Danny Goldfield is traveling the country, meeting and photographing centenarians for his project To Live 10,000 Years. His goal: Document one woman and one man age 100 years or older in each of the 50 United States.
When I drove into Montana I didn’t know anybody in the state. I randomly chose the town of Livingston as my destination, walked down Main Street until I found Chadz Cafe, and asked Chad if he knew anyone at least 100 years old. He pointed me toward a senior center two blocks away and sent me off with a mug of coffee.
At the center, I joined a table of older gentleman who served me breakfast and told me about Warren McGee, a Livingston centenarian. He had worked as a conductor for the railroad for decades. As a side hobby he photographed the trains and many of his photos were published and exhibited. Now his wife and children were gone and Warren lived down the road at Highgate Senior Living in Bozeman.
I returned Chad’s mug and headed to Warren.
Two administrators at Highgate warned me that Warren lived in the memory unit, he was blind and didn’t talk much. I encouraged them to call Warren’s niece to approve my visit with him, and the next morning I was given the security code to the memory unit.
Over the three days I spent with Warren, he was increasingly talkative. Sure, his memory was a little shot, but we sat together on a bench and had long conversations.
As I photographed Warren and he shared what was on his mind, I kept thinking, “Who is this poet?!”
“It’s hard to be a human being. Did you know that?…” – Warren McGee
Warren is the kind of poet who liked to combine bluntness with profanity and laughter.
Warren might be blind, hard of hearing and have memory issues, but he has plenty to say — if you want to hear it, you just have to sit on a bench with him and take the time.