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the homeless encounter.

on friday night i played cards until roughly 03:30, meaning that i missed the last street car before they started up again at 05:30. i didn't feel like continuing to play cards, so i left and decided to walk home. grabbing a taxi would have been easy, but i'm trying to get a bunch of walking in, my apartment is roughly three miles away, so i decided what the hell.

at the first streetcar stop, a black gentleman who i put in his 50s asked me, "hey, do you know if the streetcar is coming?" i told him no, the last one usually leaves around 03:15. So he got up and said, "i guess i'm walking then!" and started walking next to me. He told me he had to go over to Claiborne and Jackson and he asked me where i needed to go, and when i told him, he said, "man, you have a ways!" He was a pretty cheerful indivdual with a heavy new orleans accent that i would have never been able to understand five years ago.

at some point he told me he was homeless. i had my suspicions, but i wasn't sure. I asked him how long he had been homeless, and he told me three years. I was genuinely surprised, and asked him, "and you've been doing alright?" and he basically replied, "hell, yeah." He went on to say that the area he was homeless was a big community, roughly 85 or so people that looked after each other the best they could. He said that it didn't make a lot of sense for everyone to simply fend for themselves, it was more important for everyone to stick together, and this group did a pretty good job of that. He relayed a story of when the NOPD tried to kick them off of an area that they were, but the homeless knew the law well enough to know that the place where they were wasn't an enforceable area by the city, it had to be enforced by the state or something. maybe because it was a bridge under I-10 which is an interstate.

he said that he came this way because it was more likely he'd get handouts - not just because it was in the quarter, but because the area he was in was too congested for homeless people so it would be harder for him to get money personally. He said the community in general tried to branch out, and that larger contributions they would try to share the wealth a little.

The conversation was incredibly pleasant. He definitely could have been feeding me a lot of bullshit just to get me to sympathize with him more, but even if that was true, that didn't lessen how much i enjoyed the company for the brief time that we walked together. He was smiling and laughing while smoking his cigarette, and yelled a familiar hello to one of the street cleaners at one point across the street who smiled and waved back at him. Even if the story itself was embellished or had some manipulation to it, there was an aura about him that warmed me to him.

i generally don't give money out to the homeless who put their hand out or just jiggle their cup for change. But a few years ago i started this idea in my head that if someone was asking for it and i wasn't driving or in a hurry to go from one place to the next, i would stop and say, "i'll give you some money if you give me a story." because real or fake, i like hearing the stories of people and the exchange of ideas - even if his story wasn't completely genuine, it came from a place that was his.

so just before we split ways and he said, "i'm sorry to ask, but do you have any spare change?", i said, "i can do better than that" and i gave him five dollars. I had just won $800 that evening playing cards; $5 wasn't that important to me. He said thanks, we split ways with me saying to him, "stay safe, sir," and then i walked the rest of the way home.

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