Every community has at least one. Someone you don’t necessarily know well, but someone you see often enough in public that you become familiar with them.
Our community had Elvis.
We knew him only as Elvis, the guy who rode his bike all over town, collecting aluminum cans. We saw Elvis most often at the park, where he’d ride up the path through the woods and pull up behind the bleachers, checking the lone trash barrel next to the softball diamond.
Elvis’ bike was something to behold. It was overloaded with baskets and bags for his cans. It had Packers stickers. It had his name on it, as if anyone needed that to tell whose bike it was.
Already fiftysomething when I came to know him, Elvis was a skinny, slightly stooped guy with glasses, a scraggly beard and wild, thinning hair underneath his ever-present baseball cap. Not real social, though.
He’d determinedly dig through the barrel, looking for cans. If he wasn’t around, the softball players would just set them out for him next to the barrel, knowing Elvis would be along.
One night this summer, it occurred to me that I hadn’t seen Elvis at the ballpark this year. Now I know why.
Elvis died Monday. He was 68. He’d been in hospice care.
You couldn’t call Elvis a character. Nor would you want to. He seemingly had some kind of disability. What, we didn’t know. Wasn’t our business.
That was all I knew about Elvis until I read his obit on Wednesday. Now I know Elvis worked at the Park Department. He loved the outdoors. He enjoyed playing rummy. He enjoyed working with kids in sports. He liked the Packers. He liked watching football.
Elvis was just a nickname. I learned that from reading the obit, too. Elvis was born James. Apparently no one called him James, or Jim. Just Elvis. Why, I don’t know.
This also was in the obit:
“Elvis could be seen on his daily route on his bike. He will be sadly missed.”
That, I did know, and do know.
So, Elvis, these tunes are for you, to send you on your journey.
“Follow That Dream,” Elvis Presley, from “Elvis in Hollywood,” a 1976 compilation licensed by RCA Records to Brookville Records, and sold on TV, near as I can tell. It’s out of print. The tune is from the 1962 Elvis film of the same name.
“Glory Glory,” Pops Staples, from “Father Father,” 1994. Written by Pops, it’s a gospel tune drenched in Memphis R&B.
“Amen,” the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, from “Marching Down Bourbon Street,” 1997.