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, August 17, 2007

End of an Era

It was my last night at "Dravus Street Bar" (all names changed to protect . . . oh who knows) -- last big blowout is Saturday night, and you couldn't get me there if you paid me and picked me up in a limo.

So of course tonight I met a coupla nice guys -- one a retire cop (where the heck has he been? We could have used him the past 9 months). He told me he started drinking there 35 -40 years ago. We swapped names, he told me I couldn't be a good priest since I turned down his offer of wine. Shout out to Dean Quall, retired SPD officer who was on the Nightwatch board about 14 years ago. Maybe I met him once. Other friendly face was a property owner in the hood who stops off on his way home (Lynnwood) after painting or whatnot on his apartments.

He said something I had never heard in 25 years of bar ministry:

Bartender: "You want another one?"
Patron: "Nah. Two is my limit."

Way to go. This shall be my final memory of the Dravus Street Bar. A lot happened here in a short time for the Nightwatch ministers.

Indulge me a longer-than-usual reflection.

"Milk Maid" is the glue (besides booze, I mean) that held the place together. She's worked here longer than she cares to admit, maybe 25 to 30 years; she hates to hear that. And sometimes she quit but always came back.

Milk Maid was sad about what was going to happen to the whole screwed up-dysfunctional-alcoholic-addict family that circles around Dravus Street. Her flock is being scattered, and she worries about them; she will miss many of them. But then, some of her favorites have been 86'd out of there in the past six months.

Her nightmare commute to Bellingham will end on Saturday night/Sunday morning. Imagine driving to Seattle from Bellingham every day to pour beers and mix drinks for that crowd. Oh yeah, she cooks a mean burger, they say. Never ate anything there.

Part of what she left me: Angostura bitters -- good for what ails ya. Compassion for the hard-bitten. The impossibility of one person to manage such a place. Never a growl escaped her lips, even when trying to get better behavior from one of her kids.

I wonder what is next for her.

She gave me her phone number on a coaster, and told me I better explain it to my wife. I don't think Lorri will mind. I'm going to call her early next week to find out how the closing party went, and probably on Thursday night for awhile -- my night to be in there.

It feels weird -- there were some brutal crimes, ugly scenes -- hookers picking off guys who 10 minutes prior had asked for prayer; lock downs, when girlfriends were huddled at the bar. "W" trying to figure out what to do, having come home to find his stuff locked up by the landlord; "T" getting busted for living in a parking lot in Ballard in her van, even though there were no drugs; the crazy old lady who drank coffee and sat in the corner -- conversations with her were stream of conciousness webs that lured you in; the exotic dancer shimmying around the room, fully clothed and looking like an example of plastic surgery gone sadly awry; "H" getting it on to "Jungle Boogie" his gapped toothed smile and incredible bulk seriously impressive in dance; "J" the young pool hotshot who I mysteriously ran into in Chinatown -- cryptically telling me he doesn't "do that" anymore; PFC "J" and his drunk motorcycling death wish; passing out popsicles; going around the room with Father Kim fixing all the malfunctioning beer lights when we were the only two people in the bar; the end of smoking inside; Milk Maid's tangle with the falling equipment in the kitchen; "K-J" and pal wanting a Bible & rosaries (eek, too late on the extras). Not to mention the whole Danny Westneat, Seattle Times, following me around on the stormiest night of the year saga; "DB" spewing venom and insanity and then making peace in a most-lovely righteous way. Whew. I know there's a bunch I missed. Sorry to run on so long.

I'll miss the people, but not the place. God keep them close. Rick

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