Sunday, January 9, 2011

A Letter to Mr. Davis

Saturday, January 8, 2011 was a cold day in Charlottesville. As my wife and I went out to run a few errands, we turned off Fifth Street onto the entrance to Interstate 64 when I saw Mr. Davis standing next to two wheeled duffle bags on the shoulder of the on-ramp. We stopped to ask him where he was headed and he replied that he needed to get across the mountain to Interstate 81 where he could meet up with truckers headed towards Nashville, Tennessee where he would look for work in warehouses. I gave him enough bus fare to head south and went into town. Two hours later, returning home, Mr. Davis was still standing beside the road and, when I stopped to check in on him, he was visibly, extremely cold. A Greyhound bus had just passed by and he hadn’t been able to get onboard. So, duffels loaded into the trunk of my car, Mr. Davis came home long enough to warm up, get some potato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. As my brother and I prepared to drive him to Interstate 81, he gratefully took a winter coat, some Wolverine work-boots (my favorites), and a pair of gloves in case his ride didn’t come along. As the sun was setting, we set him on his way south. I don’t know if he made it but this letter holds my thoughts…

Dear Mr. Davis,

Thank you for spending part of your day with us yesterday. For the few hours you stayed as a guest in our home, you gave me an opportunity to reflect on why I’ve been working so hard for so long to find a new way for people to engage in an economy that leaves so many like you so far behind.

Insights about the migration of warehouse and trucking work are hard to come by if you don’t have your perspective as a day laborer who has no regular job, no health benefits, and no place to call home. I haven’t considered how hard it would be to find work if you didn’t have a drivers license, a credit card or an address. I didn’t take the time to think about the fact that industrial parks and warehouses being on the outskirts of town mean that people like you, who want to work, can’t do so because there’s no transportation to get to and from work. With the gentrification of warehouses in downtown areas, I can’t say I gave much thought to the degree to which the industrial park has actually compounded poverty by making jobs less accessible.

I haven’t had a guest sit at my table for a long time wearing his sunglasses throughout the meal. But I couldn’t help but notice the fact that your left eye looked like it had been injured. I suspect that the constant exposure to the cold at this time of year makes that all the more difficult to manage. Regardless of whether Congress mandates universal health care or repeals it, I suspect that you’re one of our fellow Americans who simply won’t have much access when you need it. I wonder how many thousand people drove by you on their way down the highway – people who think that big government is a burden – without stopping to see if you needed anything. If our paths cross again, I hope that I can provide enough sanctuary that you can actually feel comfortable enough to remove the glasses so that you and I can actually look into each others’ eyes.

This weekend, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis and President Obama told the country that the economy was looking better because the private sector added over 103,000 jobs in December. They glossed over the part about the fact that, during the same reporting period, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that November saw 1,586 mass layoff actions impacting 152,816 workers. And, they seemed to ignore the fact that hourly labor compensation fell while hours worked increased. They also seem to have ignored the fact that their enthusiasm over unemployment rates is still based on the inhumane, sociopathic belief that only those qualifying for unemployment benefits should be counted. With over 16% of the population without work – the real number of people without jobs – I wonder if anyone in Washington (or Charlottesville) has listened to you. Given how insightful your conversation was at our table, it seems that you would have a ton of valuable inputs in describing what the national economic and employment picture really looks like. It is unthinkable that “We the People” officially don’t think you exist and that we have a system in which you don’t – and can’t – count.

While I hope your travels lead you to the destination you desire, I hope that when you get your feet on the ground, you reflect, for a moment, on your sojourn here in Charlottesville. I hope you pursue your passions to write music and produce albums. I hope that you find a nice piece of real estate to start putting some roots down. Most of all, Mr. Davis, I hope that you have the opportunity, one day, to see a man by the side of the road and invite him to lunch. And when that happens, I trust that he has size 10 and a half feet so that you can pass along the best steel toed boots I ever had.

Godspeed, Mr. Davis… and, keep the collar up on that jacket and know that you’re in my thoughts.



  1. Thank you for this weeks post, it is a great reminder for all your readers to be thankful, appreciative and generous. A reminder to simply be human. This morning I was presented the opportunity to hire someone who has been without work for the past 13 months, he will be employed by this afternoon.

    As always, thanks for making me think.


  2. It's intriguing that you hope he has the opportunity to do the same for someone else, because most people would have ended the story at hoping he does well and would never have thought of a chain effect.

  3. David,
    Since I was young I have been trying to understand how the greatest nation in the world could be so disillusioned. For the past 12 years my goals have been to find a way to make enough money to initiate a global awareness that would open the eyes of those that can not see. I live my life in service and find that what ever I need comes to me when I need it, been self employeed for 14yrs. Although very difficult at times and without the understanding of my family and friends as to why I do not participate in the mainstremm manufacured reality they they cling so hard to, I am loved and continue to give my love to those less fortunate. There are so few people that think like you and I and truly understand that if "we the people" started giving of ourselves to better each other rather than
    competeing with each other the world would be a better place.
    Thank you for this story I knew there was a reason you and I have been communicating.

  4. Randy,

    I recently moved to New York City to attend college and I've been unemployed for over 18 months. The city is prohibitively expensive considering my UI BENEFIT, but overall I'm optimistic about my ability to thrive.

    I've been a New Yorker a few days now, and inverted alchemy has been swirling through my thoughts more than normal, especially Dave's challenge to exchange value without exchanging currency, and with no expectation of a future obligation. But still, I'm a little hungry.

    A close family friend named Steve trades equities at a bank in midtown. He recently graduated from one of the nations top MSCF schools and was taught by monetary policy makers. Co-incidentally, policymakers with close ties to UVA. Despite the fact that we hadn't spoken in over two years, I gave him a call while I was apartment hunting, and asked to crash on his couch.

    Graciously, he agreed, and I spent five nights sleeping in the metaphoric living room in his studio. As my stay came to an end, and I found a small room for myself to rent, I could see the toll New York was taking on my wallet. With two days left until my next benefit check, I barely had enough to survive, and I was already eating less than twice a day.

    That night, tired of eating out, Steve asked me if I knew how to cook. I spent a year in the restaurant business and a few months cooking in the kitchen and said yes, and that I'd be happy to cook for him.

    We split the groceries and I braised a chicken breast in a nice aglio e olio + chicken broth liquid, and boiled some quinoa, something my friend had never tried before. The meal was good, and he said he really enjoyed it. We were both happy to have a freshly cooked meal, prepared with some love.

    After I cleared his dish and gathered my things, he made me an offer I couldn't refuse. Steve told me that whenever I wanted to cook something, I could come to his place and he'd pay for the groceries. He'd even agree to buying small pieces of kitchen equipment, if necessary.

    I was blown away. There I was, watching as ideas and modes of exchange passed on through generations, ideas I was exposed to on this blog, ideas that are barely holding on as we reduce and binarize experience, were moving from my brain into real space. I could trade food for labor and love, not money.

    Who knows what else I can trade for what others are willing to offer? All I can say is that in terms of my holistic sense, trading something for something, rather than for money, feels richer.



  5. Thank you all for your comments and I love the fact that we're actually honoring the contribution of Mr. Davis in the ripples coming from this blog - keep sending it around and sharing the inspiration from a wanderer who happened to pass through Charlottesville over the weekend! Much love and Light,


Thank you for your comment. I look forward to considering this in the expanding dialogue. Dave