“Artichoke for Life”

First Friday can be an exciting time in the valley. For those of you who are unfamiliar, this is a monthly event and occurs on the first Friday of every month in the heart of the arts district in midtown Phoenix. You can find this monthly walk on Roosevelt, between Central Avenue and 7th Street and it comes fully equipped with everything that needed for a carnival-like atmosphere. Arts and crafts from local talent, street musicians and entertainers and a complement of food trucks to satisfy any taste. Yes, First Friday does have it all. What I enjoy the most, however, is the people, in all their splendor and eclectic personas. I positioned myself on the corner of 3rd street, where I perceived a central location to be. The hustle and bustle had not begun for it was early in the evening, but the show was imminent, and I wanted the best seat possible. This tiny patch of concrete is where I would meet Tee.

Tee seemed to materialize from out of nowhere with a clothes rack, complete with clothes, a boom box, and an iPod to provide musical enjoyment for himself and those around him. I watched him intently as he set up shop and finalized a playlist for the evening. Appearances and interactions with those around him lead me to believe he is a regular to this spot, if not area and had been here several times before. Smiles, handshakes, and hugs for all those around him, and it was a pleasant change to see such undertakings from my fellow residents. More times than not I witness people trying desperately to limit or avoid their mingling with others. Over the course of an hour, I would watch Tee peddle his wares to passersby, explaining several times that all garments were his, they were clean, and all sales were final.

Timing is everything when engaging someone who is preoccupied with a different goal other than speaking with me. My patience paid off, in this case, as often it does, and I was able to converse with Tee for a bit of time. Growing up in the northwest corridor of the valley, Tee never felt at home. I know this area of town, and it can be difficult at times for those who people perceive as different. An aspiring musician, he has been playing guitar and bass since the age of sixteen. Upon graduating from high school, Tee attended Scottsdale Community College in pursuit of an Associate’s Degree in music theory and composition. After a succession of semesters, Tee decided that his musical desires would best be served by playing as much as he could amongst those who were more skilled than he. If none of the greats had a formal education in the craft, why should he be any different?

Tee is 21 and has found himself steady and stable work at The Lux in midtown. He enjoys his job and the flexibility that it offers him. He is currently playing in several local bands and practices as often as he can. Living in Tempe for a short period, he now calls the downtown area his home and couldn’t be happier. I asked Tee what he enjoyed the most about Phoenix and the people who reside there. “People here are committed to making culture.” He said enthusiastically. Before returning to my perch, I asked Tee if he envisioned himself back in school. He had not ruled out that prospect. As we parted ways and shook hands, I wished him the best of luck. As I sat and watched the couples, families, and singles pass by, there was Tee, laughing, dancing and enjoying his youth. Those joyous fires, of such a carefree nature, should never be extinguished from our hearts.

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