Posted by: MC | July 23, 2011

Mr. Prude – II

“I heard from the Idol people.  I’m goin’ to LA in October!”  Mr. Prude was at the bus stop Tuesday morning.  “I went right to the Western Union office and sent my mom a telegraph.  Next thing I know my phone was ringing and she was saying, ‘I knew you could do it!’”

So this is how the story of Mr. Prude was unfolding for me.  Here was a man I took for African American.  His skin is the color of dark chocolate.  His cheekbones are high and there’s a healthy glow, a shine to his face.  From what I’ve seen, he’s usually smiling, even when he’s keeping to himself singing along with I-Tunes.  His walk is a little slow, a little bent.  I don’t know what his path has been, but being a Marine on two tours in Viet Nam– well, it seems that alone could take a toll on a body.  I know he comes to the bus stop from the dialysis center just down the road, but I don’t know what makes it so he needs dialysis.  I know he has a great voice, and a band, and this crazy opportunity to dip into the world of American Idol.  “If nothing else,” he says, “It will be a great experience.

Early one Wednesday evening a week or so later, I was walking up the street just as Mr. Prude was getting of the bus to make his way to his dialysis session.  I met him in the middle of the road and walked part way to the center with him.  He was full of the news of what had happened on Sunday.  His drummer, a 27-year-old African-German born and raised in Wiesbadenhad collapsed on stage with a heart problem.  Mr. Prude got him to the hospital and stayed into the night Sunday and Monday to look after him.  He called his father in Germany, to let him know what had happened, to keep him informed.  “I’m 60,” he said.  “I’m the oldest one in the band by a long shot.  Nobody ever believes our drummer is German.  Just shows what people know and what they don’t.  His mom died of some heart problem, so this really needs to be checked out.”  Mr. Prude said there were tests done that day and he’d hear more about it in the morning.

“Yeah, I can talk with his dad because Ich spreche Deutsch.”  He smiled.  “Where’d you learn German?” I asked.  “I was stationed in Germany after the war,” he said.

“I think you were really young when you first went into the Marines,” I said.

“17,” Mr. Prude replied.  “I graduated ahead of time.  I did pretty good in school.  My dad said, ‘It’s either college or the Marines.’”

Mr. Prude went down to the recruitment office and signed up.  He handed the evidence of his enlistment to his father who said, “Where’d you get the crazy idea to do this?”  Mr. Prude said, “I told him I had listened closely to my best friend and my greatest inspiration, my very own father.  My dad didn’t really know what to make of that, but my mom thought it was great that the Sergeant Major didn’t know what to say.”

Mr. Prude went on to tell me that both his parents are still living.  His dad is 97 and his mom is 91.  He is one of their 13 children.  “My mom is from Washington.”

“Really?” I said.  “Is that what brought you back here?”

“Yes, I’ve got family all over the place out here.  My mom is Nez Perce.  Her dad, my grandfather spoke the language.  He taught me about our people.  He was so old, he even could talk of seeing Chief Joseph.”

“What took your mom to New York?”  I asked.

“She was one of the first females to enlist in the military as a nurse.  She was over in Pearl Harbor the same time my dad was.  When he took a Hollywood shot – that’s what they call a bullet in the back side – she was his nurse.  He said he took one look at her and knew.  She walked by his bed.  He gave her a swat and she gave him a smack and they’ve been together every since.”

Mr. Prude’s mom was discharged in 1944 and came to Oregon to work at the Oregon Health Sciences Hospital tending the returning wounded veterans.  His father was discharged in 1945 to New York, but managed to get a diversion to Oregon.  His parents married and went to New York to raise their family.

“My mother’s Native roots are very deep.  That’s how she raised us.  I can walk on any reservation in the world and be at home,” Mr. Prude said.  “My father likes to remind me that he’s Jamaican and that’s an East Indian to him.  So I’m Jamaican and Nez Perce.  Feels good to me.”  Mr. Prude paused for a minute.  He glanced down at the silver ear buds in his hand.  “My grandfather spent most of his life in Nez Perce country,” he said.  “He told me once that the only difference between Nez Perce music and reggae was one beat.”

The next morning was Thursday.  I left the house at 5:45 and a few minutes later could see Mr. Prude standing near the bus shelter talking on the phone.  He hung up just as I got across the street.

“Did you hear from your friend?” I asked.

“Yep.  That was him.  He’s getting out this afternoon.  Aside from high cholesterol, he’s in the clear; and I know exactly what he can do to deal with the cholesterol, even though he’s already complaining about it.”

“Good news,” I said.  “And you slept ok last night.”

“Yeah, they had a bed set up in a private room for me last night.  They knew I’d been pushing it taking care of my friend and wanted to make sure I could sleep.  But, you know, they hook me up and I’m usually out in 15 minutes for the whole night.  Like I keep saying, I’m a Marine.”

“Maybe you’re part Buddha, too,” I said.

“Could be,” Mr. Prude said.  “I have to say, I’ve liked studying with a Sensei.  That’s the purest way of the warrior.”

–to be continued.

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