Ramble: Encounter Homeless Problem

So a guy at the convenience-store-formerly-known-as-Circle-K was hanging out in a broken-down van parked at the pump next to me. I was scraping away at the layer of sediment that lines the bottom of my passenger seat when I don’t give anyone else rides for too long and he approached me. He needed some gas, he said. He had a nice pair of Nikes he could sell me that would fit me perfectly, he said. I told him no need for the kicks I was in the mood to get a kick out of throwing him a couple of bones and fished two dollars out of my wallet at an angle where he couldn’t see that I also had a twenty and two more ones. He offered me the shoes and I wish I had been cool and said no thanks I already had some but instead I said there was no need for the shoes and wished him a good night.

Inside the store, the person who wasn’t Chris was working. I don’t know her name but she’s nice and we talk about school sometimes when I come in. She told me she just found out that she passed her Biology class at Adult School last semester and I told her that’s awesome and that Biology isn’t the easiest thing in the world. While we were making smallstalk the man with a trenchcoat full of shoes walked in and over to the sunglasses display. It being night and all might have made his actions seem a little out of the ordinary, but I shrugged it off as him following the Boy Scout motto and getting prepared for tomorrow’s sun.

Then a youngish gentleman walked by outside past the sliding doors who I guessed was homeless by the way his jacket hung on him like the loose skin of a stomach surgery patient that pulls up into new body territory and sighs about the darling fat that left the cohabitation too quick for it to recover. Also, his hunter orange Croc sandals had me pegging him as an eccentric to say the least.

I walked out of the store and over to my car. The door is a piece of shit but I was too busy thinking about sandal-Crocs to notice. The perhaps-homeless gentleman was hanging out in front of the water dispenser machine rocking out to invisible music or maybe the synthetic bird screeches that are supposed to make the pigeons that roost on the roof anyway not sleep or something.

Then he began to curbstomp the head of the invisible man in front of him. He attacked it from some very creative angles. Afterward, he began to play catch with the invisible woman I somehow couldn’t see that lives in the rubbery ornamental shrubbery that lines the outside of the station.

Seeing that kid took me back to the bowling alley. Every night I worked there I met new people that lived out of their car, camped by a “river” (Vacaville’s slimline edition of one), or slept between the bowling lockers or in the darkened back room where the laser tag is now before it was installed when it was just a dark corner next to a door that wasn’t built to be opened over in the back arcade. Many just slept on their open palms at a table among the games.

Homeless people come in all shapes and sizes and the vast majority of them are too proud to beg. The working homeless are all around you, cooking your food at that restaurant you like that doesn’t pay their employees enough to swing an apartment around here and working odd jobs here and there to get by. Many of them sell drugs. Sometimes those are the drugs they got at the VA. They don’t sell them because they want to, they sell them because it’s the one thing they can benefit by parting with out of the meager odds and ends they have left.

Many are God-fearing, or poets, some are alcoholics, some pissed off the wrong parent and found themselves evicted without the legally required month’s notice, some worked their whole lives until something went wrong and many just got out of jail and haven’t decided for sure they don’t want to go back yet.

I have five friends (that I know of and can can recall off the top of my head) who were homeless at one time in their life. They were all young, male, and attending school or working at the time they were on the streets or in their car. They all were, and still are, good and intelligent people.

The local shelters do a lot of good, particularly for homeless families and older Jesus-worshipping men and women. However, they are severely lacking when it comes to combating the endemic young adult male homeless population or helping those with a religion of decline-to-state.

Why should any person have to suffer on the streets unnecessarily? Vacaville will get a full turnout and a nice fat write-up in The Reporter when there’s a meeting at city hall about not issuing licenses to sell medical marijuana. Taking away grandpa’s reefer is obviously the bigger issue. Who cares that it’s the only medication that makes the chemo bearable? Who cares that alcohol is the drug that kills and kills?
Aside thing:

I went into Stars one night after threading through a crowd of ambulances and police cars at the door and was informed by my coworkers that there had been a barfight. No strange occurrence for a Saturday at the old recreational center. But this time, a man had been punched hard enough to bounce off the two walls forming the corner outside of the bar and then thunked his head down with enough force against the tile floor that the paramedics had to be called.

He died while being airlifted to North Bay Medical Center.

Sorry, I’m tangenting here. This whole ramble is pretty rough, but I wanted to get it down while the glimmer was still there.

Alcohol killed that man. I have never seen a man die of cannabis. But Vacaville doesn’t care. The cops and the norms throw back a few on lunch break or at the end of a long day but always, always call for additional backup any time they see a young minority smoking quietly and alone in some hidden nook within walking distance of a high school.

In a twisted way, I love Vacaville. I have met wonderful and unforgettable people here. Yeah, it’s too damn hot and dry in the summer, the drivers are pretty terrible–they are pretty much everywhere but an Oregonian stretch of highway at night,  the only time I’ve ever seen proper usage of the fast lane–and there are plenty of absolute pricks in this town. Believe me, I met more than my share in church and at school and work. I almost didn’t make it out of my teens thanks to those assholes. But the real human beings here are amazing and I’m thankful I’ve been able to meet every last one of them.

I love Vacaville, but seeing a homeless mentally ill young man curbstomping and playing catch with the shadowmen made me laugh, and that makes me hate it.


  1. The thing that has always struck me about those places that aren’t exactly The City but certainly aren’t The Country is that there’s such a discrepancy between the haves and the have-nots.
    People expect to see homeless people and drug addicts in urban areas. You kinda learn not to make eye contact with people you don’t know when living in a big city.
    In the suburbs, though, there’s this myth that everyone who lives there is upper-middle-class, predominantly white, and more often than not living in a heteronormative family situation. So when a homeless person is there it’s just the one, there can’t possibly be others, he probably came out here from The City to mess up everyone else’s happy and secure way of life.
    Maybe you’re just better at giving people a chance.

    • I think you nailed it perfectly. There’s this whole American dream myth that the suburbs supposedly represent that forces people with different lifestyles into a kind of criminal underground. The hallucination experienced by the well-off that everything is great thanks to the horse blinders of having a good shot at life actually reinforces the disparity and pushes those at the bottom further and further down.

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