1) Tell us about a strayThe deletion of that one word is critical. It means I can write about Dick.
animalyou took in.
The Story of Dick, The One-Legged Opera Singer
When I was a graduate student, I often spent a pleasant Friday afternoon drooling at the wonderful array of equipment in the local stereo and record store. Yes, it is true, there was once an age when music was sold on a mythical material called vinyl and entire stores were dedicated to selling audiophile stereos. No TV's, no computers, no ... The normal watering hole for the grad students and professors was across the street, so I'd get to the store an hour or so before the weekly watering hole event to drool and dream. With the passage of time, I became a friend of the stereo store manager and would help customers with information if he was swamped. In return, he offered me discounts on equipment I could not otherwise afford as a poor graduate student.
One Friday as I was drooling and dreaming of a particular tuner, I noticed a very distinguished looking gentleman acting very confused as he stared at the array of stereos lining the walls. The only other thing that stood out about the gentleman was that he was on crutches and was having issues with the crowded aisles of the store. Since the manager was tied up with another customer, I asked him if there was something I could help him find. It was like I had opened the gates of heaven. His entire face lit up and it was clear he felt that someone had just thrown him a life preserver. He was "just looking", but he hoped to get a system he could listen to his opera records on. He introduced himself as Dick and we talked for a bit waiting for the store manager to get free. I gave him some advice about what to look for and then introduced him to the manager. I never figured I'd ever see the Dick again.
Several weeks later, Dick once more wondered into the store and immediately sought me out. We talked for a bit and decided to get coffee next door so we could talk in peace and quiet. Stereo stores at the time were noted for playing loud rock and roll, usually several different songs at the same time. Not a good place to attempt conversation. As we talked, the subject of Dick's opera fanaticism and my own stereo equipment fetish came up. After a bit more discussion, it was clear that I knew as little about opera as Dick knew about stereo equipment. So a deal was struck - I would attempt to educate Dick about stereo equipment and Dick would attempt to teach me a bit about opera.
One of the San Francisco classical radio stations broadcast a weekly show that featured operas from around the world (if memory serves me right, it was produced by the Met). So we made the arrangement that Dick would come over to my place and act as a docent for the opera and then we would talk stereo stuff for a while.
I still vividly remember the first Sunday meeting. The opera was Massenet's Thais . Dick's commentary was like looking into a whole new world. I had never listened to opera before, but with Dick's insight it was entrancing. The combination of the music and Dick's scene by scene description of what was happening on stage and what the motivations of the characters were and ... was simply stunning. It was great! In fact, I felt a bit like a piker, exchanging my dry technical knowledge for this panoramic vista of art and music.
Over the course of the next few months I learned a tremendous amount about opera and Dick learned enough to buy the stereo he wanted. But even more interesting, I learned Dick's story. He had been an opera singer with the San Francisco opera. That explained his in depth knowledge of so many operas and the particular stagings. He had been there and sung in some of them! He had been involved in an accident involving a car and a street car, resulting in the loss of his leg. That had ended his on stage opera career, since as he put it "there aren't many roles for a one-legged tenor in all of opera." So he had moved to the university town where I met him and gotten on with his life, giving voice lessons.
So the next time you see someone looking confused and lost, adopt them. The stray you take in may open up whole new vistas for you.