Walter wore a puffy orange coat which, I could tell, was not as vibrant as it once was. He had a scruffy face, dark, tan & worn. I'm guessing he was in his late 50's. And just by watching him for a few moments, he always seemed to be in a hurry: talking fast, moving fast. I even saw him introduce himself to the same person several times.
At my first meeting, Walter asked if I wanted to play the piano for Lynyrd Skynyrd, the American rock band best known for popularizing the Southern hard rock genre during the 1970s, with signature tunes such as "Sweet Home Alabama" & "Free Bird".
"Sure," I replied, 100% positive he was not serious.
Walter told me that it might be a few years before he could get the band together. OK, so I was now 94% sure he was not serious.
And then Walter started telling me about all of the possessions he owned in his little apartment, which wasn't much, including a $200 stereo & records like Led Zepplin &, you guessed it: Lynyrd Skynyrd. "Rock on!" I said to him. Walter, I could tell, was a lover of "the driving beat". Even his movement was less determined & more convulsive, like the rhythm that might seize the front man of a band. He was just here & there, stage left, stage right, with the rock-n-roll in his soul.
I also learned that Walter works at a local bar in town, sweeping the streets outside the business & doing janitor-type stuff there. His payment is in the form of mugs. He says he got two mugs & his wife got one. But they won't give him any more. I told him, "You need a complete set!" Later I learned that they were not, indeed, the sort of cute little coffee mugs I was picturing in my head. They were mugs of the beer kind. Steins, to be exact. I just didn't put 2 + 2 together. Well, still, a complete set is nifty to possess, no matter the style. Walter works at 12:30 in the afternoon & likes to be at work 30 minutes early.
Walter paused to compliment my new boots. And then he tried finding the cup of coffee he left on one of the tables in the cafe. I suggested he try the new Vanilla Caramel creamer I had purchased. But he said it's bad for his teeth. And then he reminded me about joining the band. Walter is totally serious about this.
It was just after 10 AM, & Walter was already feeling the urgency to head to work.
Before he left, Walter started playing the air piano for all the people that were sitting & chatting & sipping hot drinks. He was jamming on his imaginary instrument like no other. He rocked out on the higher register, singing some song about "girls in a topless bar".
My face turned red. Very red.
And my eyes got wide. Very wide.
On his way out the door, he bid farewell to the Mr., tossed off his cap & stated, "I just got a new haircut!"
I like Walter. Because he is real. And I love that Walter was singing inappropriate songs in "The House of the Lord". Because he doesn't know any better. And I love that Walter felt comfortable enough to step foot into the building. Because it gave us a chance to befriend him. In my mind, every Sunday morning should be like this one.
Three years is a long time. But if Walter has anything to do with it, in exactly 36 months I'll be rearranging my schedule & accommodating my lifestyle to begin touring with the band.
Ardelle suggested that I better get some sheet music right away & start learning the songs.