Naturally, Jimmy Olson wants to know who pays for the 400 burritos. It must be a sizeable amount of dinero. Johnson answers this one:

“Donations. Every dollar we get goes into food. We use our own money for gas and stuff, but the donations go for cheese, eggs, tortillas, and water.

Burrito Babes apply hot sauce.


The next day, as he writes up his story about the burrito kids, a number of unasked questions occur to the two-fingered typist. So he goes out again the following Sunday, again to 13th and K, and finds that the boys have just arrived from 16th and Market armed with 408 burritos.

Photographer Christian Cullen says, “Yeah, I was over there with ’em. You should have seen it, lines stretched around two blocks. It was like the opening of Star Wars…Hey, how does the year 1932 strike you?”

The hard-boiled investigative newshound —Woodward and Bernstein combined — thinks lightning fast on his feet, scratching the manly stubble on his cleft chin. “You mean the soup lines during the Depression?”

“You read my mind,” Cullen says.

The unshaven one struts toward where books are being grabbed up by the street crowd. Thumbs hooked into his waistband, he says to the photographer, “A hunch. The result of years of beating the street.” He picks up a Mickey Spillane novel called My Gun is Cool or something, slides it into his back pocket, and looks around as if shoplifting. Though Chris Brubaker did invite him to help himself.

James McElroy (left), Chris Brubaker (center), and Mike Johnson (right) are among the adult advisors to the burrito-distributing youth.

At that point, the near mind reader of a reporter, searching the trolley area for that woman in the short skirt, walks into a wheeled device with a dusty backpack on top. The backpack drops to the street, and Woodward — or possibly Bernstein — is splayed across a rocking baby carriage. He straightens up, reaches for the infant he has jolted, and lifts what looks like a bedroll from inside. He makes hushing and soothing sounds. As he coos, a blonde woman dressed like a mud-soaked hippie at Woodstock, floor-length tie-dyed skirt and all, calls out, “What are you doing with my stuff?”

“I’m sorry, I thought I’d upset the little one when…” As the writer speaks, unwashed laundry falls from the blanket roll until there is a pile at his feet and he is left holding a small comforter. He apologizes and moves quickly away.

After lustfully eyeing two cartons of paperback and hardcover freebies, the laptop (formerly typewriter) jockey asks a few of the hungry street people for a capsule review of the free cuisine.

“They’re dynamite!” says Damien Lovan. He’s waiting at about the halfway point of the line. His companion, or at least the man standing next to him in the double ranks, answers as well: “Awesome.” Lovan appears to be a disenfranchised, outsourced account executive, or maybe a pricey accountant with a firm that went bust. At any rate, an educated, middle-class fellow fallen on the second Great Depression. Substituting burrito lines for soup lines is the only difference. The man next to him — round shades, red goatee — says, “Eggs, cheese, potatoes, and I think sometimes sausage in there.” When asked for his name, he looks at the sky. “Ah, Tim…uh, Jones. Okay?”

“A lot of these people wait all week for us to come by with books.”

The recorder-wielding one says, “Yeah, whatever. That’s fine. I use different names sometimes. All the time, really.” He steps backward, grinning like the village idiot, as he realizes that those tattoos on Mr. Jones were likely made in prison with a Bic pen shell, a sewing needle, and a rotary wheel from a Sony Walkman. The ink came from God knows where, some cell-brewed concoction derived from Magic Markers. He’s not about to ask. He does say, “That’s a nice one there on your forearm. ‘Fuck Donovan.’ Yeah, that’s cool. I never liked him, either. Not as good as Dylan, and what was that ‘Mellow Yellow’ thing anyway? Yeah, he was, like, you know, a punk. Yeah, a punk.”

Cullen rescues him. The photog is six-foot-two, a muscular, barroom-type brawler (not that long ago) who rarely loses a fight. He smiles at Lovan and Jones, then yanks the hyperventilating hard newsman away by the elbow. “What’s the matter with you? Donovan? ‘Mellow Yellow’?”

“I don’t know…I’m not awake. It’s the crack of dawn.”

“It’s 8:45.”

Cullen snaps shots with a camera the size of a small stereo hung around his neck, homing in on a handful of very young girls, scrubbed faces, friendly to all the customers, as if they are waitresses at the Hyatt. An attractive woman stands among another cluster of girls, who are shaking bottles of hot sauce onto tortilla-wrapped breakfasts.

The writer approaches. The girls — “The Burrito Babes” is what they call themselves — are as cute as they are young. The nice-looking 40ish (?) woman wears a wedding ring. Naturally. She is Gina Boccia, wife of Chris Brubaker, who’s busy getting good books into the hands of people in wheelchairs, and also those who are otherwise disabled and thus cannot reach down to the box. Brubaker knows most of the compulsive readers, and he makes sure each gets a selection.

Gina is a cadet with the scouts, the equivalent, the scruffy writer guesses, of an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts (which long ago kicked him out for mooning a den mother). Both she and her husband, Chris — white-haired, handsome — are schoolteachers who have taught all over the world.

Homeless East Village residents eat breakfast burritos prepared and distributed by a growing group of teenagers.

The Babes introduce themselves. Molly Scanlon. Maria Boccia, daughter of the aforementioned Gina. Delany Boccia. Everyone laughs at this last, and the reporter assumes that somehow it is at his expense. But these Babes aren’t mean, only giggling at the combo Irish/Italian name. An old joke to them, obviously.

Terry Macon is next, a grownup woman with the sort of fullness popular with Italians (the writer thinks). But he’s wrong: she’s Mexican. “I met Mike Johnson at Costco, where I work. And he told us what all these tortillas, cheese, and eggs were for. We got to talking, and he asked me if I’d like to bring my girls out. Since then, we’ve been out here every week. A year and a half now. McKayla and Aurora are here somewhere.”

More from SDReader

Comments

FatCatSegat July 11, 2013 @ 11:21 a.m.

There may not be religion there but, God is definitely there. Good job gentlemen! More kids should be made aware of this issue. Lets see what else they come up with. Nice heartwarming article dude.

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FatCatSegat July 16, 2013 @ 1:23 p.m.

Just to clarify and make it easier to understand VIEWER'S comment I suggest you read The Jabberwocky. It'll all come together then.

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