One of the dubious pleasures of living and working downtown is random encounters with interesting people. In the past I've talked about guys that wanted to get jacked up, the lost and demanding, the overly protective of my lawn, the uncommonly friendy, and my previous triple-play post about the upscale beggar, Sweet Baby Jesus lady, and Sidewalk Sleeper. Now I add two more random encounters to the list.
Crazy "Ex-Military" Lady
I took a long walk on my way home tonight to enjoy the beautiful weather. I ended up walking down Park Avenue West, which is not the nicest neighborhood in Denver. Surprisingly, I made it past the herd of homeless outside the Denver Rescue Mission without even being talked to, but a couple blocks later I ran into a talkative stranger. She was a mid-30's black woman, fairly well cleaned up and not really homeless looking, walking the opposite way down the sidewalk. As I approached, she started with that perennial favorite opening line "You better be careful or they're going to kill you," and then she reversed direction to keep pace with me. This signalled that it was time to dust of my specialized vocabulary for conversing with nutjobs, which consists of the scintillating phrases "yep", "nope", and "oh yeah?"In this particular instance I opted for "Oh yeah?". She allowed as how I looked Sicialian because of my black leather jacket (it's actually a brown LL Bean bomber jacket, but whatever) and they don't like Sicialians around here.
"Oh yeah?" Yeah, and she should know because she was in Sicily in the late 60's and early 70's flying with the Thunderbirds and some other demonstration flying team I'd never heard of. I'd give you even odds that she was born before 1970, but never mind.
"Oh yeah?" Yeah, and she was in a war in 1986 and the Gulf War, yep, she spent 50 years in the military, but then she got out and now she's a cleaning lady, which is way better than being a tunnel rat. I can only guess she was referring to the soldiers in Vietnam that were given the unenviable task of clearing out VC tunnel systems. She must've been very busy indeed during the 60's to be a tunnel rat and then retrain as a pilot in time to join the Thunderbirds. In any event, being a cleaning lady is almost certainly better than being a tunnel rat, therefore,
"Yep." And what's wrong with all these people? If they want money why can't they just ask for it? She was brought up to just ask for whatever she wants. Apparently she hasn't met the same beggars I have - most of them seem to have no hesitation at all to ask for money. Slightly baffled, I improvised with
"Uh huh." At that point, probably in awe of my conversational skills, she turned off down a convenient alleyway. Alas, I completed my walk this night without any company.
Crazy Cop-hating Guy
My other encounter ocurred a couple weeks ago around 18th & Champa downtown. As I was walking down the sidewalk I noted a young-ish man, wearing a knit cap, compulsively smokeing a cigarette and talking animatedly at another guy. As I was passing, the second guy got into a car and drove off, leaving Mr Crazy to latch onto me. Thanks, Car Guy.The man immediately turned and started pacing me and spouting a nonstop stream of crazy-guy smalltalk. Once we had established that things were tough all around, the weather was cold, and I didn't have a cigarette for him, he got down to business.
Him: "So can I get your undivided attention for a minute?"
Him: "Why, are you a cop-lover or something."
Me: "Uhhh... just busy walking home."
Him: "Well I gotta tell you about what the cops did to me."
Me: "Oh yeah?"
Him: "Yeah, see the cops man, they like beat me up for no reason."
Me: "Oh yeah?"
Him: "Yeah man, the cops were trying to arrest me, and I gave up and they just started beating me with sticks and shit. See, look at my head! (Takes off hat to show an impressive set of stitches on top of his head) They shouldn't be doing that shit should they?"
Him: "Yeah! They got no right! I got me a lawyer and I'm going to sue, I just want them to admit they did something wrong. They say it was ok because I ran away from them for a while and resisted arrest and shit, but that doesn't give them the right, does it?"
Me: (Thinking, yeah, it really does give them the right) "Nope."At this point we crossed paths with some other poor pedestrian, and he peeled off to harangue that poor soul.
Now come on, who wouldn't want to live downtown after reading things like this?