As the election coverage was winding down this week and Facebook was becoming bearable again I saw some posts popping up about the white tuxedoed trumpet player all Portlanders have seen. He had passed on, and more info would follow when the family allowed. Today it came out that his family still hasn’t been notified because no one knew who they were and roommates suspected he committed suicide.
That hit me hard.
Last week, I saw Working Kirk Reeves as my bus rolled over the Hawthorne Bridge into downtown. He was up early and looked really tired. Knowing what I know now I can imagine him being up all night before deciding to give it one last chance. One last chance to make money, a living, a connection, a smile or a friend.
I judged him like I judge most street performers. They perform because they need to, like it or can’t do normal work. I lumped him into the same category as the guitar players that charge for a picture or the statue dude that paints himself silver and juggles slowly. It is possible they were friends and knew each other. But I have seen most of them on off days in bad moods as well.
I judged him as being a little crazy or developmentally delayed. Which he might have been, but he might also have been just awkward. He spoke slower and different and there was a chance meeting at the local grocer where he was opening the readymade food to smell and inspect it before putting it back. Again knowing what I heard yesterday, it was probably because his cataract was making him blind.
He smiled and laughed. He threw a plastic ball in the air sporadically and played 2 songs mediocre or well. He had puppets for the kids and was learning to juggle to entertain.
I am not sure that is what he thought would ever be his career. Or that he really believed he would be discovered on the triangle of a bridge. I think he did it to entertain rush hour traffic and make some cash for food. He was homeless at times, had a rough childhood and lived a hard life.
But I wonder how many people didn’t know his name until this week. I didn’t. And I wonder how many people who are now commenting on social media and leaving flowers at his corner actually talked to him.
And once again, we are hearing the story of someone you should have said you liked or loved, before it’s too late.
Let’s not let Kirk be a statistic or story in our lives, but our motivation.