You hear voices from the sidewalk, inside the trolley.
Voices outside your apartment window wake you up.
It’s the charm of who’s who in the neighborhood.
Moving to the suburbs only changes the voice, from the actual words that sometimes annoy, to a distant buzz of a freeway that always annoys.
You hear airplanes buzzing overhead because you forgot to check if your new neighborhood lies under a flight path.
A human voice makes a difference.
We hear things as youths that stick a lifetime. That’s what happened to Karl Friedrich.
His mother told about women pilots in WWII. Like a good writer, it stuck with him.
Like a dedicated writer, he did something with it.
Karl Friedrich was the second writer I met while I was downtown for a Willamette Writers meeting; the first didn’t know he was a writer.
A street guy crossed my path on the PSU campus. I had to know if he graduated from Portland State, and if he was homeless, without asking interview-like questions. I had to know.
He was neither.
“Do I look homeless?” he asked. “I know homeless people. If someone thinks I’m homeless and wants to give me money, I give half to my homeless friends. That’s just how I am. If you give me twenty bucks, I give ten away. See how that is?”
He was probably a business major, but I didn’t check.
Instead, I headed to the Old Church for the writers’ meeting.
“Do you have the time?” I called to the street guy?
“Time for you to get a new watch. 6:15.”
For once I wasn’t late, which left time to hangout on the corner of 11th and Clay. Karl Friedrich shared the corner while fellow writing club members found their way to the front door.
You going inside, I asked?
It’s a Willamette Writers meeting, I said.
You’ve got to be a writer if you’re on this block the first Tuesday of the month, I said.
Karl Friedrich lit up like a slot machine jackpot and I was the winner.
Then he did the most amazing thing: he listened to me tell the WWII story I wrote in Cynthia Whitcomb’s screenwriting class. We were like two farmers working the same ground, his crop in the market, me working my shovel.
This chance meeting with an author for a casual conversation set the stage for the rest of the night. The voices I heard felt like a writers To Do list:
#1. Listen carefully.
#2. Clean my desk.
Those are the voices to listen to.