Acid Heroes

December 26, 2017

Christmas 2017

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 8:47 pm
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Have a very merry People’s Park Christmas!!

Pretty quiet Christmas on the street scene. Aside from one ugly scene.

A car pulls up to People’s Park bearing donations. And you can always tell when there aren’t enough donations to go around, because the street people start sprinting towards the car from every direction (you never saw street people so motivated). Then they surround the car, gang swarm it. And everyone starts pushing and shoving and elbowing and jockeying for position.

Then this black woman comes barreling into the crowd like a battering ram, shoving everybody out of her way, in pursuit of the holiday holy grail. But the weird thing was, as she’s knocking people aside to get to the front of the car, she kept repeating: “Excuse me.” “Excuse me.” “Excuse me.” I guess she wanted to let everyone know that she had good manners. Ha ha.

But evidently the lady didn’t get what she wanted for Christmas. Because she suddenly started angrily shouting and cursing at the top of her lungs. Then she took her grocery bag full of stuff and slammed it on the ground and all of her stuff went splattering across the sidewalk.

So people start shouting and cursing back at her. And pretty soon everyone is jawing back and forth. But not to be outdone, the woman pulls down her pants, bends over, and moons the crowd, sharing her enormous ass with one and all (Christmas ’tis the season of sharing, after all).

“YOU ‘ALL CAN KISS MY BLACK ASS YOU MUTHA”FUCKIN’ HOS!!!”

That’s telling ’em.

Needless to say, it was another magic moment in my life..

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November 12, 2017

An unpleasant encounter with a police officer at 2 in the morning

 

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I don’t know if it’s the hot, balmy, feverish heat wave we’ve been having lately (last night i was outside at midnight in just a short-sleeve shirt) but last night was a little weird even by my standards.

Around 2 AM I decide to call it a night. And needless to say I got a little buzz going as I happily cut across the Berkeley campus towards my campsite in the hills. When I pass this cop who’s standing on this balcony over-looking me. He calls out to me. But I can’t make out what he said. So I just say “How ya’ doing,” and keep walking. But then I can hear the cop’s footsteps rushing towards me from behind me. So I stop and turn to face him, to see what his problem is.

“You do know it’s 2 AM and after curfew,” said the cop. “Are you involved with the campus or with any campus-related business.”‘

“Not really,” I said. “But I did work for the Daily Californian for about 10 years.”

“Could I see you ID, sir?”

“Surely,” I said. I take out my wallet, hand him my ID, and he starts running my name across the wire.The cop is a little asian guy with a shaved-head. So for some reason his head keeps reminding me of a big bullet.

“Where are you headed?” asked the cop.

“Up to the Berkeley hills,” I said, offering as little information as necessary. I considered asking him about the two people who were walking directly ahead of me, and ALSO cutting across the campus at 2 AM, and why was he jacking me up but not them. But it’s usually not a good idea to question the cop’s motives in these situations. It’s best to just try and go along with their program as best you can. Whatever that might be.

“A young woman was sexually assaulted in the Berkeley hills recently,” said the cop. “Are you aware of that?”

“No I’m not,” I said.

“You didn’t read about it in the Daily Cal?”

“No I didn’t,” I said.

“The suspect was a white male in his 40s. And you resemble the suspect.”

“I’m 61,” I said. “But I’m flattered that you think I look younger than I am.”

I can hear the dispatcher at the other end of the wire passing on some information.

“I’ve just been told that you’ve recently been sited several times for trespassing,” said the cop. “And that you were arrested recently for assault.”

“No I haven’t,” I said. “That’s a lie.”

The cop continues to grill me about the sexual assault. And suddenly I get pissed.

“WHY DO YOU KEEP ACCUSING ME OF SEXUAL ASSAULT??” I said with an angry edge to my voice. “I HAVEN’T DONE ANYTHING!!”

“Hey, WHOA! Back off!” said the cop.

“Oh I’m sorry,” I said, quickly changing gears. “I didn’t mean to be belligerant.”

I realize this little shitheel is just looking for any excuse to jack me up. So I make a point of trying not to give him one. But it’s galling. It’s perfectly fine for him to treat me rudely and belligerently. His sneering attitude during the entire exchange has been that I’m some kind of lowly dirtbag who’s guilty of some grave, but unspecified, crime, and that it’s his duty to punish me.

“I know you’re just doing your job,” I said.

(“. . .and a lousy job of it, too, you stupid fuck,” I want to add, but think better of it. The fact is, this guy is an idiot with a head full of rocks. The good cops, the smart cops, can always tell intuitively who is just minding their own business and who the real trouble-makers are. They have an instinct about it. And they can usually tell which is which within seconds of an encounter. Whereas idiots like this guy, he doesn’t have a clue. Instead of keeping the peace, he’ll spend his whole career creating one disturbance after another, that he manufactures out of thin air for no good reason. Even cops themselves will tell you, when they’re surveyed, that 25% of cops are unfit to be cops. Keep those odds in mind the next time you’ve had your fourth encounter with a cop).

At this point another cop on a motorcycle pulls up for back-up. So that changes the dynamic.

“The dispatcher just told me that they were wrong about the tresspassing charge,” said the cop. “But that you were arrested for assault. Why did you lie about that?”

“Because it happened way back in 1995 and it was completely bogus and the charges were dropped the next day and I had completely forgotten about it. That’s why. Aside from that I’ve lived in Berkeley for 40 years and you can run my name across the wire and you’ll find that my record is pretty clean.”

The cop continues to harangue me, looking for any angle to get at me. Finally I just say: “Whatever you want from me, I’m here for you.” (I don’t want to give him ANY excuse to accuse me of resisting, because I know he’s just looking for any excuse to throw the cuffs on me.)

So finally the cop hands me back my ID. Along with a sneering threat: “But if I EVER catch you on this campus again after curfew I’ll BLAH BLAH BLAH!!”

At this point I’m not even listening to him. I just cheerily wave good-bye (and good riddance) and say “You men have a good night.” And turn and head up the hill.

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November 6, 2017

First rain of the season

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:23 pm
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Mini Scaredy

 

First real rain of the season last night and I got totally soaked. My impression was that the rain wasn’t gonna start until later in the morning. My impression was wrong. It started raining at 4am. The worst possible time for me. I’m sleeping at my campsite, still drunk, with no raincoat or rain gear. Basically oblivious.

Mini Scaredy wakes me up with her incessant meowing. Possibly as a heroic Lassie-like gesture to awaken me from my drunken stupor and alert me about the impending rain. Or, more likely she just wants to wake me up so I’ll get off of my ass and get up and feed her her breakfast before she gets soaked. At any rate, she woke me up in the nick of time.

I stagger out of my blankets — which are already getting soaked from the ever-increasing rain. Dump some catfood in a dish for Mini Scaredy. Then struggle in the darkness to pack up my blankets.

Then the real bummer. The long march back to civilization with no respite from the downpour. By the time I make it to an awning I’m completely soaked. And will remain in that state for the next 8 hours until the sun finally comes up and I can dry myself out.

Here we go. . .

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October 3, 2017

Part of the scenery

 

img_20170713_153148.jpgOne of the weird things about homeless street people. They become like part of the scenery. There’s that street light.  There’s that bus bench. There’s that store front. And there’s that homeless guy hanging out at his spot on the sidewalk with his dog.  You see them every day. So after awhile you get to feel like you know them. Even though you don’t really know them.

Like this guy. And his dog. I must have passed him and his dog a thousand times as I walked down Shattuck.  He was always set up at his hang-out spot on the sidewalk in front of Half Price Books. He’s been hanging out there every day for years. And him and his dog are a perfect match. A matching set.  They’re the very definition of “laconic.” Neither of them hardly ever move from their spot. And when they did move, they moved slowly. They were almost like a public statue.  And then at the end of the day they’d move about 10 feet to their crash spot in the doorway of Half Price Books where they’d sleep for the night. Wake up the next morning.  And start all over again.

He seemed like a fairly friendly sort.  People would often stop and chat with him as they strolled down Shattuck.  And his dog was quite popular, too.  Got a lot of pets, a lot of attention, from the passerbys. Every now and then he would take out his acoustic guitar,and jam out some bluesy kind of instrumental stuff, and he had some nice skills on the guitar.

Image may contain: flower, plant and textYou could tell he had a lot of miles on him, probably in his late 50s, and had been through many a rough winters and was kind of on his last legs.  So I wasn’t particularly surprised when he suddenly disappeared last winter.  You noticed his absence immediately.  For, like I said, he was part of the scenery.  And now a piece of it was missing.  Word went out that he had died. So they made a make-shift shrine in his honor at his hang-out spot. They put flowers and candles and heart-felt eulogies. “I miss you and your dog Grinder so much, Rick!!”

But then a month later he returned to his spot. He wasn’t dead after all.  He was having some health problems and had been temporarily put up in a hotel. So it was like Mark Twain. “Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

But now he’s been missing again lately for the last 2 months. So who knows.  Nothing stays the same for very long in this life.  Even things that seem like they had been part of the scenery forever.

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September 1, 2017

Those goddamn wild turkeys

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 8:07 pm
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Big Scaredy and Little Scaredy.

 

Scaredy Cat’s been doing this thing lately every morning that drives me nuts. Around 5 AM she’ll climb on top of me, get right in my face, and “meow” incessantly until I wake up and feed her. . . I usually don’t get to bed until 1 AM so I’m usually in a pretty damaged state at that point. But eventually I’ll drag my ass out of my blankets and feed the damn cats their breakfast. It’s the only way I can get any peace. Then I’ll roll back over on my side and go back to sleep.

But inevitably I’ll be woken up shortly after by the sound of those goddamn wild turkeys horning in on the action and scarfing down all the cat food. For a creature with a brain the size of a pea, the wild turkeys are surprisingly cunning. They hide behind the trees in the woods, and as soon as they see I’m asleep they pounce on the food. But they’re such goons they always wake me up, making that “gobble gobble” sound, and they peck at the food so spastically, they knock the food dishes all over the place.

I’ll wake up in a rage and chase after them in my bare feet, cursing and shouting at them and throwing rocks and branches at them. But I’m the worst aim of all time and I’ve only hit them twice in all these years (that was way satisfying, beaned them right on the ass with a rock, they jumped straight up 10 feet in the air, wings flapping and squawking indignantly — but all the other times I missed badly).

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The hated one.

 

And the turkeys are remarkably fast. They remind me of the Road Runner cartoon with their long, powerful legs. And their claws are perfect for navigating the hilly terrain. They blast straight up the hill like a rocket. I’m no match. And like I said, they’re smart. They’ll get just far enough up the hill to be out of range of my barrage of rocks and branches. Then they’ll stand there off in the distance, staring at me blankly, like: “You’re going to have to go back to sleep eventually, dude. And we’ll be waiting. Heh heh.”

And it’s incredibly frustrating. I keep thinking: “I’m the human. I’m the one at the top of the food chain. We slice these buzzards up into nice neat packages and put them on the shelves in all the supermarkets. But there they are, sitting there off in the distance laughing at me.”

Bastards.

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August 26, 2017

One of my favorite late-night hang out spots

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For many years this was one of my favorite late-night hangout spots on the Berkeley campus. It was a very secluded spot. And it had an awning to protect me from the rain. And it even had an outdoor outlet so I could charge my cellphone and post crucial late-night drunken babble on my Facebook page. So the spot was ideal for my needs.

For a couple years they were doing construction on that wing of the building and it was blocked off from the public. And the building was completely vacant. So I had the entire area all to myself. Which is how it should be in a perfect world.

You see, when you live on the streets, you crave these little pockets of privacy. Because generally you live in public and you endure constant public scrutiny. So you truly cherish these little spots where you can get a little privacy.

But then two years ago my happiness — and my privacy — was shattered when a University employee set up his office in one of the rooms right by my beloved hangout spot. Bummer.

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It sucked because he could look out of the window of his office and see me sitting there several feet away, doing all the quasi-illegal things that the average homeless street person does during the course of their evenings. Even worse, one phone call from the guy to the cops could get me permanently rousted from the spot.

So the whole dynamics of my once-private hangout spot had instantly been changed.

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Even worse. This guy, instead of just being in his office during normal business hours — like I assumed — he was in there virtually ALL the time!! He’d be in there after midnight on a Tuesday night. He’d be in there on the weekends. He’d even be in there on the holidays. He’d be in there on Christmas Eve for crissakes.

So every night, when I approached my once-cherished late-night hangout spot, as soon as I saw the lights were on in his office (yet again!!) I would trip out into this mindless rage.

“KILL KILL KILL!! It’s HIM!! What is he DOING in there?? Does he work 24 hours a day?? Why doesn’t this dude get a LIFE!!”

I’d constantly have to remind myself: “Ace, get a grip. He’s a valued University employee. While you’re a useless bum getting drunk and babbling on Facebook. He has more of a right to hang out at this spot than you.” (so I’d be forced to concede that killing him wasn’t a viable option)

And I could understand this on an intellectual level. But an animal level. On a gut level. It was like a primal territorial turf war. For many years I had claimed this space as mine. But now this guy — this interloper — had come along and taken it from me. So I was displeased. As well as disgruntled, dismayed, and discombobulated.

Eventually I got to meet the guy. We’d occasionally run into each other when I was walking toward the spot. And he was walking in and out of the front door. And it turned out he was a nice guy, a friendly guy. He was a bland sort of middle-aged, mid-level, corporate drone employee. And occasionally we’d briefly chat and exchange pleasantries.

“So what are you doing here hanging out on the Berkeley campus?” he asked me, pleasantly.

“Oh I’ve been hanging out on the campus for years,” I said. “For many years I worked for the Daily Cal the campus newspaper. I used to do a daily comic strip.”

(I would sometimes name-drop this little tid-bit when talking to UC employees and UC cops to convey the impression that I wasn’t just a useless bum hanging out on the campus, but that I was also a useless bum who had some kind of tenuous connection to UC Berkeley. I was part of the “UC Berkeley community” (so-called).

“Oh really? What was the name of your comic strip?” he asked.

“Twisted Image,” I said.

“Oh wow. Are you Ace Backwords?” he said.

“Yes I am,” I admitted.

“I’ve been following your work for many years!” he said.

He shook my hand vigorously. He was happy to meet me. As well he should be.

So that changed the dynamics of my relationship with the guy. I was happy that he was supportive of me and probably wasn’t going to call the cops on me. But I was also nervous that he knew who I was and knew more than a bit about my life. And that knowledge could come boomeranging back at me at some point in a painful way.

But mostly we just accepted each other’s presence at the spot. And co-existed.

But one weird thing was: Every time we chatted he always seemed to have a nervous look in his eye. Like he was paranoid about me. Which was weird. Because he was the UC employee. And I was the bum. And he was the one who had standing, not me.

But then I noticed another odd thing. Late at night people would often knock on the window of his office. And he would get up and open the locked front door of the building and let them in.

Eventually I figured out what was going on. He — and the other people — were secretly LIVING in the offices. That’s why he was nervous and paranoid about me. He was afraid I might alert the authorities and bust HIM!!

I had to laugh at the irony. The delicious role-reversal. Because usually I, as homeless street person, was the one who was paranoid about being rousted and busted.

Anyways, the reason I’m thinking about this stuff now is because the other night I just noticed his office was vacant. It was the beginning of the new school year. And evidently the University had moved him to a new office. He was gone.

So, once again, I now had the space all to myself. Thank God. And once again, for no apparent reason, I had prevailed. The End (at least for now).

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August 22, 2017

Another one bites the dust

 

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In a way, street people are like water. We flood into any available crack of spa e.

For years this patio on the Berkeley campus has been one of my favorite late-night hangout spots. It’s really secluded, the building is usually vacant, and almost nobody ever comes back here. So I mostly have the place all to myself. It even has an outdoor outlet to charge my cellphone. And an awning for when it rains. Plus there’s a creek that runs by it. And that’s nice.

The only downside is, for the last 6 months this crazy homeless person has been camping every night under the patio. He’s got loads of stuff stashed under there, too. As far as I know, I’m the only one that’s noticed him there all this time. I’m amazed he’s lasted that long. Because if there’s one thing the University has always drawn the line at over the years its: NO camping on the campus. But the guy is smart enough to pack up first thing in the morning before any people show up. And like I said, this is a pretty secluded spot.

The problem is, after awhile the guy started to seriously resent my invasion of “his” privacy. And he’d often start doing this angry, incoherent rant that was definitely directed in my direction.

Generally I’ll get pretty defiant about stuff like that. Like: “Fuck you, dude! Since when did this become YOUR spot. I’ve been hanging out here for YEARS before you showed up! And PS: Fuck you!!”

But campsites are so hard to come by these days. And a little privacy is also hard to find. So I generally ceded the space to him when he showed up, and moved to one of my many other late-night hangout spots.

But just now I noticed that all of his stuff is gone. My hunch is, the groundskeepers — getting the campus prepared for the first day of classes next week — spotted his stuff and notified the cops.

Oh well. I feel bad for him as a fellow street person. It’s like being evicted from your home.

But I can’t say I miss him.

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August 20, 2017

Ace Backwords airs his dirty laundry in public

 

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One of the annoying things about living on the streets. Sometimes, even accomplishing the simplest of tasks can be incredibly complicated.

Take doing the laundry. Something you probably take for granted. At the end of the day you toss your dirty clothes into the hamper in the corner. And when the hamper gets full you dump it in a nearby washer and drier. No problem.

But not so simple when you’re homeless and living on the streets. You can’t walk around carrying your dirty laundry with you everywhere you go. And it can be difficult to find a spot to stash your laundry where it won’t get stolen or thrown out.

Every street person makes their own unique adjustment to this quandry. Many street people just wear the same set of clothes for weeks (or months). Until it finally gets too filthy, and then they simply toss it in the trash and get a whole new set of clothes.

Myself? I came up with this odd adjustment where I do my laundry once a year. I have enough clean clothes stashed in my storage locker to last me a year. And when they finally run out, I grit my teeth and face the convoluted task of “doing my laundry.” The complexities of which are like planning a military expedition.

Generally, during the course of the month, when my clothes get dirty I’ll put them in little black bags and stash them in the bushes in various spots all over town. Then on the first of the month — when I have to pay the monthly fee for my storage locker — I’ll gather up all my dirty laundry and stash it in my storage locker.

But after about a year it gets complicated. By this time I’ve amassed four BIG garbage bags full of dirty laundry. So now I’ve got to find a big shopping cart somewhere (Berkeley Bowl shopping carts are the best!) and haul all my dirty laundry to the nearest laundromat a mile away from my storage locker.

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Last year when I did this I totally fucked up. By the time I got to the laundromat it was the middle of the afternoon and jam-packed with people (and a stifling 90 degree heat in there). I needed 7 washing machines to accommodate my years-long load of laundry. So I had my laundry in 7 different machines scattered all across the laundromat. Making it very difficult to keep track of which machines were mine (they all look alike). And they were staggered to finish at different times. So it was hard to keep track of which machines were done and ready for the drier. PLUS people kept bumping into me and knocking into me while I tried to get from machine to machine (did I mention I suffer from hideous claustrophobia when it comes to being jam-packed into tight spaces amidst mobs of my fellow humans?). PLUS I’m POURING sweat from every pore from the stifling 90 degree heat. By the time I FINALLY finished the ordeal 4 hours later I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and it’s a miracle I didn’t kill the next person who bumped into me, or kill myself.

So this year I decided to play it differently. I went down to my storage locker with my shopping cart and hauled all my dirty laundry a mile back into town. But THIS time I stashed all my laundry in a friend’s garage instead of taking it directly to the laundromat. Woke up the next morning at 7 AM right when the laundromat was opening. The place was virtually empty at that point. So I was able to get 7 washing machines all lined up in a row. Knocked off 7 big loads of laundry like clockwork in 2 hours (spent about 50 bucks in quarters). And when I finally finished and managed to stash all my nice clean clothes back in my storage locker later that day I let out a big sigh of relief like you wouldn’t believe.

And this all might sound like a pretty stupid and impractical way to operate. But now I don’t have to do any more laundry for a whole ‘nother year.

I bet you wish YOU could say that.

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July 24, 2017

Meet my new neighbor

 .
 14370280_1571775182840019_4133743059190937246_n.jpgI was thinking how cruel it is that Mini Scaredy keeps running the other feral cats out of “her” territory. But then, off course, I do the exact same thing. Any other homeless people that think they can camp at “my” campsite, soon find out that they can’t. And it doesn’t matter if there are four of them and only one of me They are going, going, gone. i may not run them up a tree, like Mini Scaredy does. But I metaphorically run them down the trail. (and usually they leave a huge mess behind for me to clean up)

So anyways, a couple of mornings ago i packed up my campsite and headed on down to the creek (which I consider part of “my” campsite, by the way). The creek has been bone-dry lately — and it will be for the next 4 months. So I set up a make-shift “watering hole” for the local critters — this aluminum tray that i embedded into the dry dirt of the creek bottom, and I fill it up with a jug of water every morning. But, much to my chagrin, I discover this guy is camping down there by the creek. This young guy with horned-rim glasses and paranoid, worried eyes (here we go again, I think).

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Now generally, I don’t say anything the first time somebody camps at my spot. Usually, they’re just passing through, and they’re gone by the next day. So I just let it play out by itself.

“I’m bringing some water for the critters,” i say to the guy, gesturing with the jug of water. I walk past his sleeping bag and fill the tray up with water. But with my body language, I’m also passing on this unspoken message: “I consider this space MY space and not YOUR space and I’ll traipse through it whenever I feel like it.” I also put out an unfriendly and unwelcoming vibe (hoping they get the message). Along with a slight hint of menace. This “I-very-well-may-be-a-crazy-fucker-so-you-might-wanna-keep-your-distance” vibe (a vibe I put out naturally and easily, ha ha). And head on down the trail.

The next morning I’m chagrined to discover that the guy is not there, but he left several large tarps splayed out on the ground. That means either a.) he’s planning on coming back (he’s an idiot), or b.) he just left some of his crap behind for somebody else to clean up (he’s an ass). Naturally I’m hoping it’s the latter.

So I wrote a message on a piece of paper: “NO OFFENSE BUT THIS IS NOT A GOOD SPOT TO CAMP. THIS IS PART OF MY CAMPSITE.” I put the paper on top of his tarp and weighed it down with a rock.

The next two mornings, the tarp (and the message) are still there, but no sign of the guy. So I figure he’s gone. I leave the tarp there for one more day (just in case he wants to come back and get it). And then the next morning i go down there with a garbage bag and pack up the tarp so I can get rid of it (the last thing i want is some obvious sign of a campsite which might alert the authorities that I’m there).

But as I’m packing it up, somebody calls out to me from up the hill on the other side of the creek: “HEY DON’T STEAL MY TARP!”

“I’m not stealing your tarp, I’m just packing it up. I’ll bring it up to you,” I yell. The guy has set up his campsite about 40 yards up the hill (I consider the other side of the creek, NOT my campsite, by the way).

So I climb up the hill. I’m eager to get a good look at this guy so i can get a read as to where he’s coming from. I may well be living along side him for some time to come. So if he’s trouble (which they usually are) I want to find out what KIND of trouble. So I’ll know what to expect BEFORE he makes the trouble (that way I’m always one step ahead of the guy).

I make my way up to his campsite. He has junk laying around all over the place, And five pieces of clothes hanging from a tree branch, clearly visible from the road (not a good sign).

“How ya’ doing,” I said. I hand him his tarp and shake his hand. “No offense, but I consider that spot by the creek part of my campsite. That’s where I hang out and feed my feral cats.”

“Oh, OK,” he said. “I saw your note. And I couldn’t tell what to make of it. Whether you were inviting me to hang out at that spot or not.”

(That’s a bad sign. How he could interpret my simple message of DON’T CAMP THERE to mean I’M INVITING YOU TO CAMP THERE is bizarre. This guy’s brain obviously interprets information with it’s own confused logic. Right now I’m intently gauging every word he says, studying the meanings to try and figure out where this guy is coming from. I’ve pretty quickly got him pegged as a nut. Now the only question is whether he’s a.) a harmless nut, or b.) a dangerous nut.)

“So how you been doing?” I said.

“Oh it’s been terrible,” he said. “I’m just trying to find some food to eat that won’t make me sick. I’ve got a big bag of bread with no nitrates in it. You want to come up and see it?”

“So are you planning on camping here for awhile?”

“Oh it’s been crazy around here lately.”

“What do you mean?

“Didn’t you hear the big crazy scene that was going on the other night? It all started with this woman I know from Gainesville, Florida. G-ville. They poisoned her and she ended up dying from alcohol poisoning. And then when I tried to get to the bottom of it and figure out what really happened things really started getting crazy. And then these other people –”

“Oh really,” I said. I cut him off mid-sentence because I could tell he was ready to launch off into some long and crazy story that made no sense. “Have you noticed if that other guy who’s been camping on this side of the creek is still around?”

“I have no idea. I’ve been too busy trying to keep from being crucified. I almost died just from the fumes of the Kentucky Fried Chicken that were leaking into my room.”

I’m quickly realizing this guy is completely nuts. Every simple question I ask him is met with some complete non sequitor. And the fact that, in the course of a short, casual conversation he throws in several references to violent death is not a particularly encouraging sign.

“Well, you take it easy,” I said. And I headed on down towards the road.

Meet my new neighbor.

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July 23, 2017

Life on the streets

 

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Life on the streets: I go to People’s Park this morning. At the top of the park this young woman is lying on her back in the gutter. Her eyes are closed and her arms and legs are splayed in a weird, crucified posture. At first I think she’s seriously whacked on drugs. Or dead.

“Hey are you right?” I said.

She opens her eyes just barely

“Hey are you all right?”

She nods her head weakly.

“Hey you should get out of the gutter. A car could pull over to park and run you over. You should lie on the grass there by the sidewalk.”

She lays there stiff as a board not moving a muscle.

“Hey are you all right?”

She nods her head again.

Jack, a park regular, is sitting on a bench nearby. I go over to him and ask: “Do you know that woman.” “No,” he says.

I head back to the young woman in the gutter. Another woman is standing over her talking on her cellphone.

“Are you calling 911?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “Do you know her?”

“No,” I said.

 

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A small crowd has gathered around her. The woman with the cellphone reaches down and strokes her face. Somebody else offers her a bottle of water. There’s nothing else we can do now except wait for the ambulance. Which always seems to take an eternity. I put a cardboard box in the road ahead of her just to make sure a car doesnt pull over, and wait off in the distance.

The ambulance pulls up and eventually she’s able to stand up by herself and sit on the stretcher with her hands in front of her in a praying posture. And they haul her off. And that’s that.

She’s been on the park scene for awhile. She’s an odd duck. Sometimes I’d see her standing for long periods of time in weird, contorted yoga postures. It was hard to tell if she was on some weird spiritual trip or on drugs or in some kind of catatonic state. Some people’s minds just work differently. She’s also very pretty in a girlish way.

Mostly she hangs out all day at the bottom of the park at a picnic table, quietly drawing away on an art tablet along side this older black man she’s befriended who’s also an artist. I’ve never seen her speak. And I’m not sure she can.

All kinds in this world of ours.

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