Sunday, October 17, 2010

Flying in Memory of...

I met with several of the people who use or have in the past used the 690 underpass that John Abel called home for most of the last eight years. The plan was that I'd record their thoughts and print an obituary if one hadn't yet been written. When I showed up at 5 after the hour, I was surprised to see people waiting for me. Somehow I didn't expect that they would take me up on the offer. At the start we were four and another two came a few minutes later.  

I  met the woman who took him in during the winter months when it was too cold to live outside. They told me stories about birthdays, Christmas, random days. Why he started drinking so heavily after his lover died. How he was getting close to his family and had hopes of quitting drinking. They shared with me how he loved to dance and shook every part of his body when there was music. They shared stories of the many travelers have passed through the space they keep. Some stayed on and learned to "fly," the term used by the homeless for standing out in the traffic with a sign begging for money. One of the women I met told me she was one of only a handful of women who liked to fly. Mostly it's the men.

I was surprised to learn how many of the local businesses they have worked for and have relationships with. The most recent set of couches were donated by the U-Haul moving and storage business a couple of block away after one passer through set fire to most of the old furniture. Another business keeps them in wood to burn in the winter when they sleep up close under the highway because the rising heat from the fires they set gets trapped up there and keeps it manageable warm .

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