50 Strangers Project #18

 "I was a smart ass , foul mouthed in my younger days" he said . Although it didn't shock me , it was in such stark contrast to the demeanor Raymond exhibited since we struck up our conversation 15 minutes earlier . He held the Flugelhorn in his left hand covered in a cotton glove . Now viewing the photographs I find it funny that I never gave it one thought to ask why it was covered . Somehow doubting that it is motivated by fashion , I've fallen back on the theory that it must be to stop the sweaty palms that a summer day in Savannah produces with such ease . The mellow sound of Ray's Flugelhorn could be heard throughout the square and one after another passersby dropped signs of their appreciation in his bucket . Interesting that few stopped to listen , apparently just walking through and hearing the songs of Savannah's favorite son songwriter Johnny Mercer was enough to provoke a donation . "Satin Doll" , "That Ole Black Magic" "Come Rain Or Come Shine" my guess would be that half of the people didn't realize what they were hearing "Probably before their time" Ray said . Between songs some listeners would say thanks and express how much they loved the trumpet only to have Ray correct them . I heard him tell one man who stood with his young son's "this is an instrument of love , the trumpet gets you ready for a fight " he then with bare lips mimicked revelry and that melody they play before a horse race . He did add that "there's plenty of trumpet players that I love , Satchmo , Miles Davis and Freddie Hubbard were fantastic" looking down at his horn he concluded " The trumpet's brassy and bright this is just mellow , no one's gonna fight after hearing this" 

      Approaching the middle of this project it has amazed me how after a simple introduction how conversation evolves . Practically every meeting has a moment that is a turning point , a word or phrase that instantly makes a connection . That moment is tangible and if you pay attention you can feel the conversation change . That "Stranger" that I've approached with the idea of photographing them starts to feel more comfortable, a trust is established . Ideas , opinions and humor start flowing . That we have nothing in common could easily be said . Yet I can tell you today that is the most foolish of notions . 

      I laughed a lot with Ray . He shared stories , tales of life , of friends gone by , the mistakes made and of course opinions on what the future may hold . It was the short story of a long road that got us to where we sit today . It must have been a dozen times that he said "y'all followin me now" before continuing . " I could see him now , cigarette hanging out of the side of his mouth"  started his description of an uncle he worked with in the shipyards of New Jersey ." My folks sent me there because I was a destined for trouble . he got me my 1st job . I thought I'd be on easy street with my uncle being the boss" Ray's laughter barely stopped before he continued  "He gave me every dirty job they had , I spent weeks inside the hot bilge of an old ship hauling that shit with a bucket " shaking his head as if he couldn't believe it happened , again he turned directly at me and in a sharp curt voice said  "I quit" then described heading to the bus station , The Port Authority New York city .  "They told me that there wasn't a bus till morning so I'd have to wait . Yew-wee I was pissed off " he proclaimed making eye contact  the entire time "y'all followin me" ?  "I looked across the station and there was my Aunt " She walked straight towards me and said "and just what do you think you're doing ?" He said he talked to her about his situation and how he was too proud to haul "that shit" and he had enough . Now his voice changed for the first time , lower in tone and with a sense of humility he continued  "Then she started to talk about things that I'd never thought about" ............... "y'all folowin me"? Ray described her lecture , she talked about hard work and effort , about how my uncle didn't want me to appear privileged that's why he gave me the dirtiest jobs . "Y'all followin me"?  She talked and talked then she said "Your uncle was just trying to give you a chance to prove you are a man" . There wasn't another Y'all followin me , instead he put his horn to his mouth and started playing the Gershwin classic "They Can't Take That Away From Me" He played the first few bars on the Flugelhorn but then with emphasis Ray sang the chorus loudly "No You Can't Take That Away From Me"  

     Raymond , I'm Bob Gala Photographer and it was truly my pleasure to meet you today .