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  • Late afternoon and we’re on I-5 heading north from Grants Pass. I’m the passenger and taking advantage of the freedom to look wherever I like. I’m in a kind of landscape-induced stupor when movement and something light colored catches my eye. On the other side of the freeway I see the most extraordinary thing. A man is walking south along the side of the road. He doesn’t seem very warmly dressed but he is wearing a yellow back pack and dark glasses. He’s holding a very long and slender stick, white with red markings, in both hands and he’s tapping it back and forth on the ground in front of himself.

    We’re a mile down the road before I take it in. I mean, the guy is blind and he’s on the 5. Right next to the long load trucks and the maniacal SUVs. A million questions buzz around that snapshot. What’s he doing out there? How did he get there? Is he really blind or is this a very weird hitchhiking gimmick? Does he know where he is? It’s disturbing. Now I don’t see anything but that maybe-blind man. No firs, no bits of snow, no distant cattle. Just that guy on the 5 in the shifting light.

    Twenty minutes later we stop at the casino. A crowded casino is a community of sorts but not an interactive one. The machines are incredibly loud and their hoots and shrieks do not blend. People don’t generally speak to one another. So that’s why, when I hear a woman’s voice as I wander around looking for the perfect machine to feed my lonely twenty, I pay attention. She’s on her cell phone in a corner. “I just want someone to tell me what’s going on with Grant. He’s been walking up and down the freeway for days now.” That’s all I hear before I move on.

    A beat later and her words and the lingering image collide in my head. Oh yeah, Grant the blind man on the 5. It’s still beyond odd but someone else knows about it, seems to care about him. He’ll be okay.

    That doesn’t make any sense, of course. But the two moments have merged. I keep trying, over and over again, to tease them apart. We get home after midnight.
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