Street Stories

Weblog of Seattle minister to the homeless Rick Reynolds, Operation Nightwatch

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Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

Caring for human beings seems like the best use of my time, homeless or not.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Drug Dealer

OK, so it's been awhile since I've had such a long talk with a dealer. I'm still not sure what I think about this one.

I'm sitting at one of Seattle's finest 2nd class dives talking to a homeless friend. A young woman (OK she fessed to being 40) greeted my friend, and bummed some tobacco, and stood talking to us both.

"I only sell marijuana," she said. Well, she was drinking an Olde English 800 Malt Liquor (about double the alcohol of a typical strong beer) so maybe she has other interests?

Wonder what her life is like? She sleeps in her car except when she swaps bud for a couch with a "friend." She has lived for a year on the street.

Why just marijuana? "I saw cocaine and heroine when I was 10; I saw what it did to people and how evil it made them."

She pauses to greet two customers. Or maybe it was her suppliers.

After Brother Dave & I left the bar, he told me the bar employee was still using horse.

About 1:30 in the morning I wondered if she was the young woman (same name) who came to my church in the late 1970's (about the right age), located on Capitol Hill (the neighborhood she identified as her childhood place). Add thirty years and 50 pounds. Could it be?

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Drunk AND Cranky

Every night is different.

About the time I think I've seen it all in 20 years of going out on the street, then something new and weird happens.

Thursday night Father Kim and were making our usual rounds. We were having a good time with the regulars at one of our favorite stops. (I can't say where we were this time; we're going back there next week and I don't want more guff from anyone.)

Anyway, "George" was really drunk, sitting two barstools away from me. I'm having a nice conversation with Cat Lady (see archive August 19, 2004) about public housing.

Almost every interaction I have with George has been unhappy -- he's always working too hard trying to figure out what we're doing there, and he's angry with the world anyway, so the anger gets directed to me. I tend to just tune him out because he's talking BLEEP and being totally inappropriate. Probably needs to be cut off, but the owner/bartender is overserving everyone anyway -- how a drunk can decide when another drunk has had enough is beyond me.

So I'm having this nice conversation and George starts in on me about why I'm not out saving homeless people -- ordering me to go to City Hall Park where all the homeless people hang at night, putting us down for hanging out for an hour at his bar, getting really loud.

I had enough. I told him we go to his bar because that's where the people who end up at City Hall Park start out their drinking careers; as to wasting our time, I asked him why he wasn't out selling real estate, since that's what he does for a living. He shut up for awhile.

Then he came over and talked with Father Kim. "I like his church, I don't like yours," he stated. I said it's okay, because he goes to both our churches equally, meaning never. Then he gave a big sloppy drunken hug to Father Kim.

When we left Father Kim quietly observed that the guy was mad at himself for not dealing with his drinking. If we can irritate him enough, maybe something will change. I'll keep bugging him.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

What a Life!

I spent an hour talking to "Doug" this week. We were sitting in a bar downtown. Doug sits in the corner reading, having a brandy and a coke. I've known who he was for years, but never really had a long talk with him before.

Don is 64 and makes his living by selling newspapers on a street corner downtown. He makes $18 to $40 bucks a day, more on Sundays -- sometimes $100.

Don sleeps outside.

He has a private little corner downtown near a building where there are one or two others camping out. He cleans up every morning, so no one has any reason to complain about him. He says the property owner knows he is there.

He buys all his food from the Turf and McDonalds. He doesn't like going to get free food at a mission (I offered).

He doesn't want to take any social security even though he is eligible. This guy has worked his whole life -- quite awhile as a bartender. He's also a veteran, but doesn't want to mess with getting any benefits.

Doug is going to tough it out until summer of 2005 when he turns 65, and his social security benefits will be better; then he'll think about getting a place.

Here's the thing about Doug. He's bright. He's interesting. He works every day, seven days a week. His whole world is lived between Jackson street and 3rd & Bell. Is he an alcoholic? Probably -- although I've never seen him sloppy drunk in all the years I've known him.

Next time you think about homeless people as worthless scum, remember Doug, 64 year old worker who doesn't make enough to live inside and doesn't want any public handout.