It was my job to learn his name, so I introduced myself. "I'm Harold," he replied.
Harold came to Austin from Kansas City, where he owned a bar and restaurant. He loved the fast pace of the work and lamented that he only ate the food he sold. Pub fare wasn't exactly the doctor's orders for a healthy heart. But when you work 80-hour weeks, there aren't many other options.
With a close-cut, graying beard and reading glasses, Harold had a professorial look about him—and a demeanor to match. He doled out advice so sage that I wished I could've taken notes. His topic of choice was balance. He would raise one hand while lowering the other to visually indicate a life of equilibrium. The wisdom in his eyes was accompanied by a sadness that seemed to contribute to his insight.
When the conversation turned to me, Harold tried to guess my occupation. Was I a teacher? No, but I like to talk and tell people what to do. Harold laughed at this admission. We laughed together.
As the afternoon came to an end, I thanked Harold for his advice and his company. He thanked me for the meal and the game of dominoes.
Harold and I met under the bridge at I-35 and seventh street on Easter Sunday. I was there with a group of volunteers serving lunch to the homeless. We'd been instructed to learn the names of the people we were serving. That's not all I learned.