Nights fraught with fear and confusion. Gunshots in the distance – stabbings in the shadows. A week of humbling debasement – huddled outside on the cracked and black spotted pavement, I slept with the other unfortunates under the flickering neon glow of the San Diego Rescue Mission’s sign.
Crack addicted phantoms patrolled the sidewalks around me, fires were lit in metal garbage containers as cheap liquors passed from callused hand to callused hand, palm sized cockroaches skittered too close, and cat sized rats rustled in the piss-drenched gutters. Couldn’t sleep anyway – concrete biting cold and hard. I stayed awake at night and slept in Balboa Park during the day.
The fight for survival was a necessity. We shuffled to the corner of “C” Street and Island to stand in the soup line. An hour passed and the waiting area filled with about one hundred people. Some shuffled aimlessly, others stood slack-jawed; others jabbered and screamed at nothing. The reek of sour clothes and unwashed bodies. A ratty black woman of titanic proportions yanked down her black sweat pants and deposited great gobs of rancid shit next to the sidewalk. The mob looked on with apathy. Wouldn’t you? My fears anxiously rolled high – I was at the end of my rope. I honestly had no idea how I was going to get out of this one.
Macho naco- fat and nasty- drunkenly terrorizes a young college type white boy down on his luck or perhaps just a speed freak on the skids, who knows? Threats, a yell – whap! – the Mexican whelps the white boy across the temple with a meaty right hook. White kid stands there pink faced and passive. He looks at me for sympathy – I look away. Naco turns machismo to me – seeing to impress his already impressed Mexican cohorts – this fucker under the impression that he can now take on the whole Anglo race. But, dear Reader, I will not be mired in such debasement; I mean I have a reputation to upkeep – your reporter grabs a brick from a nearby crumbling warehouse wall to which I am standing and states plainly at his advancing foe, “C’mon, you drunk cocksucker. You wanta make problems? I got a whole world of problems for ya.”
Seeing no fear in these blue and bloodshot eyes, said drunk backs down. To save face asshole extends his hand in friendship – no hard feelings? Go fuck yourself is the only answer he is given. It made for great dinner conversation. Much back slaps and high fives where given that night – I was accepted into a circle of multi-racial hobo friends.
I always don’t get away with it, though. I recall the time a well known crack addict was scooting by in his wheel chair with me sitting on the steps of the shelter enjoying my Dr. Pepper and conversation with new found fellow hobos. Old gray haired Negro in the wheelchair flings out of his chair onto the phlegm coated concrete and goes into a spastic fit on the sidewalk a few feet in front of me. I quip in my best Bill Burroughs drawl, “Well, I guess the drugs are kicking in.
”Well, by a miracle of little baby Jesus this junky coot stops his spasms and foaming at the mouth in one swoop grabs the stainless steel foot rest from his chair crawls the few feet over to me at lightning speed and whacks me across the side of the head with his bludgeon, smashing my glasses all the while screaming wild eyed, “I ain’t no Goddamn junky, you fuckin’ honky!”
I love that word. Honky.