Young Homeless Veteran

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Rick is California born and Arkansas raised. I honestly can’t say enough good things about the guy. He has a great sense of humor, delivered in a rat-t-tat style, with lots of swear words. He spent some time in Iraq with the army and is the kind of guy ideal for that situation. or on a sports, using his humor to keep the uptight, scared, competitive types loosened up and in the flow.

hobo-soupHe was telling me stories about camel spiders from Iraq.

There were some college girls waiting for a bus not to far away and he was making sure they heard every word. The spiders massively swarm camels, suck out the blood and are huge from his description.

He also said he has a picture of him driving a hummer on top of his sergeant’s jeep. I am not sure I buy that; Rick is one of those guys, I think, that may insert himself into good stories he has heard some one else tell. At any rate after he told me about the hummer incident I asked if that was why he is no longer in the army.

Turns out Rick has pancreatic cancer and figures he will be dying pretty soon. He is only 26 but confided that he is absolutely scared shitless of dying. “Nobody can say that they are not scared about what happens on the other side, especially after some of the shit I have pulled.”

Rick is also a heroin junkie, and owns a very friendly pit bull. He has an ex back in Arkansas and a ten year old daughter. Rural areas kids in the South start having sex when there bodies are ready, unfortunately birth control isn’t generally used. But perhaps it is not unfortunate, the shape and scope of peoples lives are not ours to judge.

I got a little worried about him after I first met him, he basically didn’t get up for two days, But he is all right, said he was trying to kick the drug, but ended up caving in. He asked me to get him started selling Street Roots so I took him down and signed him up. It did a complete turn around in his attitude, he hated panhandling, and he is a great salesman.

This is an obit I wrote for Street Roots a homeless newspaper in Portland. His real first name was Jake.


Jake always had me laughing, he was a teller of tall tales; fighting with cops and fucking up drug dealers, he took life as it came, and honestly seemed to enjoy the adventure.
I forget his age, but mid-twenties I imagine. He had a way with the ladies, even lived with a pretty girl for a while, she had a real job and worked at a local college. He was a romantic and fell deeply in love with her, for a while at least.
But the streets always seemed to call him back, or maybe it was the drugs. Jake grew up in Arkansas and served with the army in Iraq for a while. I believe this was true but the army may have been part of the myth he was living in his head.
Jake would go balls to the wall several weeks at a time, staying up for days on meth and mellowing out with heroin. Then he would sleep for four or five days straight, right there on the side walk some times. Everybody loved him, hobos and sophisticates alike. I used to worry on his down stretches, checking on him, bringing him food and warm clothes which he always appreciated.
Jake overdosed sometime around the first of the year, breaks my God dam heart. Word had it he was doing very well; he was off the drugs, living inside and working at McDonalds. Well, he got news that his sister had died and had left her son in Jake’s custody. Evidentially this was too much stress, he did a bunch of meth and then followed it up with a big shot of black tar heroine and never woke up.
I am getting better at grieving. Later that night, after I heard the news, I attended a Pink Floyd laser show at the OMSI. Those lights and their gentle dancing relaxed me enough to allow me to sob out some tears. Jake was right there with me in my mind, dancing down the street bullshitting me about this and that, smiling and laughing. I am mature enough to know I am not responsible for anyone’s overdose, but part of me thinks of course, well maybe if I had been there, he would still be around. This is narcissistic for sure, but I miss my buddy Jake.

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