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.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Solo Night

I've been spoiled the past 6 years with great co-ministers on the street: Father Kim & Pastor Dave. But once in a while I have to hit the bars by myself.

Tonight started at the Operation Nightwatch Dispatch Center. Here homeless men, women, and families are fed, comforted and sent off to various shelters. One of the volunteers said they were trying to get groceries donated for the meal they bring to us; I whipped out a letter they could take to the grocery store -- we're a non-profit, and companies like the proof of it.

So, got a little later than usual start -- drove by My Favorite (Closed) Queen Anne Tavern. It's still closed. The flock is scattered. I'm surprised I haven't found any more of the folks than I have, and a little disappointed that MS Guy or someone hasn't called. Did run into the bar tender -- er, former bar tender. Gave him a ride home, but did he call and say he wanted to work for Nightwatch as a security guy? No. I'm bummed. Don't you think there's delicious irony in a former bar tender working for Operation Nightwatch?

From here I drove to Interbay -- where things were really happening at the Dravus Street tavern. It was super busy -- a few working girls, some regulars. The place was packed. The Milk Maid barkeep gave me hot lemon water, God bless her. She really really is looking forward to our visits on Thursday nights.

"Scotty" tried talking to me again. He's been there every time I go in, seems like a little alcoholic psychosis. Even the other patrons keep away. I heard the MM trying to explain him to a concerned customer. He's so foul and twisted that true conversation seems pointless. I wouldn't pursue it.

Another customer came to me and confessed to having relapsed, but acknowledging God in his life and the desire to help others. He made some reference to my position and I let him know that he could have an impact on people that I never could because he's been there -- formerly homeless, struggles with alcohol or addiction. I'm not sure he got the message but it was a dynamic moment.

There continues to be a lot of curiousity about us but a pretty good reception here overall. It's probably the closest bar to Pastor Norm, by the way.

From here I went down to 3rd & Bell. Second Gospel working the bar, saw the Man with No Identity and gave him some much needed good news -- his military info had come in, we now have the ability to get him VA picture ID and with that we should be able to get him his social security. It was a bad day -- someone had come to his camp site and stolen his gear -- clothes and everything. He was pretty glum until I told him of my progress.

Came back to HQ and heard that we were going to be turning away women again because the idiots that run a women's shelter which was going to be closed for two nights decided that the alternative church basement I set up for them wasn't really needed . . . Arrrgh. Oh boy someone is going to hear about this one. Lovingly. R

Friday, October 21, 2005

Do-It-Yourself WHAT?

Another unbelievable night.

Started by running four cases of blankets to Seattle's Tent City 3 -- we heard they were low. There was a total screaming fracas going on at the leadership tent, some woman was yelling in a voice that would fracture cement. Decided to drop and run.

Off to our new Dravus Street bar -- Milk Maid bartender, always seems out of context to me in this rough tough place. But she likes seeing us, anxious to talk.

A Lumberjack -- big guy in plaid and bad teeth picks up on my church affiliation -- Free Methodist. He has a story to tell.

He grew up Free Methodist, married a Jewish woman. Their son's Jewish, but his wife isn't observant. He "cleans up" because she wants the Christmas tree and he wants the minorah and Hannukah in the house.

After his son was born the Jewish grandmother wants to know, who will do the bris (the ritual circumcision)?

Lumberjack looks me right in the face. "I did it myself, I told her. And it's the truth." No, Lumberjack is no mohel. His physician buddy had done the work, while he said the words of the Covenant over his son.

Hey, it counts.

Onto 3rd & Bell, need to find a wheelchair for R#3 -- his bearing went out. He can still get around with a cane, but when he's tired, it's a bit dicey. And I've noticed he's AWOL more often lately (remember, he only drinks coffee).

Second Gospel bartending tonight. Knew my name. Sheesh.


Friday, October 14, 2005

Dreamy Night

Did you ever have one of those dreams where people you knew from here, there, and everywhere intruded into your brain. It was like that last night at Third & Bell.

Pastor Dave and I returned to the Dravus St. bar looking for evacuees from My Favorite (closed) Queen Anne Tavern. Did not spot anyone, but greeted "Bartender C" who seems completely out of context in a pretty rough bar -- she should be pushing milk and cheese products at a country fair, dressed in dirndle skirt.

Pastor Dave whipped me at pool (lousy table) and then beat one guy, lost to another. He wanted me to think he threw the game for the sake of the gospel!

Back by My Fav. (C) QAT just to make sure nothing was close to happening there. Yup. Dead as a doornail. Why the new owner hasn't posted a sign "Under New Management, Look for our Grand Reopening . . " is beyond me.

Then I entered a twilight zone. Six significant conversations at 3rd & Bell -- people wandering in that I knew 10 years ago, former homeless people I helped out (arguing about who has known me longer). One meth babe who confessed to being a grandmother (I was watching the face of the 30 year old who HAD been hitting on her -- hehehehe -- sin is often it's own reward). The Man With No Identity received my letter to the senator on his behalf. Tree Hugger K. walked in carrying a gallon of milk (what the!!!) and let me know that he isn't drinking anymore (or did he say, 'not drinking very much?'). At any rate, he walked out of 3rd and Bell with his milk and never had a drop o' booze despite hanging out and talking. The 30 year old "kid" who had hit on the meth-babe-granny was full of himself; moved out of Belltown ("I don't have to throw macaroni and cheese out my window onto drug dealers now." -- best quote of the night) and lives in Magnolia neighborhood. Good for him. He was pretty stoked.

New bartender -- I'll call him 2nd Gospel -- is settling in.

I can't remember laughing so much on the street in 20 years.

Oh yeah, how could I forget. Bearded Lutheran told me he's now been on the same stretch of I-5 for 15 years (which is consistent with the fact that I first met him 10 years ago and at that time he told me it was 5 years. He inspired me back then to clamber under the freeway to meet people.)

We had a wide ranging conversation -- military service and the directions of a person's life given certain pivitol moments and choices we make. Serious stuff. He grew up Missouri Synod Lutheran. Interesting guy. About 20 minutes into this wide ranging conversation he pulls up and says, "Pray for {me}" saying his full name. Nothing specific. I assured him I would, and he said, "I believe you will." It was quite a serious moment in a night of hilarity.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Tavern Evacuees

Since my Favorite Queen Anne Tavern closed down last month, I've really been at loose ends. Where is my flock of regulars? They have to be someplace worshipping at the altar of John Barleycorn! hehehe. Anyway, Father Kim and I dropped by a few Interbay places in search of "Evacuees" displaced from the FQAT closing. Yeah! Right on Dravis Street we found "J" former cat lady. It was sureal. I was wedged in the bar between her and a guy who seemed to be suffering from alcoholic psychosis. He was muttering in response to my conversation with J and when I tried to include him, introduce myself, he wanted no part of it. Fine.

"F---in' hold her down and we'll have an exhorcism and I'll pull out her tongue. . ." Just the usual bar talk (!) He must think J is a bit talkative. hmmm. Now imagine trying to have a conversation while a drunk is muttering all this, inches from your ear.

Bartender is "Cathy" -- mother of an orthodox priest, happy to have us in the bar. Father Kim had a conversation with someone he knew, "Joel" works at the local fast food Mexican place where Kim's a regular. Looks like a return possibility.

Third & Bell was quiet -- new bartender "M" and three patrons. Spoke with "The Man with No Identity." We're working to get him set up so he can collect social security. Permission granted to write to Senator Murray on his behalf.

Back to Nightwatch at midnight. Rick

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Streetwalk but not a streetwalker

Last night on the street I made my usual rounds.

N.O. was very quiet, I had conversation with one of the fellows who works there that I usually talk to and the bar maid.

Next I went K. Tthere was a short crowd and I did not see any one of the regulars .
I had a good visit with D. at the bar. We have become good friends and always have a chat about something.

Went to 2B. and had a cup of soup and Pepsi. Got into a long conversation with a fellow I had never met before. We spent over an hour together and I felt it was worth every minute of it.

Made my last stop at NL and found my friend F. He waits for me to come in and we have become fast friends.

This still is fun for me. I have been on the street now for over 35 years and have had very few nights that didn't have at least one contact that was worth the time spent. Rev. Norm Riggens