Saturday, November 15, 2008

GREEN ON THE STREETS

The year was 1992. I remember Whitney Houston in the movie “Bodyguard”. Janet Jackson released the song “That’s The Way Love Goes”. Bill Clinton was elected president. I don’t recall who played in the Super Bowl. I was getting so high; I didn’t know the difference between the Super Bowl and a soup bowl.

The first night I was on the streets, I had three suits, two pairs of jeans, one pair of boots, and one pair of dress shoes. I laid down on the side of a building, using some of my clothes as a pillow and the rest as a blanket. In the middle of the night I woke up to the wretched stank of a man pissing near my head. He peed on some of my clothes. I got up and just walked around all night.

The next day, I slept in the park. I knew I had to find safe shelter for the night. I walked down the street and met a man who was cleaning windows. Later I named him Mr. Window, kinda like the song Mr. Wendell by Arrested Development. I stashed some of my clothes in an abandoned building. Mr. Window took me to the homeless shelter where 200-300 other guys slept.

The shelter was a trip. Like in an old western saloon, anything went. As guys slept on military cots, others were selling just about anything; hot dogs, cigarettes, clothes, anything they had. It was almost like the New York Stock exchange, but the smell was awful, and I mean awful. I thought I would play a hand of cards with some guys at a table, just to get to meet some people. A guy told me about a temporary service which paid every day. So I decided to check it out the next day. I needed money. I needed money!

The next day, I got up around 5 AM. I shit, shaved and showered, put on my suit and tie, dress shoes, and was ready to get a job. I knew I looked GQ and was ready to impress my new employer. I arrived at the place and saw a bunch of poor lookin guys with bags and dirty clothes. I’ll never forget the look on the straw boss’s face when he saw me. He looked me up and down and said, “Are you goin to work today?”

I said, “Hell yeah, if you got work.”

He said, “Not dressed like that. Do you have any boots?”

I said, “No.” He asked me what size I wore and reached back on a shelf and grabbed me a pair of black rubber boots. These boots smelled worse than the piss in my face two nights before. Imagine me with a pair of black rubber boots, a hard hat, and a suit and tie. I looked worse than Pee-wee Herman.

They took us to do a demolition job on an 8 story building. It was a cold, windy day in the heart of winter. All I had on was my suit, and I was freezing. I worked hard simply to keep warm. After 8 hours, they picked us up and took us back to the labor hall to get our checks. I had never seen a check like that before, and had never been paid so little. I told the straw boss that the check couldn’t be right. He assured me that it was. $6.50/per hour, times 8 hours, minus taxes, $1 for the hard hat, $1 for the boots, and $2 for the ride there and back. That left me with $34 and change. I asked him where I could cash such a so called check. He directed me to the local store downtown, which would charge me another dollar, which pissed me off even more. With my remaining $33, I bought a forty and a pack of cigarettes to ease my frustration. My self esteem was knocked down, my pride was hurt and my spirit was broke. That’s when I realized, I was homeless.

With my remaining $28, I bought a pocket rocket, a jack rock, or a bleem; you guys probably call it crack cocaine. I knew the jitter so well; he gave me a complimentary for $20. So I was off and running, chasing ghosts all night. All $20 of dope will do is make you want more. One blast is too many, a million is not enough. I went to Jurassic Park, a nickname for a park in town, where I found a corn freak. A corn freak is a sister who smokes dope. I needed someone to talk to, anybody, and I knew the dope would do the job…and more.

With no more money, no dope, and now no girl, I went to my cat hole; a hidden place where a homeless person sleeps. I went to that labor hall a few more times, and then I tried another labor hall. That’s where I met Top Dog. In the next few months, I learned quickly and the streets became ours.

1 comment:

Still I Sing said...

Rick:

I loved this addition to your blog, but I must tell you, that I love your writings. I never knew you were such a gifted writer and do encourage you to continue these insightful words of wisdom and personal experience.