“What’s my pronoun, Andrea?” he said, for the third time that evening.
“Shit,” I said, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I knew I would mess this up like a million times, It’s hard for me. It’s new for me.”
I had basically called him a girl 3 times. My bad, my super super bad.
OK, let’s back up. Maybe this will all make way more sense if I start from the beginning…
(it is worth noting here that in the last 8 sentences, I have re-started twice, deleted 2 swear words, and edited a part of every sentence, including, just now, the word, “edited.”)
I met Jeremy on Friday evening at a Townshends Tea Room on the 3900 block of Mississippi Ave, a super authentic pre-Portlandia hipster place in Portland that boasts awesome bars, the years best street fair, quirky boutiques (several of them re-sellers), sushi & fried chicken (in the same restaurant), and of course, a local bookstore that serves NOT coffee from a chain, NOR a table in front boasting the latest top authors who don’t even write their own material. Ok, i’m digressing, sorry… just trying to set the stage here.
So we meet, and truth be told it’s for the second time. That’s important, but for reasons that are my own, and since I’m the author of this here blog I can write whatever I damn want, that is out of scope, for the time being.
However this time, this second time, it’s just me and her. Shit, HIM. It’s just me and him. See, I did it again, and this time I WON’T edit it because it’s real, it’s really what I typed from this point onwards I’m going to try not to edit.
Because NOT EDITING is exactly the point of where I’m going with this story, guys.
So we meet, we order Kombucha (with a side of ice), and I say something to him like this:
“OK, so from our last meeting, I became totally awed by your story, and I’m so honored you are open to letting me photograph you tonight. I love words. I wish I could write better, but I think I take pretty good photos. So I want to hear about your journey, so that I can try to take photos of you tonight that will best capture you.”
(see, even that last paragraph I edited like 9 times)
So he started telling me his story.
It began with a road trip, 18,000 miles across the country and back, with little money in his pocket and a Hyundai wagon as his hotel. After a few zig-zags South, he landed in Flagstaff, AZ where a whole bunch of shit happened that led him to this:
(I’m going to impersonate his inner-brain talking to itself right now)
“I love writing. I’m going through some MASSIVE LIFE CHANGING moments right now. I have a type-writer, and I’ve met enough inspirational people here in Flagstaff to say, ‘what the fuck, let’s try it’.”
So he pulls into Jerome, AZ (a city he sites as “lost in time”), whips out his olive-green Smith Corona Silent Super (circa 1958), named Lady Corona, and a sign that simply says…
GIVE ME A WORD, I’LL GIVE YOU A POEM.
Right, I thought, riiiiight. I can totally NOT relate to the words coming out of your mouth, Jeremy (this was all in my head because who the fuck can whip out a poem in seconds whilst the “client” is staring at you as your fingers type words that cannot be corrected via a magic button called “delete”).
AND THAT IS THE POINT.
Jeremy LOVES writing. And he’s damn good at it. And if you give him a word, he’ll give you a poem. And it won’t be on text or snapchat or instagram or Facebook or Twitter or Vine. It will be on a piece of… wait for it…
His first word, by his first client, in Jerome, AZ, was “epiphany.”
His fingers started pounding the keys, his left index finger swiftly moving to the next line on paper. There was no editor scowling over his shoulder. There was no way to throw away the sentence he had just typed. And out came his first poem for his first person in Jerome, AZ.
And the rest is HIS story.
Where OUR intersection takes place, on the aforementioned “last Friday evening.”
I had to photograph him… it was something churning within me that made me super nervous for two reasons. One, because I KNEW I would screw up his pronoun, and TWO, because I was not in my comfort zone – how would I capture the Typewriter Troubadour in a way that was cool, young, hip, current… and truthful.
So we went to his spot, next to the sushi/fried chicken place and in front of the bookstore, and he set up his 3 things: A chair, a table, and his typewriter (not Lady Corona, a new vintage one yet to be named).
And I said to him, “Ok, I have a word. Will you write me a poem?”
“Yes,” he said, “What is your word?”
“Oscillation,” I said.
And he started typing.
And here is what he wrote, in less that 90 seconds, unhindered by the “editor in himself.”
So he couldn’t have known that my mom died on March 1st of this year. And I gave him no clue into the fact that I have ups and downs so severe that at times I’m either riddled with excitement or cowering on the couch in heaving tears with sadness.
And there was NO reason he would know that if I had a magic genie in a bottle granting me one wish, it would be to “stand still in the moment.”
Yet he typed these words.
And I took over 300 photos of him that night. I gave my photographic editor a PTO day. “Don’t think, AC, just shoot,” I said to myself, “just shoot.”
I’d like to say that maybe, just maybe, we found each other purposefully.
Why? because this guy has a gift. And he wants to share it.
You give him a word, he’ll give you a poem.
It’s that simple.
What an amazing holiday gift. Or for your guests at a wedding reception. Or your birthday party or anniversary or anything where a poem is the “takeaway” that is a one-of-one BESPOKE piece of art.
And I want to acknowledge that I kept saying the wrong pronoun because Jeremy is a trans male. He has, since his earliest recollection at age 8, identified as a male. And his 3 month road trip brought him clarity in his journey to come out publicly.
And in that journey he became the Typewriter Troubadour.
I asked him, in our previous meeting, when he corrects people who call him a “her.”
“I choose my battles when I correct them,” he said. “Usually it’s people I think I will have long term contact with.”
Well, then. I consider my 3 pronoun “corrections” by him an extraordinary gift. I was a battle with whom he was willing to fight. What a humble honor.
With peace and openness and acceptance of who we were born to be,