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I saw Suitcase Man all the time.

Vons. The Grossmont Center Food Court. Heading up Lowell Street

Suitcase man. Who am I to disturb his endless walking and notating? Who am I to judge his second raggedy suitcase?
Suitcase man. Who am I to disturb his endless walking and notating? Who am I to judge his second raggedy suitcase?
Video:

Vons. The Grossmont Center Food Court. Heading up Lowell Street


2003 – near present, La Mesa, California.

You’re walkin’ down the street

Ignoring everyone you meet

Don’t ignore me – Suitcase Man

My second marriage and first business spiraled into an alcohol-fueled debacle. I abandoned our home, moved to an apartment with multiple roommates… then had to wake up. My daughter had had enough and moved out, taking a big chunk of my emotional and financial support. Good for her! I’d been skating on her very solid coattails for way more than a year.

Barbara Baur

And then, we got it! An apartment right across the street from Helix High. Perfect for my son D., who could now wheel across the street instead of taking the special bus. Six units, three up/three down. The parking lot and laundry room faced the street and created a sort of barrier. Together with the narrow walkway back to our middle ground floor unit and the large trees growing on the property behind our back yard, that meant we had a secluded paradise at the base of the rolling La Mesa hills.

During the week, the school across the street was filled with activity. Students coming, going, ditching, smoking, hiding. I usually left for work before D. went to school. By the time I got home, he was studying at the kitchen table, or watching TV. A very secure and comfortable routine. Nights and weekends were the magic time: the Helix High campus with only the rabbits scattering and owls making sounds in the darkness. Sometimes I walked the damp fields of long lush grass. Sometimes I climbed up and down the stairs around the track, or ran a few laps.

As the weeks went by and twilight came earlier and earlier, I started noticing Suitcase Man. As the neighborhood segued to black and blue, I would see him. Walking, with his suitcase. Heading to the hills. Mysterious. Silent.

Maybe you’re under cover

Sucking your cigarette like a lover

Sponsored
Sponsored

Smoke blowing out like gold…

I asked around. His name was Tony. Above dirty white sneakers, dark twill pants, and a trademark light blue linen suit coat. His face was wide, smooth, and expressionless. He was thin. His skin was clear, ruddy. His light blond hair was wiry, reaching to about mid-ear. It stuck out on each side, like a bleached Bozo the Clown wig. During the day, he camped out in the La Mesa Vons Starbucks. I saw that he took notes. Many many notes, written on receipts, napkins, and sugar packets. What were they saying? What was he thinking? Where did he go after he passed our apartment, heading south for the hills?

Bring me to your lips, the same slow way…

D. moved out with his girlfriend. I met a man, and moved into his moldy old mansion less than a mile from the Lowell Street apartments. I still saw Suitcase Man, all the time. Vons. The Grossmont Center Food Court. Heading for the hills up Lowell Street while I walked the other way to 24 Hour Fitness, or as I ran up to where Lowell turns into Orien, finally meeting Yale, venturing to the beautiful wild hilltop due west: the highest point for miles around, with an expansive 360-degree view south to Mexico, west to downtown, north to Cowles Mountain and the hills of San Carlos, and East down to my little neighborhood.

Suitcase Man didn’t make that turn, up Orien to Yale. He continued south, up past the Hill Church. I wondered how he made it past the fences separating the church parking lot from the steep, empty hill beyond. I couldn’t imagine him climbing over the chain link fence, throwing his suitcase over first, trying to catch his sneakers into the fence-holes, day after day. It just didn’t seem practical. But I found the answer, over to the left of the church’s dark driveway. There was a large hole in the fence, right by what I came to call frog heaven. They stopped their croaky crooning only for a moment when their communal space was breached, then started up again — first one, then hundreds. No deterrent at all for a man on his way home.

Take me back to your cave, Suitcase Man.

Ten years later, when the warm glow of dysfunction in the La Mesa mansion had faded to dross, I moved again. Still living in La Mesa, and for the first time ever completely on my own.

I still went to the same Vons. Tony was often there. I went to Grossmont Center. He was still hanging out in the food court, now with one large and one small and very mangy suitcase. When outside, he was always smoking. Same suit coat, which I had never seen dirty. One foot and ankle had grown to three times its normal size. He had cut his pant leg to accommodate it. It had to hurt.

I often contemplated talking to Tony, this man who had haunted my imagination for over two decades. Would he care, or even understand, that I’d written a song about him? Would he let me offer him a chance to shower? A new suitcase? But I ended up feeling that this was all too presumptuous. Who was I to disturb his endless walking and notating? Who was I to judge his second, raggedy suitcase?

Are you homeless, or at home everywhere?

Do you mind when people stare?

Can I talk to you, Suitcase Man?

I live in Lakeside now. I may have missed my chance.

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Suitcase man. Who am I to disturb his endless walking and notating? Who am I to judge his second raggedy suitcase?
Suitcase man. Who am I to disturb his endless walking and notating? Who am I to judge his second raggedy suitcase?
Video:

Vons. The Grossmont Center Food Court. Heading up Lowell Street


2003 – near present, La Mesa, California.

You’re walkin’ down the street

Ignoring everyone you meet

Don’t ignore me – Suitcase Man

My second marriage and first business spiraled into an alcohol-fueled debacle. I abandoned our home, moved to an apartment with multiple roommates… then had to wake up. My daughter had had enough and moved out, taking a big chunk of my emotional and financial support. Good for her! I’d been skating on her very solid coattails for way more than a year.

Barbara Baur

And then, we got it! An apartment right across the street from Helix High. Perfect for my son D., who could now wheel across the street instead of taking the special bus. Six units, three up/three down. The parking lot and laundry room faced the street and created a sort of barrier. Together with the narrow walkway back to our middle ground floor unit and the large trees growing on the property behind our back yard, that meant we had a secluded paradise at the base of the rolling La Mesa hills.

During the week, the school across the street was filled with activity. Students coming, going, ditching, smoking, hiding. I usually left for work before D. went to school. By the time I got home, he was studying at the kitchen table, or watching TV. A very secure and comfortable routine. Nights and weekends were the magic time: the Helix High campus with only the rabbits scattering and owls making sounds in the darkness. Sometimes I walked the damp fields of long lush grass. Sometimes I climbed up and down the stairs around the track, or ran a few laps.

As the weeks went by and twilight came earlier and earlier, I started noticing Suitcase Man. As the neighborhood segued to black and blue, I would see him. Walking, with his suitcase. Heading to the hills. Mysterious. Silent.

Maybe you’re under cover

Sucking your cigarette like a lover

Sponsored
Sponsored

Smoke blowing out like gold…

I asked around. His name was Tony. Above dirty white sneakers, dark twill pants, and a trademark light blue linen suit coat. His face was wide, smooth, and expressionless. He was thin. His skin was clear, ruddy. His light blond hair was wiry, reaching to about mid-ear. It stuck out on each side, like a bleached Bozo the Clown wig. During the day, he camped out in the La Mesa Vons Starbucks. I saw that he took notes. Many many notes, written on receipts, napkins, and sugar packets. What were they saying? What was he thinking? Where did he go after he passed our apartment, heading south for the hills?

Bring me to your lips, the same slow way…

D. moved out with his girlfriend. I met a man, and moved into his moldy old mansion less than a mile from the Lowell Street apartments. I still saw Suitcase Man, all the time. Vons. The Grossmont Center Food Court. Heading for the hills up Lowell Street while I walked the other way to 24 Hour Fitness, or as I ran up to where Lowell turns into Orien, finally meeting Yale, venturing to the beautiful wild hilltop due west: the highest point for miles around, with an expansive 360-degree view south to Mexico, west to downtown, north to Cowles Mountain and the hills of San Carlos, and East down to my little neighborhood.

Suitcase Man didn’t make that turn, up Orien to Yale. He continued south, up past the Hill Church. I wondered how he made it past the fences separating the church parking lot from the steep, empty hill beyond. I couldn’t imagine him climbing over the chain link fence, throwing his suitcase over first, trying to catch his sneakers into the fence-holes, day after day. It just didn’t seem practical. But I found the answer, over to the left of the church’s dark driveway. There was a large hole in the fence, right by what I came to call frog heaven. They stopped their croaky crooning only for a moment when their communal space was breached, then started up again — first one, then hundreds. No deterrent at all for a man on his way home.

Take me back to your cave, Suitcase Man.

Ten years later, when the warm glow of dysfunction in the La Mesa mansion had faded to dross, I moved again. Still living in La Mesa, and for the first time ever completely on my own.

I still went to the same Vons. Tony was often there. I went to Grossmont Center. He was still hanging out in the food court, now with one large and one small and very mangy suitcase. When outside, he was always smoking. Same suit coat, which I had never seen dirty. One foot and ankle had grown to three times its normal size. He had cut his pant leg to accommodate it. It had to hurt.

I often contemplated talking to Tony, this man who had haunted my imagination for over two decades. Would he care, or even understand, that I’d written a song about him? Would he let me offer him a chance to shower? A new suitcase? But I ended up feeling that this was all too presumptuous. Who was I to disturb his endless walking and notating? Who was I to judge his second, raggedy suitcase?

Are you homeless, or at home everywhere?

Do you mind when people stare?

Can I talk to you, Suitcase Man?

I live in Lakeside now. I may have missed my chance.

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