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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo has had occasion from time to time to note that there is something about his person that seems irresistibly attractive to cats and to crazy people.

Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting in Philly’s 30th Street Station waiting for the train to whisk me back to Ol’ Virginny and squinting vacantly into the middle distance when I felt a tap on my shoulder.  It was an older fellah sitting next to me who I’d half-seen out of the corner of my eye busy about something for some little time.

“Excuse me,” he said.  “Could you turn and look this way for a moment?  I’m sketching you.”

He did, indeed, have a pad in one hand a couple pencils in the other.

“Sketching me?” I said.

“Yes.  See, I used to be homeless and I started sketching people’s portraits for food.  I’m not homeless anymore, so I do it now because I enjoy it and to help out other homeless.  When I’m done, you can decide whether you want to help, too.”

Having got a look at the Robbo face full on, he started up again, in the meantime delivering a rolling monologue. He proved to be quite the raconteur.

He talked about his life and hard times.  He showed me his artificial leg (the real one apparently having been run over by a car).  He joked about Philly cheesesteaks. (“I’ve eaten around a million of them but never knew Philly was famous for them.”)  He talked about who he chose to sketch.  (“Never women eating by themselves.  It makes them nervous.”)   He offered words of wisdom.  (“Are you married? When you get home, tell your wife she’s beautiful.  Then ask her if she knows she’s beautiful.”  He said this several times.)  He kept calling me “pretty boy” (but said that he was the original “pretty boy”) and, when he found out what I do for a living, cracked several lawyer jokes.

For my part, I went along with it.  (He posed no threat.  What was I going to do?  Stand up, yell “Good day, Sir!” and march off in a huff?)  I insisted on an exact count of the number of cheesesteaks he’d eaten.  I said even a rube like me from the sticks had long known Philly’s reputation.  I topped his lawyer jokes with my own and said they were all funny because they’re all true.  He was delighted and said he was surprised that somebody who looked so stone-faced could banter back like that.  (Well I can, you know.  And no, I’m not always scowling.  As I said above, it’s squinting.)

As he was winding up, he said, “Okay.  What are you going to do when you get home tonight?”

“Tell my wife she’s beautiful,” I said.

“And what else?”

“Ask her if she knows she’s beautiful.”


“Yes,” I said.  “And then I’m going to tell her to make me a sammich.”

He burst out laughing.  “Man, you’re funnier than I am!”

I wound up giving him some money.  He seemed legit, and indeed had a short article about himself from one of the local rags.  (He’s here, too.  Scroll down to the fourth bio.)  In the middle of things, a bum came up to panhandle him.  He said he’d buy the guy some food in a moment, but he wouldn’t give the guy any money.  The guy went away disgruntled.  And even if it was just a hustle, he’d obviously worked hard at it and given it real entertainment value.  Further, he was extremely polite and personable, and I enjoyed chatting with him.  So it was worth it either way.

Oh, and the sketch?  He put it in a clear plastic folder and gave it to me.  I replicate it here for your consideration with the sole caveat that it looks absolutely nothing like me.  Enjoy!


Portrait Of Robbo. Or Not.



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November 2019