Monday, January 18, 2010

Through Sacramento

After leaving the Gregory headquarters last Thursday, I walked a few miles to an REI store just outside downtown Sacramento. Sleeping near the store that night, I went back the next day to look around and to talk to Christa, an REI employee I'd met the previous night.

While looking around inside the store, I turned my head and noticed a familiar face. My first thought was that I recognized the face as someone who had been working at REI the previous night, but I quickly realized it was someone from Gregory. A moment later, a whole flock of Gregory's design team stood within a few feet of me. At this moment, I happened to be holding an Osprey backpack, checking it out to learn more about the differences between the various backpack brands.

What perfect timing. I felt like such a dick at that moment, after all they had done for me the previous day. It's not as if I was looking to buy the Osprey, though, and I think they knew that. But I still felt like a dick. It was definitely a Three's Company type of moment.

Shortly after that awkward moment, Wayne Gregory came over and introduced himself to me. To my surprise, he knew quite a bit about me and Aimless. He subsequently told me a story about a guy he met a few years ago. Driving around San Diego, Wayne spotted a guy with a backpack walking down the street. Noticing the backpack was an early Gregory model, which Wayne himself had made by hand, he stopped to talk to the guy.

The guy with the backpack, Art Brown, told Wayne he was about to walk from San Diego to Washington, DC. Wayne seemed pretty intrigued by Art and his lifestyle, and he quickly gave me Art's phone number. I guess he kind of saw Art and I as unique but similar kinds of people. It was a very cool story, and now I need to google "Art Brown" because I'm pretty sure there is stuff to find about him, like a blog.

That night (Friday) at about 9:00, as I walked the American River Parkway (a bike path), about ten miles up the road, I needed to get something to eat. So I left the trail at a rare exit point by a park near Cordova High School. Soon I encountered a young guy shooting a basketball alone. As I passed by the basketball court, he initiated a conversation with me and I asked him if he knew where I could find some fast food joints.

As the young dude began walking with me toward his home, I quickly figured out he was about 16. He seemed very interested in finding out a little bit about my story, and he also enjoyed talking about NBA basketball. Detecting a barely noticeable hint of a foreign accent, I asked him where he was from. He said he was born in Ukraine and moved here when he was about 4.

A very friendly, smart, and nice-looking young man, I had to wonder why he was all alone on a Friday night, but I never asked. After walking for 10 or 15 minutes, we reached a KFC, where I ended up having dinner. Before I entered the KFC, I thanked him for helping me find my way there. As I walked inside, he turned and continued toward home.

There was something about this kid that has me feeling weird. I just kind of feel like he looked up to me as a role model, even though he knew almost nothing about me. I feel like maybe I should have told him about this web site or given him my phone number in case he ever needed someone to talk to. I feel like I had a chance to make a positive impact on someone who may have needed a big brother figure in his life, but I failed. It's really bugging me--I mean it's REALLY bugging me--and I sure hope that kid is doing all right.

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