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A couple of months ago we noticed an old pickup truck sitting in Books Do Furnish A Room's parking lot. It sat there for days. I started to wonder if it had been abandoned. A guy I knew who grew tired of his old car left it in a parking lot and reported it as stolen. By the time the car was found it was too late for the insurance company to get their money back.
Finally we discovered that an old man and woman were living in it (it is a covered wagon). Maybe they were working for the guy who runs the cheap burger shack in the front of the shop's parking lot. You can't help but feel pity for anyone reduced to homelessness. They weren't doing any harm. We ignored them.
When I noticed that the old guy panhandling I felt a mite uncomfortable. A few days ago the owner of neighboring used furniture shop came to bitch to Gordon (my business) partner came to bitch about them. At night they had loud drunken fights.
Gordon went to see Willie (owner of the burger shack) to tell him he'd be telling him that the winos would have to leave. Turned out they weren't friends of Willie's. In the dark of the night they'd decided to squat in our parking lot.
Saturday morning the male wino came into the shop raising hell that people (us, I assume) had been 'talking about him.' His indignation was so hot and self-righteous you'd think he was a CIA secret weapon. Gordon, inevitably calm and direct, told the man he'd have to leave. The old man got nasty, telling Gordon to go ahead and call the police. He'd return to pay Gordon back. After his threat he lifted his shirt to reveal a Stem, NC police department t-shirt. The implication seemed to be that the shirt would protect him from the Durham cops.
As soon as he'd closed the door he returned to utter more incoherent, impotent threats. I followed him out to yell at him (not my maximum bellow, just firm and loud) making it clear he was never to enter the shop again. The moment he started fucking with Gordon all my sympathy died. I gave him until Monday noon to leave.
The past couple of days he's waved at me to let me know that he's too tough to be afraid of me. I'm not fierce or forbidding. Maybe if I get mad enough but it has been years since anybody sent me berserker.
Midday tomorrow I'll have to decide if I'll call the Durham police or not. I'd hoped the woman would come in and apologize for him; make arrangements for them to leave. There's no pride in invoking social control over the impoverished. If I do call there truck will be towed and they may never have the money to get it back.
I wish Gordon had said something about the deadline I gave the winos. He owns the property. Probably he silently assented to my decision.
When I was a young man just away from home I'd always give street drunks spare change. Knowing that when they were hungry they could visit the Salvation Army or similar, I didn't suggest they use the money for anything. No reason to begrudge them their bottle of wine if that was their last pleasure in life. When I was trying to live in Boston a young junkie's story won about twenty dollars from me when I was broke and away from home. When she hit me again a week later with the same rap about having been raped and needing a bus ticket home my habit of giving dollar bills to the indigent died.
No longer young, now I may find myself having 'street trash' hauled away to jail as vagrants.
A good reason to have a healthy collection of Louis Jordan CDs.