A few days ago while on the Downtown Mall—I had just finished shooting Jessica and her very talented partner and their “Hula-Hootenanny” act when I spotted this gentleman walking by. I approached him…

“Excuse me sir—do you mind if I take your picture—I love your style—the beard and hair…”

“DO ME, DO ME,” he almost shouted, “I love it…”

As I shot from several angles he told me his name was “Coyote.” After I captured as many images as I wanted he wished me well and went on his way.

As I was shooting I remembered a man I encountered two maybe three years ago who looked a lot like Mr. Coyote.

I was on the boardwalk in Virginia Beach (it’s really made out of concrete!) attending the Annual Virginia Beach Boardwalk Art Show when this guy rolled by on one of those fat-tire “Beach-Cruiser” bikes. A minute or so later he rolled by again—I grabbed a shot. He noticed me and came back—I was afraid he was going to yell at me.

I had had a bad experience a few months before in the Washington, DC Metro. I shot a homeless guy—he spotted me and comes running up to me yelling in my face that I was a terrorist planning to blow up the metro and him—I thought he was going to hit me. A metro cop appeared and got involved—I deleted the image—showing him as I deleted it—it was a real mess.

Standing there on the Virginia Beach Boardwalk that day a few months after the metro event as this guy is approaching I’m thinking it’s going to be the Metro thing all over again. But no—he was pretty cool about it.

He just starts talking to me like I was interviewing him and tells me he used to dance on the radio. I thought he was joking he says no—he worked at a radio station in Norman, Nebraska in the 70s where he tap-danced with a microphone on the floor.

He twirled around a bit, did a little soft-shoe then struck several melodramatic poses for me.

“You have a cool look,” I said. “I bet other street photographers have stopped you and asked to photograph you,” as I snapped away from different angles.

“Yeah—but they were all federal agents,” he responded with a huge, self-congratulatory laugh, “You’re not a federal agent are you?—cause if you are, the pictures won’t come out—doesn’t matter if its film or digital—if you’re evil, the pictures won’t come out—you’ll just get a strange, goofy shape—kinda like a retarded potato.

He dropped his backpack and went back into a soft-show routine—I found myself thinking of the Nitty-Gritty Dirt Band’s Mr. Bojangles.

As he’s dancing he asks me if I’d ever encountered a retarded potato. I said no—but I did once hear about a carrot with an attention deficit disorder.

By this time a few people had stopped and were watching me photograph this lunatic as he begins to incorporate his bike into the act—dancing with his bike. I think maybe he was inspired by the classic Gene Kelly dance routine with a mop and broom in the movie Thousands Cheer and my taking pictures seemed to inspire him to greater exertion.

He’s no Gene Kelly and the bike just keeps falling over—that and he’s getting winded. Finally he just sits down panting on the ground next to the bike. People start moving on. I’m still shooting—by this time for me it’s turned into a photo-essay on this strange little drama in my life—not sure about his—maybe this kind of thing is routine for him.

He gets up and says something about his brother’s cuff links are telling “damned lies [about him] again” (not sure if he’s talking to me or himself) and he has to go. He peddles off on the bike still huffing & puffing.

Since I was not and never have been a federal agent, the pictures turned out fine. As is so often the case with life’s seemingly random and bizarre happenings, it all turned out for the good. I was (as I suggested above) able to put together a little essay—a set of matted prints—on this odd encounter and donated it to a charitable organization that was auctioning off works of donated art. The auction was well-attended and quite successful—we raised several thousand dollars to benefit developmentally delayed and neurologically impaired vegetables.

You don’t believe me? Hah–the joke’s on you–I still have a very handsome certificate to prove it and dozens of grateful letters from produce stand owners all up and down the east coast.

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