“WHAT KIND OF A DOG IS THAT?” we hear someone shout from a ways down the path. We both turn to see a fellow – late forties, best guess – pointing enthusiastically at our wee Skye. His hair falls past his shoulders and he’s wearing, in addition to plastic grey sunglasses, a big grin on his face.
“That’s a real cute dog. What kind is it?” he asks again, as he moves closer to our pup, who’s now excited about the prospect of noogies and treats.
“She’s an Australian Shepherd Poodle cross,” says Steve.
“Oh, yeah, I can see the shepherd all right.” I’m thinking more likely he’d see kangaroo, the way Skye is jumping up at him on her hind legs, simultaneously sniffing for snackies. “Now what do you call this type of dog?”
“An Aussiedoodle,” I reply, to which he throws his head back and laughs loudly. It doesn’t seem particularly funny to me, but he is certainly tickled by the hybrid name for our pricey pooch. He repeats it aloud a couple times. He also seems disinclined to continue his walk or whatever he was doing when he spotted Skye.
“I had a Cockapoo. I taught it to shake a paw and sit and roll over. I also had a cat but it was too hard to train,” he shares with us. “Did you know you can teach a cat to shake a paw but it will only shake its back leg?”
We smile and tell him no, we didn’t know that, and make motions to walk away with our dog. That’s when the self-promoter makes his appearance. Sensing our imminent departure, he swiftly and deftly reaches into the zippered pouch around his waist and whips out a CD. He holds it up beside his face, saying, “This is me in 1995; I was 30. Hardly changed at all,” he chuckles.
The CD cover is indeed a picture of a younger version of him. Same grin. Bad mullet (are there good mullets?). It’s self-titled, “Randy TJ: Understanding Love.”
Randy TJ – sensing a moment’s hesitation in our step and the opportunity for his sales pitch – pinches the insert out from the CD cover with nimble fingers and flips it open. “The lyrics are love. Everything’s love.” He then starts reading lyrics to us: “Reflections in the window steamed from the flames that are coming from her lips and the warmth of her breath.” There is more, much more.
To my surprise, Steve asks him how much he wants for his CD. “Twelve dollars, but I’ll take whatever you think is fair,” Randy TJ says. He continues to scratch Skye’s ears as Steve reaches into his pocket for his wallet. Out of the side of my mouth I stage whisper, “Are you really going to buy a CD from this guy?”
Steve is now thumbing through some bills and extracts a ten. He turns his head to me and says quietly, “I like to support local musicians.” I gave myself a mental slap up the side of the head as I know Steve appreciates how hard it is to make a buck as a musician. He and his band Horse Opera rarely rake in more than a few bucks for a performance. Or as he puts it, “If I make enough to cover the cost of parking, I consider it a good night.” Fortunately, it’s just a hobby for Steve. Probably not for Randy TJ.
He offers the self-professed love lyricist ten dollars and Randy TJ is over the moon. He is so grateful that again I silently chastise myself for even thinking of giving this guy the brush-off.
“I’ll autograph it for you,” he says, rummaging in his fanny pack for a Sharpie. “That’s ok,” says Steve, but Randy TJ already has the CD out of its case and is writing his name in large ragged black letters. He adds the date and “#1 today at Lynn Creek trail, North Vanc.” His personal message is oddly like an inventory-tracking system.
“What’s your name so I can add it?” Randy TJ asks. At that point, Steve tells him that’s not necessary. There’s also no room left on the CD. He hands over the now-autographed CD with a gigantic grin, “Thanks, man!”
We finally extricate ourselves from Randy TJ, leaving the convivial musician in pursuit of “#2 today at Lynn Creek trail, North Vanc.” As Steve and I had arrived at the trail in separate cars, he left with the dog and the CD while I headed off to run various errands.
Arriving home a few hours later, I ask Steve if he’d listened to his newest CD. “Yup, a few songs.” I prod for a review, “And… what did you think?”
Steve pauses for a moment, then says, “Kind of depressing, actually.”
Well, Randy TJ may write sad songs, but he knows happy.
Feature photo from Dene Rossouw’s Fotomoods collection.
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