This morning I had an interesting conversation with two homeless men. One of them was 55 years old, the other in his 70s. The man in his 70s told me some stories about his time growing up in southeastern Missouri. In the town he is from, there was an awful lot of religious hatred. Certain people didn’t like Catholics, and others didn’t like Protestants. Nobody liked the Jews. When he was little, he knew a family friend that would always wear a cross around his neck, to show that he was Catholic. When he was buried, they removed all signs of his religion, so that people wouldn’t know about it. This man and his brother converted to Catholicism when they were boys, and when they buried his brother, they did the same thing to him — stripped him of all Catholic symbols even though he had insisted that he be buried with them. He has since travelled from Missouri to Texas to California to Seattle, working as a plumber. The man is now working on writing an account of his life, and while I doubt he’ll get far, he sounds pretty excited about it.
The other man was an educated type. He seems like the kind of a homeless guy that you’d only find in Seattle. He spurned the church coffee, insisting on buying himself a Starbucks latte this morning. He and the first man talked quite a bit about the old interstate system, how roads used to be only two lanes, and their travels on Route 66. The old man spoke with an accent that reminded me very much of my grandpa. The 55-year-old man told me that he felt young in the crowd (all men were over 50) and I told him that I did, too. He tells me, “You know, youth is wasted on the young.” Which is of course a thing that only old people say.
One man I met a few weeks ago talked to me for a while about science fiction authors — which ones he liked, didn’t like, and he gave me a bunch of recommendations. I’ve discovered that there are a good number of homeless men in Seattle that are educated, intellectual, and seem to be quite normal and just down on their luck.
It’s a change of pace hanging out with these men, and a reminder that nobody is quite immune from the possibility of ending up penniless in the streets. It absolutely makes me thankful for the life that I lead with Nicole, and it puts things into perspective a bit.