Walt has made an almost miraculous recovery from his physical injuries, though he does remain disabled due to the lingering effects of the severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) he sustained in the accident. The human brain is no match for the impact of a two ton car. Walt is again living in Asheville and is able to take care of himself. Walt hasn’t lost his sense of humor and his immense personal likability. And he is rapping and rhyming again. He even performed at Asheville’s One Stop watering hole and music venue.
Rapping runs deep in Walt. As I was driving to Asheville to visit Walt in the hospital, I heard a story on NPR about stroke victims with brain damage, who couldn’t talk, but could sing. The story reported that the easiest test of this phenomenon is to simply ask the injured person to sing Happy Birthday. It is not unusual for stroke victims to be able to sing Happy Birthday. I wondered if there might be any similarity between a TBI and a stroke. Walt was conscious by this time but he could not talk well enough to make himself understood. So, of course, I asked him to sing Happy Birthday, and he sang – Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday dear Stinky, happy birthday to you. I was so shocked to hear him sing clearly that I didn’t even ask who Stinky was. Then I went out on a limb and asked Walt if he could rap. He proceeded to rap and rhyme as if nothing at all was wrong. I was floored. It was a few more months before Walt reacquired the ability to speak clearly. He could sing and rap long before he could talk. Go figure.
I photographed Walt yesterday when he paid a visit to my studio. I was struck by Walt’s long curly hair seemingly trying to escape from underneath his red hoodie. Walt claims he is regularly asked if he is wearing a wig. I can attest without any doubt whatsoever, that he is not. Every strand of hair is his own.