In Madison, on State Street, an older black man is selling StreetWise. Sometimes I buy StreetWise and sometimes I don't. I never know exactly why I do or don't, even if I think I do. Today, I veer towards the Overture Center, away from the vendor, when I see a younger white man, tall and rough looking, with a cigarette and black leather jacket. "I'll take one, Man. You got change?" There is something about this scene that makes me stop. It is touching that this guy is buying a StreetWise. If he can make the gesture of support, why can't I? After all, I'm about to go into the book festival and will probably drop 25 bucks or more. I stand while the vendor makes change for a five dollar bill. He smiles, somewhat embarrassed, while the tough guy frowns, puffing on his cigarette, his hand out waiting for his change.
Is it something about how the vendor says, "Thank you very much," after I give him fifty cents and he hands me a paper, or just some energy in the air that gives me pause as I'm heading through the doors of the Overture Center? I turn back and the StreetWise guy is still watching me, smiling, nodding. I crane to see the tough guy standing on the curb, a few feet off, his back to me, frowning at some distant something. I walk away, out of sight, and then sneak back in time to see the tough guy slapping the vendor on the shoulder. They smile at each other, exchange a few words, and then the tough guy slides his paper back onto the stack.