’m homeless. I haven’t always been homeless and I’ve done it (busking) when I wasn’t homeless. It sure is a lot easier when your not homeless, but things are going pretty good.”
I was surprised to learn that he was homeless. He was so full of enthusiasm and life.
“So where do you sleep?” I asked, not wanting to shy away from his reality.
“Oh, I have a lot of friends in the city that I stay with and I have little campsites around, too.”
“Have you stayed in Nickelsville?” [Seattle’s official homeless encampment]
“No…yeah, I’m not down with that.”
“Do you feel like you’ve made a community here or do you roll solo and go wherever on your own?” I really was not sure what to ask, but I was curious and couldn’t really wrap my mind around what it would be like…so I just asked.
“Oh, I really know everything there is to know about Seattle and what to do here if you are homeless. I’m a survivor of the streets.”
“What advice would you give someone if they were just newly homeless?” I asked.
“You don’t need to carry around all that shit. Just take a backpack, about 3 or 4 nice changes of clothes and have some work boots and be ready to work. You know, you see all these people just carrying around all that stuff. What do you need that for? You don’t need it…but look at me…” He said with a little laugh, referring the large load of busking gear being hauled in the back of my SUV.
We both have a good laugh. I think to myself, Rick’s advice is probably applicable to everyone–homeless or not. “Stuff” from our pasts often become anchors instead of comforts. What would the world look like if we could simplify and let go of our “stuff” and just be prepared to work hard?
“But you are using it to make money,” I said.
“Yeah. I do pretty well too. I am excited about tonight and Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.”
“Because the Sounders are playing tonight and Monday is opening night for the Mariners and they have a three game home series. Lots of people are going to be out. It should be a great few days.”
“Are you self-taught on the drums?”
“Oh, no. I took 12 years of private lessons, from the age of 5 to 17. I’m out here with a few other guys. We take it pretty serious. You can look us up on YouTube. Look up Seattle Street Drummers. I think I am the second video that pulls up.”
We arrive downtown and pull up next to the spot where he wants to set up.
“Man…thank you SO MUCH!! You won’t believe this but just this right here…I will be in a better mood when I do get set up. I’m early, I can take my time…it’s just perfect.”
We unloaded his gear, exchanged a hug and he let me take a few more pictures of him. His smile and enthusiasm were contagious. Our unexpected meeting started my day off perfectly as well.
Keep a look out for Rickie Rude the Seattle Drumming Dude when you are out and about in the city.