“Who are you?” asked Elvis. We were sitting across from each other on the MAX and he was looking directly at me. He stared through his massively thick glasses, quizzically. “I’ve seen you around a lot!”
Given that my primary job is the walk tourists around Portland whilst gesticulating at buildings, landmarks, etc., this wasn’t too unusual. A few other people have also recognized me and asked who I am.
“My name is Joe,” I said, “I’m a tour guide.”
“Oh, that makes sense,” said Elvis, “You’re in Saturday Market a lot. I’ve seen your groups. What do you tell them about?”
“Oh,” I said, “you’ve probably seen me telling them about the Skidmore Fountain.”
“Ah,” Elvis smiled a bit, “You know, you should tell them about me. You tell them about some stony old fountain, but you don’t tell them about one of the best things in Portland!”
Portland’s Elvis is an old guy, maybe in his fifties, sixties, I’m not sure. I’ve also got no idea what his real name is, but he’s known as Elvis throughout town, so that name works well enough. He’s wearing his black and gold jumpsuit is holding a guitar case. I’ve seen his guitar- it is a beautiful guitar. It has waves and surfers and ships and Hawaiian scenery on it. Everybody recognizes Elvis. He’s a fixture of the town. His picture is outside Voodoo Doughnut.
“I’ve seen you,” I said, “but I didn’t want to put you on the spot.”
This is true. I am completely comfortable talking about buildings or fountains or geographical features. I’m also okay talking about dead people. Talking about a real, live person who is walking around, though, like they’re a piece of architecture seems a bit weird to me.
“Why not? That’s why I’m there. Next time you see me, say ‘hi.'”
I say okay.
“I mean it!” says Elvis, “I’m part of Portland just like that fountain is.”
I have to admit he has a point. We talk for a bit and he asks me how I got a tour guide job. I told him I was a teacher, got laid off, and then turned into a tour guide. He says that he’s been performing at Saturday Market for twenty seven years. That is quite a bit of time, and he is part of Portland. If I have the opportunity, I would like to say hi to him on a tour, but don’t want to treat him like a mascot. I snuff that thought out, though, on account that its a tad patronizing. He is a part of Portland. I’ll say hi, next chance I get.
It’s my stop and I have to get off the MAX.
“Hey, one more thing,” says Elvis, “I’ve seen you tell that story about the guy launching the airplane off the roof of that hotel. Is that really true?” He’s referring to Silas Christofferson, who in 1912 flew an early lightweight craft off the roof of Portland’s Multnomah Hotel.
“It’s totally true,” I say, “But he was later killed in crash.”
“That’s too bad,” says Elvis, “but I’m glad it’s true. You say hi, next time!”
“Yes, sir,” I say, and step of the MAX.
And I really will, too.