It's his huge a-bomb-bubble of gray afro that you see first. It sets atop his lanky frame like a sonar detector on a sub. Then you see his mouth in constant motion, conversing or expounding, as the case may be. Mostly, its expounding about himself and his adoptive-father/armed services brand of morality. His mission, as I found in the written essay he handed me about a soldier back home from duty, is to guard and protect not only armed forces veterans, but everyone else.
Meet Random X Roads, self proclaimed guardian angel of the homeless, as well as of ordinary citizens who are being victimized. He is a well-recognized street person in my neighborhood, and everyone knows his van, where he lives. His common mantra is indignation against any kind of authority, coupled with a "savior" complex where he alone can rescue victimized humans. He boasts about his thousands of followers on the internet, although when I tried to find him there, I couldn't.
I was a bit reluctant to interview him for this piece. I felt her would blow me away with b---s---. And he tried to. But he also let me see a part of himself that was intimate and guarded. He showed me his driver's license with his real name. And he told me about his daughters, who have been victimized big time. He even wanted to introduce me to one of themm
He couldn't be prouder than being a Vietnam vet, although going to vietnam was perhaps his first clash with the US government. He had been lied to by the recruiter, who had told him he could remain stateside. When he received his orders after boot camp, he was indignant and demoralized: the US government has lied to him.
As I listened to him tell about his buddy, another Vietnam vet, who was hanging around us, I could feel his sense of loyalty and brotherhood to other homeless men and women. He invites them into his van. He calls them "Mr. or Mrs. President", which is the name he gave to me as well. He explains this by saying that the president of the United States won the respect of the people by being elected. The president,in turn, must respect each one of us. And we must respect and offer service to each other. That, in a nutshell, is the creed he tries to live by. I say "try", because a woman shop owner I talked to told me that when he passes by, its always with a bit of a leer toward the women in her shop.
As I listened to him, every now and then I would offer my interpretation of his stories. "Oh, you see yourself as a champion of the underdog", or "You don't trust authority, so you take things into your own hands". He'd nod his head in agreement, without anything I said sinking in. I flattered him by reflecting back the proud tone of his voice when he narrated a scenario where he thwarted some teenage hoodlums breaking into a van. But I also added, "That was admirable, up to the point where you blew it". (He had ended up screaming at them, until one thug said he would come back with a gun to shoot him).
Our interview ended abruptly when his daughter phoned from her van, parked on the street behind his, with a request for help to deal with a 'situation' that had arisen. It was a call to arms for Random. I could sense his adrenaline starting to surge. He gathered his buddy, the other vet, and off they went. We said we'd talk more later. But we never got together for one reason or another. I guess I didn't really want to listen to him anymore. Nor, did I want to change him anymore.
Did I make any kind of an impact on him? I don't know. When I talked to him briefly in his van a couple of hours later, he said that I had been the subject of conversation with his buddies. I told him that his name had come up in my conversation with the same shop owner, as well. We didn't elaborate at that point, and I refused his buddy's invitation to get into the van to talk. So, after waiting for him twenty minutes or so at our agreed meeting place, I gave up. I think maybe we both had had enough of each other.
What impact did our conversation have on me? Maybe that I' a better study of human nature than I thought. At least, I'm not as naive as I used to be. Oh yes, I did get a chance to tell him something inportant I am learning in a writing class I'm taking: "Don't make it all about you. Solicit the opinion of others. Ask for feedback on your ideas. Start a dialog, not a monologue". We'll see if it sinks in.