SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 240: “Where Is The Tenderness”

“People are getting crammed closer and closer together, you start to realize that people are more dependent on people. I don’t know if they will realize that soon enough,” answers street performer Lou, a native Californian, regarding his observations of people.

It’s 9pm and the sidewalk is just starting to get busy with weekend traffic. Center to its building-up energy is Lou – quite, respectful and full of music to share with all who take time to stop to listen and talk with him.

I don’t know Lou at all, but there is a ray of hope that exudes from him. It’s like a subtle, yet tangible spark that draws me to him. A feeling that I am still in the infancy of understanding, but a feeling that has been present with every person who has stepped up to embrace the 365 invitation. And a feeling that, for the month of May, has been challenged to you to follow in navigating your every day lives.

With that, let us all call May the month of reaching out, and the challenge is to simple say hello to all in your path.

As Lou tells us in his above advice, “People are getting crammed closer and closer together, you start to realize that people are more dependent on people. I don’t know if they will realize that soon enough.”

In honor if his time, lets us all realize it for at least a month. Perhaps after that it will become second nature to us in passing on that message in our lives.

“OK, enough evangelizing Richard, tell us more about Lou.”

To start, Lou is very humble, warm and carries a calming deep voice. That accompanied by the depth of an ingratiating laugh captures the heart.

It blows me when Lou brings me up to speed by informing me that he has regularly posted himself at our meeting location, outside of one of my noted Sushi restaurants, for two and a half years.

It’s a wonder to me that, until now, Lou’s folk performances have gone unnoticed by me. I’ll not miss him again. And in meeting him, I’m happy to report that my community has once again reduced its size.

In respect to Lou’s livelihood I purposefully keep our time short. Funny thing how a cameraman can put a damper on business, and I don’t want to push too many people away from Lou’s audience.

“People should pay taxes to the proportion of their total wealth,” Lou proposes as he suggests, “We should move toward universal health care for free.”

An interesting premise – not sure if the extremely rich would agree with it. And, being firmly strapped in the middle class, I’ll be the first to admit, that although I am full of opinion on the subject, that perhaps the need for better health care vs. the power of big business in legislation is a viable argument for reform in heath care. A debate that is far too vast for my little blog, but maybe Lou is not that far off base. We’ll leave it at that.

Lou makes a sobering prediction for the future, “There will be twenty billion people on the earth and 1/3 of them will still be starving.”

I don’t know of Lou’s history, of his circumstances or of his religion. However, in speaking with him, I capture the vibe of his priorities in his response to my question, “What do you in see as people as they pass by?”

“It’s just people,” he tells me.

I’ve been on the streets since September 9, 2011, approaching close to 1500 people, and in that have interviewed a much smaller number. The conversations have been awesome. While in reaching out I have also been saddened to be ridiculed, verbally attacked and virtually ignored as non-existent on many an occasion.

All in all, it has been a great experience for the undertaking, rejections and acceptance.  I can honestly say that my eyes are greatly opened to the uniqueness of all people – approachable to distant.

However, I am not certain that as Lou has for years been interacting within the world of strangers in sharing his talents and message of unity, that I would still possess his powerfully accepting outlook of, “It’s just people.”

I show Lou a digital preview of the photos I take of him. “Yeah… That’s me,” he serenely smiles.

Lou’s smile is captivating; it is not forced or self-propelling. It draws you to him in a comforting way, and through it you can understand the sensitivity he seemingly subscribes to. The only regret I have in meeting Lou is that I do not fully capture his warming smile or laugh in picture, you just have to trust me that is does exist.

“What is you favorite piece of music?” I ask.

His reply might possibly express the side of him that I miss capturing through our snapshots. That music, although a little off base to the world of folk, addresses the nature of Lou, “Where is the Tenderness, by General Public.”

The song’s lyrics tell about a man who really needs tenderness to feel like a man. Here are a few lyrics from the song.

I don’t know when to start or when to stop
My luck’s like a button
I can’t stop pushing it
My head feels light
But I’m still in the dark
Seems like without tenderness there’s something missing

I don’t know where I am but I know I don’t like it
I open my mouth and out pops something spiteful
Words are so cheap, but they can turn out expensive
Words like conviction can turn into a sentence

“Words like conviction can turn into a sentence.”

Lou wishes me, “Good Luck” as I depart.