Ian Pike noon, Dec. 8
On a dusty dirty triangular piece of land is the Storage place. I think they also rent out parking spaces overnight , probably illegally and for cash. The last two afternoons I’ve seen a couple who look pretty stressed unloading their small truck onto the complimentary hand carts with what appears to be all of their possessions. Are they going to be joining the dysfunctional family of street people along this strip of highway- or sleeping in a self storage cubicle? Impossible to tell.
The sweet, sticky scent of weed and sweat from the clothing of the psychotic street musician, living on a beach chair in an alcove tucked under the overpass, colors the journey under the bridge leaving a bitter aftertaste. “Hey” I say in acknowledgement as I pass, but he looks right through me today. Good weed or bad. Hard to tell. Approaching the side of the hospital, fumes from Earl Scheib’s 99 dollar paint jobs permeates the air, enhancing the high spirits of the transient bus shelter residents and their guests, sitting or laying idly on the punched metal bench ,rolling joints, smoking cigarettes ,folding blankets and redistributing their possessions inside the shopping carts borrowed from local businesses
Earl’s staff is outside waiting to clock in, standing alongside the street people who huddle under the eaves during the winter. It seems that each morning there are a few more camping spots claimed - now lining the entire front of the building until the sun comes out and they are asked to move on, so Earl can open his business. Maybe he gives them Burger King breakfast money to encourage them to move on?
The chain link fence that stands guard over the barren strip of earth that separates the hospital from the rough stucco wall of the storage place holds something very special today. I’ve seen all sorts of things on both sides of this fence over the years. I’ve seen pieces of branches from bushes that have died or been dug up years ago Branches that got tangled in the fence, and were just too hard to remove, so it was left to disintegrate. Today, near the far end, where it hugs the building, I see three sparrows, sitting side by side in adjoining chain link diamonds.
As I get closer to the entrance to the parking lot, the baggy woman I see every morning, hops off the bus a few hundred feet in front of me. Before she even hits the sidewalk she has lit her morning Camel and is puffing away. She plops down on the bench, her bad perm frizzing up in the dampness of the dawn, the last of the homeless guys muttering a curse as they move up the street. Lots of trash in the ivy today, sand bags from the last storm, one shoe, and some keys. Landscapers haven’t been here for a while. Weeds and dandelions at popping out from the tangled clumps of ivy. Under one of the trees I see a pair of torn jockey shorts with Cheeto dipped fingerprints, and stripes of unidentified smears. Aa wave of nausea overwhelms me, and I lose my footing. Keep walking.
The guy who cleans the lot is on a trash run with his picking tool, smiling and nodding good morning as I pass, happy to have a job. A powerful looking guy stands by the AC unit out front, dressed entirely in black with several jackets on and a stocking cap and sunglasses. He has several black bags surrounding him, and it is hard to tell if he is one of the homeless, or someone who works long shifts at the hospital just waiting for his ride home. I have passed him for years, and he never makes eye contact or shows any expression. I am really curious, but a little afraid to ask him any questions.
On the next corner, the guys from Jiffy Lube are slowly carrying the unwieldy vinyl insert from the monument sign that blew out during the storm last week. One of them is carrying a ladder, not nearly tall enough but I respect them for giving it a try. They spot me looking at the procession and we all smile and shake our heads; silent conversations that don’t require translation.
Waiting for the signal, the smell of refried beans and chilies from the Mexican drive through, a block to the west, causes my taste buds to perk up. In my younger days I would have scooted over there and ordered a cheese quesadilla, or taquitos with hot sauce for breakfast, but I can’t eat that way anymore, or rather choose not to, most of the time.