Thursday, June 07, 2007

Lazarus: A One Man Bicycle Band

He is playing music above the din of the cars rolling off the freeway exit ramp in Factoria. It is the music that catches my ears, but the bicycle draws my eyes. Here is a creative man with a message. His sign tells all who would see that Jesus Loves Them. It's Thursday evening and I'm rolling home on my own bicycle. I'd already told Christine I'd be late this evening. I decide to be a little later.

I park my bike, push the walk button and wait for a sign. Eventually the red hand turns into a walking man and the tide of cars pauses and I walk through the gap in traffic.

I say I don't mean to disturb him, but he stops playing his harmonica to talk to me. He still keeps a beat going with the foot pedal on the drum set and he keeps his hands on the accordion as we talk. He says his name is Lazarus and I can't help but think this is so much better than if he'd said his name was something much more common like Bob or Fred.

I complement him on his rig and ask if it's OK if I take his picture. He's camera shy, but as we talk some more he reluctantly agrees. He talks more about Jesus than himself but he does ask me about my bike. "I see you have a bicycle," he says, "do you have a car as well?"

"No," I answer, "I got rid of my car over twenty years ago."

"Why?" he asks.

"A simple reason," I say, "I never liked driving, I like to ride my bike."

Lazarus nods. "Do you do it for any eco-reasons?"

"Maybe a bit," I reply, "I just think it makes sense to only use what I need. I don't need much."

"Yes," he smiles, "we don't need much." He goes on to tell me of someone he knows, "he's got a bike shop and he's got this shirt with a coffin on it and the coffin has wheels..."

"Oh yeah," I say, "the Cars-R-Coffins shirt."

"Yeah, that's it. Now I didn't say anything, 'cause Jesus taught that we shouldn't judge and you know, in a way cars are coffins, but that shirt seems to me like it's judging and I'd rather just be showing a way other than a car, you know what I mean?"

"And that's why you're here?"

"It's not just what you say, it's what you do."

We talk some more about his bike, it's very clever. I ask about the roof and he says he has another design that keeps more water off. We compare notes on coroplast, he uses it to keep his accordion case dry and I point to my recycled campaign sign fenders on my green bike across the street. He has a set of wheels that bolt to the drum set that converts it into a trailer. It also looks to me like the rest of his gear is in the big plastic wrapped pack up front.

"Do you take donations?" I ask and he admits that he does. As if to illustrate the point at that moment a car honks and the driver extends her hand with a couple of dollars out the window. "Excuse me," says Lazarus as he goes to take the money and thank the woman for her donation. While he's getting the money, I check my wallet. All I have is a twenty.

I have to confess I was hoping I'd see some smaller bills there but twenty bucks really isn't that much to me and I know that twenty bucks will go further for Lazarus than it ever would for me.

We chat a little more. I say that if he gets to Seattle and he ever needs a place to stash his rig, we have room at the Bikestation. "Oh yes," he said, "I know that place, I have a map."

"I work there," I explain, "I help people ride bikes instead of drive cars."

"That's good work," Lazarus says.

"It is," I say. "What you are doing is good work. You're out here getting your message out." I tell him about my blog and ask if it would be OK if I post his picture and a bit about him on the internet.

Again he is shy, but then he says, "I don't think things are evil, like some folks say. It's how you use stuff. I don't think the internet is evil but I don't use it. I don't need it. The problem with cars is folks use 'em too much."

I say that I don't think he can be too shy if he's out playing music on a freeway exit ramp. He agrees and lets me take some more pictures. But he always manages to be looking away from the camera. "Put this on the internet if you want." I assure him that I'll just try to get his message out to a few more people, people who might not be driving by this particular off ramp.

I explain that my wife is waiting for me at home and that I should get going. I hand him my business card and the twenty. "Stop by and see me at the Bikestation."

He seems a little surprised at the cash and thanks me repeatedly. He promises to stop by when he's in Seattle. I hope he does, I think I can learn a lot from him.

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