Bruce Bentzman and the scruffy men

March 23, 2011

Bruce continues heading West:

Scruffy men roam the streets of Santa Fe. You see them walking into town, or leaving, on the highways. They appear lean and tough, toting perhaps all their worldly belongings (are there any other kinds of belongings?) in oversized, stained duffle bags or backpacks. Bearded and dark-eyed, their hair long and shiny, I think of them as mountain men walking into town to restock. I was expecting them to be leading mules, although I saw no mules. Santa Fe tolerated them.

The scruffy men occupied the the street corners and I never saw them molested by the authorities, and I’ve been told they don’t molest the public, not even to panhandle. Santa Fe is so decent.

Even the library tolerated these scruffy men. They found temporary shelter during library hours and used the restrooms to clean up. In the reading room, where Ms Keogh was doing research as to Jefferson’s mixed race offspring, there were two of these gaunt and sinewy men putting the library to good use.

The one fellow sat in an isolated chair. He held himself in a regal pose, a neglected King Lear with a long, greasy ponytail. He was reading Robert Bly’s Iron Man.

The other fellow was bent over the library table, long nosed and projecting brow, he possessed silver and white hair and beard and very bushy eyebrows above his deep-set eyes. He had several books opened before him and was taking copious notes on several different sizes of scrap paper. About him were tied bundles of his notes written in various sizes from small to tiny, the sheets filled to the edges. His writing formed printed blocks of texts and he was busy at fresh notes when I walked past him taking a quick glance. The books that lay opened were all Bibles and I could easily read “Revelations” in large print across one page. Here was John the Baptist taking a break from the wilderness.

Are these scruffy men the mentally ill, merely down on their luck and homeless, or strongly independent? And why to they converge on Santa Fe?

Santa Fe was how many days ago? I’ve said so little about the wondrous landscapes we’ve passed through. I did most of the driving while Ms Keogh played nagivator [sic]. Every time I sit down to transcribe my notes, I have to prioritize what to write about next. Trying to do this chronologically and my reader gets left behind. I’ve been going back to write about Santa Fe, when we’ve long ago left New Mexico, drove across Arizona, and across California to Los Angeles and now Oakland, where we’ve come to stop for a few days and be hosted by my sister.

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