Two Good Questions

By Otto Kremer

 

I remember. It was late in the winter of 1968 . I was walking towards the New York City Port Authority on my way to catch a bus to Barre, Vermont. I think I was on 38th St. In Barre, I was suppose to meet a wealthy young man who did not like to drive. I was to drive him to Cincinnati, Ohio where he had some business interests. I'd gotten the job through a mutual friend. I was free at the time, liked seeing new places and could use the pay. At the time I didn't know much about him except that he was a millionaire who spent much of his time and money promoting a rock band called Scared Mushroom that had iits sights set on the big time.

Two years into a seven year tour that had me crisscrossing America, I'd still not mastered the art of traveling light. That day, traveling down 38th St., I held my guitar in its case in my left hand. In my right hand, I held an Olympia portble typewriter in a fiberglass hard shell case. On my back I carried a large knapsack on an aluminum frame, along with a few changes of clothes. It also held my journal and a hard bound copy of Heinrich Zimmer's Philosophy of India. Campbell had translated Zimmer and I wanted to read everything Campbell had written before moving systematically backward to the original source . Anyway... Attached to my knapsack, I carried a sleeping bag that had witnessed some damp nights sleeping under bridges on the yet to be completed interstate system. I don't remember what I was wearing for a coat that day, but I'm sure it had a hood. I'm also sure I was wearing a decent pair of insulated work boots and heavy white wool socks. My hair, yet to be bald, was protected by a dark blue wool cap. Not wanting to miss a possibly historical moment, I had a 35 mm Miranda camera slung around my neck.

The weather must have been decent that day, because there was a cluster of three or four elderly black men sitting on the granite steps to the entrance to a non-descript brownstone building. I had the feeling they spent a lot of time there watching the traffic, cracking jokes and telling stories.

As I approached them, the tallest and most stately of these elderly gentlemen stepped forward gently bending his head and shoulders towards me. There was a bemused smile on his face. His hair was pure white and neatly kept in a short Afro. Without malice he looked me up and down. When I was just a few feet from him, close enough to nod hello, he asked in a deep unthreatening voice, "Hey man, where you at? I mean what you all about?'' Then he shook his head slowly in mild disbelief as his friends chuckled in the background.

There was nothing to say. His questions didn't demand an answer there and then. In fact, a good thirty-five years have come and gone and still those two questions go largely unanswered. "HEY MAN, WHERE YOU AT? I MEAN, WHAT YOU ALL ABOUT?"

 

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