Fire and Dust
Augmenting our neighborhood adventures on the canals and the boardwalk were trips to a place called The Pot Shop with my mother, a potter, and a friendship that I developed over time with a man named Joe Funk who lived there.
Joe smelt of pipes and dust and his plastic colostomy bag which appeared to be attached tenuously around his not very solid belly. The whole apparatus scared and intrigued me as it seamed too delicate of a membrane to be holding such important cargo. There it stayed, though somewhat immodestly, beneath the dark clothes that hung in layers, belted, propped, pinned, strapped or laced around him. Despite this scruff he exuded a warmth and kindness and commanded an authority incongruent with this disheveled exterior. Indeed the conversations I observed between he and others reinforced just that. He was a little rough around the edges, but clearly respected.
The very long narrow room where he slept was filled with shelves, each one exceedingly packed with dark and dusty treasures - much like his long greying beard and hair. In one lot of shelves were hundreds of curly teeth heat indicators from the kilns, sacred even in their multiplicity, each one a piece of history and indicating some slightly different set of conditions which had created whatever revered object that had emerged. I remember sitting with him back there, watching as he drank or smoked, adding to the opacity of that already thick air, sometimes playing with his rat Algenon, sometimes just picking through the stash of amazing stuff.
I loved the time I spent with him. I loved his difference, and the way he would embrace things he was intrigued by...in a quietly excessive way. He was up to his neck in tendencies that I expect probably eventually buried him, but the parts he shared with me were magic.