We will get the nickname later. These stories are unscripted and not prompted in any way. I enjoy the freedom, of any subject that people feel happy to talk about. I wish that I could record these dealings as much of what we talk about is completely lost in the hustle and bustle of the everyday city life. From cars driving past to a herd of Japanese students wearing orange backpacks walking through where we sat, waving their flags and chatting in the language that I cannot understand. I would like to emphasize that I am not writing these stories to point out any illnesses, I do not know what has happened in anybody’s life except my own. Many of you would have stories that are close to unbelievable but are true with minimum embellishment...come on I know we all do it. So please as you read, keep an open mind.
This gentleman sat quietly on a bench in Martin Place next to a building that is under construction. The awning of the building has been swallowed by the destitute for shelter. Bed’s packed tightly together with even a street library, where they could bring and swap books. A loose leg draped across the other casually rolling a cigarette, beaming as I asked him to take a photograph.
Elephant boy: how do you want me? Changing from one pose to the next with a smile on his face. You are the second person to ask me today for a photo.
Me: as you are mate.
Elephant Boy: do you know that I have only just started to smoke. He said waving a badly rolled smoke at me. Do you know why I started to smoke? Once again, brandishing the cigarette. It makes you look sophisticated. He said with a laugh. Shaking his bedecked ringed hand, he introduced himself as Brandon. He explained that he came to the city most weekends to hand out money and have a chat to the homeless.
Elephant Boy: I had a hundred bucks when I came this morning but now I only have my bus pass. He said with a laugh. Without missing a heartbeat he went on to explain, I have been given many medals but I have been given two by the Queen herself. Mumbling something I didn’t catch about the recent Brexit in the UK. His speech picking up the pace as his movements becoming more animated as I listened.
Me: You were in the forces? I asked
Elephant Boy: Nah, was given them for outstanding excellence by the queen when I was a young lad. She even took me in her arms and hugged me. He said the last with a wistful look. As if he was looking back across the decades. After my dad had found out I got the medal my dad called me a royalist. “Boy you’re a royalist now” Brandon voice taking on a scornful tone when chatting about his dad, but a revered tone when talking about his mother.
Elephant Boy: But mum just said. Good on you, son. The third time was when we crashed at the North Pole, but I didn’t deserve it the captain did. He was this hard Englishman, and he told me that if people didn’t want to get off the plane then just throw them off. It was forty-five below freezing, man that was cold.
Me: I bet.
Elephant boy: Yeh, after that I was taken back to America. Man...New York. Have you been?
Me: Nah not yet but it is on the list.
Elephant Boy: The place was amazing, the Americans in those times were great, not so much now. I had a hotel, driver the lot. All paid for by the FBI. We used to drive down this street and I could hear jazz playing every time I went passed this building, man it sounded great. The flutter of trumpet floating through the air, Man... The driver wouldn’t stop for me but I jumped out anyway, I had to try a few door but once I found one the right one bam I got hit in the face by this music. I then realized I was the only blue eyed, blond, white man in the whole club. All the other were black. He said the word black with no racism at all, almost a reverence to these people.
Elephant boy: the singer came down shook my hand and tried to pull me towards the stage, but I didn’t want to go. So we had this awkward standoff thing going on. The other pulled me whilst I was pulled back...Haha. He took me back to his mother’s house after that, in Harlem. I was the first white guy to walk over her threshold. Because in those days the black were scared of us whites, they killed a whole lot of them.
We sat and talked for about an hour Brendon nursing a cooling cup of coffee, but still very happy to chat and burn some minutes of the day. It turned out that we were heading in the same direction and he was happy to have company as we walked to another location together. He started to point out individual trees and plants naming each one unerringly.
Elephant Boy: Trees are my love...now that I am alone. Scotty my dog died last year. See that guy, he said pointing to a large jacaranda tree. Lost everything for the winter but he will still be listening to you and me... I bet you. We walked and talked but as I said before most of it is lost in the moment, forgotten and never to return. Turning a corner and we came across a square, an ailing corner store doing mediocre business in a corner and plastic tables all in line, with women and men cutting up chocolate cake. The line of men just starting to form, without missing a beat he asked if I wanted a sandwich or a piece of cake. A woman sat at a tool box working and checking the men’s feet and quickly offered Elephant Boy a check up.
Elephant Boy: They used to call me Elephant Boy. He said laughing at his own words. Do you know why? Rolling into the story seamlessly, well we were all in Thailand with my dad, mother, and I. And then there was this elephant and I so badly wanted to touch it, and I did. Its skin was rough and smooth at the same time, this massive creature took my breath away. But then this policeman tried to shoo me away and this elephant lashed out hitting this copper with its trunk, and me at the same time knocking us both to the ground. The whole crowd gasped at what this elephant did, they were scared that it would hurt us more. But it didn’t, it looked at me on the ground and realised what it did, its eyes radiated intelligence...I knew what it wanted in the deep down of me. I stood and it wrapped its trunk around me and lifted me onto its back and I felt amazing. I was the tallest around I could see for blocks, and I stayed there what seemed for ages this living creature trumpeting its pleasure of having me on its back...that how I got the name.
Me: Wow that amazing, impressed by the love and passion in his voice as he told the story. The sun had started to dip bellow skyscrapers at this point, their corners glinting at the last rays of sun hit them. I made my good bye’s touched by the openness of this man and the generosity that he showed weekly to the homeless, by bringing them money, food and time just sitting down and talking to these guys and wanting nothing back in return. My only question that I had but didn’t want to ask...is there a thing as too much generosity? If you are making yourself poor, taking food out of your own mouth so others can eat and make yourself ill to help others, is this too much?
Elephant Boy: I never told you about the time I lived in South Africa.
Me: We need something to talk about next time. I said genuinely hoping that we meet again for another chat. I will be keeping my eyes open for him again.
To be continued I hope...