Street Stories

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

My Photo
Location: Seattle, Washington, United States

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

Friday, August 25, 2006

Too Much Stuff

Such a lovely pipe organ. Lorri (my wife) and I restored it, and now it just sits there, like so many other things, taking up room. I've already got a pump organ (like, who in their right mind needs TWO PUMP ORGANS!).

Human beings feel so compelled to collect stuff. It's weird.

Then I meet some homeless person who is content (for now) with one little duffel bag.

Of course, as soon as they move into our apartment building, they fill their place to the brim. I always laugh when they move away and it takes two trips with a truck.

Cheese Louise

Picked up burgers at Dicks Drive-In on Capitol Hill. Wow what a smell in the car – 125 cheeseburgers.

At Dravus Street bar – Milk Maid still behind the bar. She said “two more weeks.” That was three months ago. She introduced me to the owner, who looked like one of the patrons and was in no condition to drive or anything. There was a Jag in the parking lot I noticed later. Not sure if it was his or not.

Many really good conversations tonight. Milk Maid asked me to pray for her friend Cheryl, undergoing treatment for cancer. Lord, have mercy.

New guy, but evidently a regular “D” was amazed at two ministers in a bar. He questioned our legitimacy (I showed him my card). He then wanted to know my name. Talked a little “I don’t have to go to church – I believe – my family is very religious” and “I’m a drunk” which is the part he didn’t say. They rarely do.

The Scot came in, high as a kite, thrashing around the room, doing an Elvis imitation to Milk Maid’s juke box choices. He is quite impressive, really. Hugged me several times. Took me outside for a smoke (yessss) and told me he’s been doing a bunch of thinking “I sold my soul to the devil” but he also is aware that he talks to God and is aware of some angelic presence with him. Could be a familiar spirit, don’t know. But also told me he is evil. Is thinking about Jesus, because he’s in love with someone he works with – a restaurant in Wallingford neighborhood. She wanted to know if he was religious, wanted to know what he thought of Jesus. How about that. Maybe God is moving. Also talked about his lack of forgiveness.

Lord, in your mercy, hear me. Pour out your Spirit of wisdom and discernment – bring the Scot to yourself in truth, and keep him from the evil one.

Meanwhile, Bible Thumper was interjecting quite rudely, his thoughts on pastors who gamble (Pastor Dave won $5 at pull tabs) and smoke (I was holding a cigarette for the sake of the gospel). Why Bible Thumper is hanging around this seedy bar is a question – pretty sure he was drunk. People were incensed with the guy.

Everyone then disappeared. So weird. Drug connection? Simultaneous bathroom usage.

Off to MFQAT. Red in the bar. Talked to Train Guy, Minor Prophet, Shadow Of Himself, Demo Man. Nothing much, but good times.
Before we got to 3rd and Bell the Nightwatch HQ called. Two damsels in distress and a lot of luggage. So we drove to 14th and Main, picked up the two. I think they must have met on the bus. A youngish woman from Australia and the other from MO. Took them to a shelter at 11:45 p.m. and told them about other options in the neighborhood for the next day. That’s pretty much it, hung around until midnight and skedaddled.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

People in Exile

We talk to Paul every week. It was last March when he & I flew back to Wisconsin to face the music. It was old music, and not much of a tune, I must say. It's like he's being punished for doing the right thing -- he can't come back home yet, but the end of his exile is in sight. Of course, we've been thinking the end was in sight for five or six months.

Meanwhile, I'm having to unload trucks, the place is a wreck -- needs a good deep cleaning. Any volunteers?


I feel like I've been in exile too.

I haven't been at my church for months and I miss it. Instead I'm roaming around -- Congregational, United Methodist, Lutheran, community fellowships. They're alright, but it would be nice to see people I know for once.

Besides the preaching is bound to be better back home. (I'm tired of listening to myself -- I don't pay attention very well).

Then I think about all our guys -- separated from friends, family, loved ones. Sometimes there are good reasons -- fights, craziness of one kind or another. But I suspect that in the quiet moments they long for "home" in a way that makes sleeping on a mat with a bunch of smelly guys even more awful. Wishing for an end to the separateness, all of us look for something better, don't you think? Rick R

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Everyone needs a blankey

Semi-truck of blankets arrived today. Lots of help (Tim, Jim, Jim, Jan, David, David, David, Michael, Harold, Colby, Ann, Mr. Truck Driver). We had 500 boxes of 6 blankets. Whew.

God things happened:

The block cleared up for parking sorta (still blocked one lane, but no one called the cops on us like last year).

A lady came and moved her car so the truck could make the corner -- astounding jaw dropping timing. A God Thang!

Extra help at the last minute WITH HANDTRUCKS. Another God Thang!

All the boxes we couldn't store got hauled away by four different shelter programs; they took what they could -- as many as they could -- and it worked out to be EXACTLY the number of boxes that were left over. Amazing. yeah.

The Drunk Theologian

The Drunk Theologian instructed Father Kim and Pastor Rick.

"There's a reason for everything. We are here to take care of people around us. Everything that happens, there's a reason for it. God knows what He's doing."

Father Kim wondered about that. "Baby born with a hole in her heart?" I wondered about someone driving 80 miles an hour through an intersection and killing a police officer, but didn't say anything.

"Thass right. It's all predetermined. You can't do anything about it."

Not a very satisfying answer, coming from someone who seems bent on marinating his vitals. I could only wonder how many screwed up relationships he was leaving in his drunken wake. Rick

Monday, August 14, 2006

Shaw Island

It's pretty far from the streets of Seattle to Shaw Island:

Yesterday I preached there -- think I should have said less, which is an awful feeling for a preacher. One advantage of my keeping on the move is hammering away until I get it right. New congregation next week. And a few people said they were encouraged.

This past week I was on vacation, didn't go "do the bars." My brother and family were in town. I got to be a tourist.

Took the "Underground Tour" It was interesting to hear that homeless people used to sleep in those basements that used to be storefronts in what is now subterranean Seattle.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Abused, Thank God!

The trick is not say enough and saying too much all at the same time.

Talking to a guy at Dravus Street Bar (where the Milk Maid is continuing despite her threat to quit). He asked if I knew Father Ryan. Priest at St. Annes, now at St. James -- maybe the same guy, I dunno. Five minutes into the conversation he said I was conflated with cattle excrement, right out of the blue. I was surprised, since I had been fairly innocuous; protesting too much is a way for me to think something else is going on inside.

At MFQAT with the Erudite One in the bar -- quiet night, speaking of the passing of Hjellmer. How the Hjell do you spell it? Anyway the aftermath -- no one is particularly sad, only trying to understand how someone gets to such grumpiness in life. Sister convinced ex-girlfriend to clean the apartment out, and on downstream so that we all feel a little bad at doing nothing. But why should not the landlord do the work of getting the place ready to rent? S/he would seem the likely beneficiary, and has the most at stake. Anyway, nice talking about these things and minimum wage machinations too.

Third & Bell -- Fr. Kim and I walked in stating we would cut and run early if it wasn't fascinating. I was groped in the first minute by an unfair-maiden. The MWNI was happy. I met "North Carolina" daughter of a former bartender Bonnie who now requires help at home -- health problems don't you know.

I made my getaway, but Fr. Kim was being strong-armed at the bar by a drunk preaching the true gospel at him. Fr. Kim is a tough sell. Maybe it would make more sense if we knocked back a few with the patrons, but I couldn't stomach it.

Does This Make Sense Dept. The only guy in the bar with a cute girlfriend was plunking quarters in the machine playing some inane game where you get to look at some naked woman if you win. Meanwhile she's standing at the door tapping her toe. "Those with ears, let them hear."

We deposited R#3 at home, wheelchair and all.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Goodbye Hjelmer

The former owner of My Favorite Queen Anne Tavern passed away this week. I think he was about 58. He hadn't been well for awhile, and his lifestyle wasn't conducive for good health.

I met Hjelmer bartending when we sojourned what was, for us at Nightwatch, pretty far from our usual haunts. I was actually just curious about the place, wondering if it had changed much from my days as a bad Seattle Pacific student. I remember several visits there with friends, a little bleary-eyed, as I recall.

One visit, and we were in love. From the tacky atmosphere, the leaking bathroom fixtures, the nudie wall paper, it was a real place.

Happily it seems that it has not lost it's soul, despite being sold and upgraded by the new owner Christian. The regulars feel comfy, and the younger-upwardly mobile are hanging out in numbers.

Anyway, tough Hjelmer melted a bit with Father Kim & I -- showing us pics of his family graves in Norway, having us pray for his young nephews as they took first communion or were confirmed in the Lutheran church.

He gave us all something to talk about -- not the greatest businessman in the world, but I do admire his moxie at taking a stab at it. Our prayers go out -- for God's mercy, comfort to the family, and smooth seas ahead. He will be remembered.