Stood up in the rain by a homeless guy with AIDS

October 17, 2022 by Joshua
in Podcast, Stories

Last week, while I picked up litter in Washington Square Park, a guy approached me and asked, “Why do you do it?”

Before I could answer, he continued, “Really, I’ve seen you do it and wonder why you do it.”

He told me his name was Dave. Before I could answer again, he continued and talked about values, where this country is going, integrity, and things like that. We got to talking about doing what one thinks is right, our childhoods, litter, and more. He told me he’s homeless and has AIDS. I told him my motivations for doing it, including how this nation has abandoned Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You (the Golden Rule), Leave It Better Than You Found It (Stewardship), and Live and Let Live (Common Decency), at least regarding how we affect each other through the environment.

He agreed. He recited some poetry he wrote, about alcoholism. I asked if he grew up with it and he talked about his abusive father and alcoholic mother.

He asked where I was from. I said Philadelphia. He asked which part. I said Mount Airy and Germantown, the latter neighborhood surprising him. When I told him I had been mugged many times, he almost jumped with surprise. I asked him why he was surprised.

He said, “I didn’t think things like that happened to white people.”

I’m 51 years old and I still have trouble getting in my gut that most people haven’t been mugged, or at least most people I interact with, and by default they expect I’ve never been mugged, let alone violently, with deadly weapons. Since I’ve only lived my life, it’s normal to me. I thought all boys around five to fifteen years old, being relatively weak and helpless, were mugged, especially if white in a black neighborhood, where we would be targeted for our skin color. I mean, when the pattern happens a half-dozen times or so, you get used to it. What can a boy do against a gang of bigger, older boys? So he reinforced that I’m miscalibrated relative to most Americans.

Anyway, we spoke for maybe forty-five minutes to an hour about many things. I mentioned my podcast. He volunteered to be a guest, so we agreed to meet Monday at 8pm.

I had a dinner in New Jersey ending at 7pm so had to rush. The rain started maybe 6:30pm. I got home just in time to get my microphones, change into a rain coat, and pack a container of famous no-packaging vegan stew (chopping fresh onions and adding nuts) since he said he was hungry when we met the first time.

On the train into the city I tried to figure out how we’d record since rain means noise at best, but could also break the equipment. It didn’t cross my mind as I hurried that he might not show up. I arrived at the park just in time. Actually, a different homeless guy passed me on the way out and said hi, though I didn’t recognize that one. Otherwise, the park was almost empty, which tends to happen when it’s raining with no end in sight.

I didn’t see him. It dawned on me that he probably doesn’t have the control over his life someone with a home would, nor does he likely have a cell phone, so he couldn’t tell me he couldn’t make it. He also didn’t write our meeting time when we agreed, so for all I know he forgot about it. More likely dealing with rain is harder for him than me.

I stand by my longstanding rule Everyone Gets Fifteen Minutes, which has served me well in the near decade since that post, so I waited in the rain until 8:15pm. Then I went to my Monday evening volunteer run, delivering food stores would throw out at the end of the day to a community center.

First I took pictures of myself in the rain, possibly my first selfies ever. I don’t remember taking any selfies before. Here are a couple shots with the bench where we spoke the other day over my shoulder.

If you’re going to stand in a cold October New York rain for a quarter of an hour, you might as well smile about it.

It occurs to me now that most people show pictures online of things people would envy, like on the beach or trying on fancy clothes, not standing in the rain, stood up by a homeless guy. Oh well, that’s my life. Time to post this post and get on to my burpees. I have to get up before 5am for a workshop with a client also in New Jersey in the morning. At least tomorrow’s forecast shows some sun so I can charge my battery and maybe cook some more stew if it charges enough.

Here’s a vertical shot:

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