Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fragile China

Spoke to China outside Mama's. She's scared and upset. A couple weeks ago, she was attacked in the park across from her modest apartment. A man who she had been with for a while, smashed her in the back and then the head, leaving her unconscious. She showed me the bruise on her back, a discolored mess of purples and oranges. 

She claimed that people in her little complex saw, but everyone ran inside or turned the other way.

China lives in a neighborhood that breeds illicit activity. There doesn't seem a way to claw out of the poverty, the drugs, or the sadness. All she knows is the world of the rough streets. The cops avoid this area, and don't take the complaints not very seriously. It's hard to blame them, but at the same time, when China's calls for help went unheard, it didn't give her much confidence in the system, so why should she try to take the good road?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cookie Benjamin

Glass Eye
Paranoid Aguanator
Horinger and Jim Jam sat chillin' in the back of the van. Jam looked good. He sounded good. They talked about when we first met.

Six years ago, Jam sat strung out on heroin outside St. Bernard's church. It was cold, and the stone steps felt harder and sharper than usual. I brought out my sleeping bag to give away, and Jam was all about it.

I handed it to him, and he led me around the corner where he slept on the side stoop.

He asked for a ride, and I said no. Given his condition, I thought it best not to stick him in a van with some students.

He exploded with rage and shouted heroin-inspired insults.

I didn't know him like I do now. I was intimidated but stood my ground.

Horinger showed, and Jam softened.

"I like your hat," Jam told Horinger. "You're cool." He paused, "This guy," he said turning to me, his face morphing into a craggy image resembling the side of a rocky mountain, "this guy's a @#$$%$%^$%^@^$%&$%@@#$^."

Now, Jam is off heroin, has been for six years. Last night, we reminisced, smiled, and had a great time.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

No Tents To Be Found

Along the tracks. Tentless.
Four years ago, Akron police combed through the woods in Akron, tearing down the tent cities that sat along the railroad tracks. Men and women came back to find all of their belongings trashed, their few possessions gone.

Weeks prior, signs were posted along the woods warning of the coming raid, informing the occupants of the tent cities that they were trespassing.

Some of our friends packed and moved down the tracks. Some friends took down their tents and laid low under some tarps away from the eventual raid. When the raid was over, they resumed their life in the tent city. Others, however, stayed, and they lost everything, from identification to the few memories they had of better days.

Case Western University School of Law is now taking on the case of our friends, suing the city of Akron.

Beacon Journal Article

If you scroll through our 2010 blog posts, you'll find references to our friends moving away from the tracks. We lost contact with many of them after that. This happened just a little before we were told not to come back to St. Bernard's--"don't feed the homeless," like a sign at the zoo.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

New company brings fresh fun

Alley Bill
Vang and Bang

Main (of Jim's front porch fame) opened up and told stories of his youth in Alabama. One of eight boys, Main was given the nickname by his mother, who also nicknamed a couple other brothers, Pig and Dick.

Other than three wives, Main disclosed that he killed his best friend when he was 21. In self defense, he claimed. The now 52 Main said he received only two years probation. He's learned a lot since then, he said.

We stopped by Susan's post off Perkins, and while she stood across the street at the back of our van, Horinger and I took her spot so she wouldn't lose any potential donations. Horinger held Susan's sign, while I made my own: a jack-o-lantern face. We received no donations.

Standing on the side of the road, flying a sign, we noticed the many drivers who refused eye contact or who made the awkward effort to pull well beyond us when stopped at the light, almost pulling into the crossing street.

Alley Mark, out from jail, told us how to get a panhandler's identification at the downtown police station. The double doors, not the single door. This point must be understood.

Apparently, anyone who is willing can obtain a panhandler's license. I might be getting mine soon. I like identification. Who knows what the poll workers in November will ask to see.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Spider Bite

We learned that Mr. Lucas' daughter was killed in a hit'n'run. She leaves behind a 2-year old daughter and Mr. Lucas to grieve alone, comforted only by his best buddies Spanky and Mozart.

We stopped by his tiny apartment to provide some support and smiles. Lucas sat outside, a bandage on his face where a spider bite got infected.

He was solemn, but happy to see us. We stayed longer than usual, and when we left, we noticed his apartment was completely dark inside. The electric in his apartment had been turned off.

Not long ago, Lucas was mugged, and he lost the little bit he had.

He leans on us for support, and it's easy to forget that with all the other things we are responsible for in life.

Thursday, September 18, 2014


Arlington Dawn
I packed my car with Aldie's chips, sandwich-making stuff, and bread. The bill came to $40, leaving me with another $20. Bus passes, I thought.

I made my way back down Arlington toward Hoban, when I saw an older lady flying a sign. I passed her. One block, two blocks, three blocks. I couldn't get the lady out of my head. I had $20 to return to the business office with the Aldie's receipt.

I turned around and pulled into the parking lot of a shady establishment.

"Hello, I'm Greg," I announced as I stepped from the car.

"I'm Dawn," she said, dropping the cardboard sign to her side.

I told her the bit about Wednesday nights and Project HOPE and said I had some cash left over.

"What do you need it for?" I asked.

Dawn told me of her rent of $500 and that she couldn't quite make it. The rest of her family of daughters and granddaughters depended on her.

I slipped the Aldie's receipt from my envelope of cash and handed over the money.

"Can I get a picture with you, Dawn?"

"Sure," she smiled.

I placed my arm around Dawn and added, "I need proof for my business office."

For a moment, as I drove away, I thought of the now "missing" $20, but then I figured, heck with the financial formalities.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

She Don't Know Luther Vandross

A few quick scenes from last night...