I was frozen in disbelief as I watched two homeless men come to blows over an 18-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
The Round Up Presents: The Word on THe street
Gordon Thomas Park is a blotch of grass with a couple benches, some bushes and trees. Had it not been placed between the local shelter and a dive bar it’d probably be a pivotal attraction for tourists. Instead, its charming views of Mother Nature and the inner harbor are distracted by the sights of homeless folk who bask in sunlight on the park’s benches. Beneath the smell of low-tide and sea salt are the odors of stale beer and cigarette butts; creating an essence as prominent and unique as anywhere I’ve ever been. Growing up, the park and its occupants possessed a sense of corruption - people labeled and defiled by substance abuse and wrongdoings. We’d drive by and I’d stare from the backseat of my mom’s Toyota Highlander. Down the street from my warm home with its wood-stocked fireplace, “The Homeless Park” felt so distant. I was an adversary to that walk of life.
Years passed and the leaves on the trees came and went.
I was fifteen and no longer that boy starring from the backseat of my mom’s red Toyota. Like most adolescents I was going for my first ride without the training wheels. A goofy but necessary step towards adulthood. While I found myself picking fights with my core beliefs and trying as hard as seemingly possible to redefine “Jamie,” at the end of the day I was still that kid with an attraction to shock jocks, board games, and Tarantino flicks. And with “Jamie” came the unquenchable thirst to podcast. Naturally this brought me and my friends to the edge of Gordon Thomas Park holding a voice recorder, watching a group of hoboes huddled beneath a tree.
“Dude go in there.” “Jim, I’m not asking those hoboes for an interview.” “It’ll be easy, stop being a wimp” “Then you go do it.” “No, you said you would.”
While we argued over who would be the one to approach them and ask for an interview, a large bearded man wandered into the scene with an 18 pack hoisted over his shoulder. Clothed in dirty unkempt sweats and plaid he was undoubtedly homeless as well. He strutted by with his chest puffed out, proud of his newfound case of beer and the means he went to purchase it. “Look at’chu... What’cha got there Tommy? One of the hoboes asked as he stood from the bench. Turning to realize the attention he brought to himself big ol' Tommy was careful not to leave any room for interpretation, “What’s it look like I fucking have?” Everyone quieted. After several brief moments the guy who instigated Tommy realized he looked like a pushover, so he did the only thing he felt he could do. He got in Tommy's face. Not before long the two hoboes were yelling and exchanging obscenities. From what I could gather, Tommy had taken some of the other guys beer the week before and was now expected to share.
A fight ensued - an ugly collage of punches, pulls and shoves. Two men not only out of answers, but out of fundamental questions to ask. A more gruesome sight than anything capable of being shown on National Geographic or Planet Earth. It was one of those occurrences that left you speechless and scratching your head. I don't remember how it was resolved, only that the case of beer was spilt onto the ground and all the folks were yelling.
Down the street from that warm home with its wood-stocked fireplace, “That Homeless Park” felt as close as ever.