The Bum At The Seelbach

30 May

It was a Friday,
March 29, 2013
according to my journal.

Judie and I were hanging out
at Fourth Street Live
where the young and old
come to celebrate.

Walking by the Seelbach Hotel
Judie said can we go inside and
have a hamburger and drink?
This is where famous writers
used to hang out.

We entered the hotel
and saw “Old Seelbach Bar.”
The bar was crowded
except one table
with an old man
wearing a black suit, a black tie
loose at the neck,
with a cane beside his table.
His black shoes were sparkling
with the look of just being
professionly polished.
He had a fedora hat
sitting next to him.

He was sitting alone
drinking FIJI bottled water,
pouring it slowly into a glass, taking sips
while drawing and writing a few lines
on white bar napkins.

Judie and I thought we would
pay for his food and drinks.
Maybe he lives alone.
He may be on a limited income
and only came here to feel youthful
once more.
Maybe he could use a friend,
even if just for awhile.

We went to the old man’s table
and asked if he might want some company.
He stood up
and said he would be honored.
“Please have a seat and
let’s talk awhile.”
I introduced Judie
and said my name was Jim.

“I used to live in Louisville
went to school in this city.
Now we live in a small town in Indiana.
We came in town for an evening
to enjoy the music, food and entertainment
on Fourth Street Live.”

“What are your hobbies?” he asked.

“Judie loves to listen to music
and watch movies. I read a lot of books,
mostly poety books if I can understand the poetry.
I like music too, especially from the 1960s and 1970s.
I wanted to be a singer
but I did not have a voice for it.
I guess these aren’t really hobbies
are they?”

“Your hobbies are much like mine.
I don’t think I caught your last name.”

“My last name is Wortham.
Just call me Jim or Jimmy.”

“Your name sounds familiar.
Did you play any sports
professionally?”

“Never played sports.
I tried my hand at writing,
I sometimes was lucky
enough to sell my poems to magazines.”

“I hear you.
I never played sports either.
I think we might have
walked down the same paths
as they say.”

“Let me buy you dinner.
We were going to order a meal.
When we saw you sitting here,
we planned to buy you dinner.
It’s our treat.”

“Maybe a glass of cheap wine?”

“Please make it any wine you usually drink
and a steak or seafood dinner. And a fancy desert.
They have a lot of deserts to choose from.”

“Thanks, I’ll have my favorite wine
and a seafood platter.
I used to read poetry books by a poet
who, on the back covers of his books,
wrote a poem about himself.
He always put on the back cover
“Meet the Author”
I discovered his books in
a small bookshop in Canada
which carried his books.
Sometimes I visited that bookstore
just to read his books.
His poetry is easy to understand.
His name escapes me.”

The old man continues
talking about this poet.
“You somehow remind me
of how he writes.
You will know when you find his books.
On the back cover
of each of his books
he writes something about himself
like,
If you ever see me
in a tavern or café sitting alone
just say hi
and I’ll buy you a meal.”

“That’s a poet
I would enjoy reading.
Sounds like a poet
after my own heart.
By the way, I forgot to
ask your name?

“Back home, my friends call me
lazy bum.
Others call me
old man.”

“I think “lazy bum”
sounds more youthful
than “old man.”

“Yes, I like “lazy bum”
better too.
It makes me feel younger.”

One hour passes, then two
and I get ready to pick up the tab.
The old man waves to the waiter
put his hand up
the waiter knows him
and handed him the bill.

“That’s not fair I said.
This is our treat.”

The old man payed the tab
and placed a hundred dollar tip
in the waiter’s hand.”

We were shocked.
Who is this old man?
I said, to Judie. This just doesn’t seem to be
going the way we planned.

The old man said I have a surprise for you.
He took us nearby the hotel’s concierge desk
and asked us to wait on a nearby couch.”

He asked the concierge for
several sheets of stationary
and 2 envelopes with the hotel’s address
printed on each.
We waited for him to finish his business.
He talked to the concierge
who glanced our way and smiled.

The old man returned
with two sealed envelopes.
This is my gift to you,
then he bowed
and said he must leave now.
He embraced us, turned
and walked to the front hotel door.
The bellman opened the door and he walked out.

I opened envelope #1
The old man paid for us to stay 2 nights
at the Seelbach Hotel
with all meals paid.

I opened envelope #2
and unfolded two sheets of stationary
with a handwritten message.

These 2 concert tickets are for you.
The concert will be tomorrow evening across the street
at the Palace Theater.
I came from California for this concert.
Since you were so kind tonight
I want to give this to you as my gift of love.
Since you like music from the 1960s and 1970s
you might enjoy the concert.

Enjoy,
“The Lazy Bum”

P.S. Bring this letter to one of my stage workers
after the concert. You can tell me how you felt
about my concert, over wine and cheese and other goodies.
My treat this time.
And when you hear the songs, “Back on Boogie Street,”
“Suzanne,” “Hallelujah” and “A Thousand Kisses Deep”
remember as I am singing those songs,
I am remembering our great time together.

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4 Responses to “The Bum At The Seelbach”

  1. Mike June 2, 2016 at 5:30 pm #

    Thanks Jim for sharing “The Old Bum” with me. It was great!

    • Jim Wortham June 4, 2016 at 11:32 pm #

      Mike, you are so kind. I appreciate you taking the time to say nice things about my writing.

  2. Mary and Ivy 🐺😊 June 2, 2016 at 5:42 pm #

    That is awesome. You never know who you might meet a and enjoy just being there might umake their day. In the Bible it talks about entertaining Angeles. It is a inspiring story. God Bless you and Judie.

  3. Jim Wortham June 4, 2016 at 11:35 pm #

    Hi Mary, thanks for your kind words about this poem/story. I believe in Angels and believe at times I have had my life protected by Angels. May God continue to bless you and your family.

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