G.A. Minutes 10-11-16
It appears we have made a misjudgment this evening. All day long, the weather people had been saying it was definitely going to rain by 6pm. They lied. At about 5pm, these same weather people started saying it definitely was not going to rain. We should probably file a complaint but we have too many irons in the fire already.
Because of the prep time it takes to have a fire circle we need to make a decision by early afternoon as to where we are going to go on meeting nights. So based on flawed information, we are at Coney Island tonight.
Things have remained unchanged here. Regular hipster guys are working the counter and the coolest DJ in town is working the Tuesday evening shift at KUMD. He’s kicking it on the avante garde tip as we enter and go to the back booth. We’ve missed hearing his glorious sounds.
The man that the street folks call Padre is the only other customer. He’s called Padre because he runs a little storefront church a couple of doors down from the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial on 1st Street. Senor Padre always smiles and acknowledges us but never has much to say.
There are only a few Occupiers present. We don’t expect to see many more as the outdoor temperature is unseasonably warm and the notice of change of venue was last minute. It’s a perfect evening for an autumn stroll.
We decide to order food and wait awhile to see if anyone else turns up. An African American guy sits down at the counter. His back is turned to us but there’s something familiar about him. When he moves a little to the side, we see he is The Man Who Is Always Laughing. We haven’t come across him for over a year.
We wave and motion him over to sit with us. He does so and we can see that he looks majorly stressed. He’s sweating a lot and wiping his head and face with napkins. Once he gets his bearings he tells us that everyone on the street is against him and he doesn’t know where to turn.
We notice he has electrodes from the hospital on his skin. He tells us that he has just come from the ER and before that he was in jail. Coming from him, this is an unusual story. The Man Who Is Always Laughing did lead a rather difficult life yet he always managed to keep things under control. This is not the man we are seeing tonight.
The man had always told us he had a liking for drugs in the “speed” family. We assume he may be experiencing the “come down” phase from one of those types of drugs. This may explain the change in his usual behavior.
He reports that he and his former partner split up a while ago. The social services took their baby away. We had been wondering how all that turned out. We’re not surprised. He is older and a person of color. His baby’s mama is much younger, cute and blond. We figured that if his former partner was unable to keep her life and her various addictions under control their baby would be taken away. The laughing man worked real hard jumping through all the social services hoops but the justice system in this country is not fair. We knew that, sad to say, child welfare was not going to give custody of a baby girl to a poor black man. The fact that the baby was his child and that he genuinely wanted to raise her just didn’t fit into the picture.
The laughing man explains why he was in jail. He says that although he and his former partner have split up, they do remain in contact. His former partner is currently homeless. She showed up at his house and he allowed her to stay for a day. She spent so much time screaming, throwing things and crying that after 24 hours or so he asked her to leave. He had to physically push her out his front door.
Upon being put outside, the former partner screamed and yelled so much that a neighbor called the police. The cops came and took her away. About 3 hours later the cops came back, arrested him and took him to jail. The man opines, “I don’t guess they checked her for bruises. They wouldn’t of found any. They musta just took her word for it”.
We ask how we can help him and The Man Who Is Always Laughing asks for a ride. An Occupier volunteers; the remaining Occupiers agree to wait in the booth to see if anyone else shows up.
The city official rolls up. He shows us a beautiful painting that he purchased in a thrift store for a ridiculously low price. It’s a bit abstract but appears to represent a large group of African women. He’s been trying to decipher the name written at the bottom. We carefully pass the painting around and we each give our best guess. We ask the lead hipster for his opinion too. His eyes are younger than ours. The city man writes all this down for future reference.
The ride giving Occupier returns. He reports, “Well, I drove the Man Who Is Always Laughing all the way up to the mall but then he changed his mind and asked me to take him back to the hospital. He wanted to try to get into treatment”.
Our hearts go out to the laughing man. We know there is a waiting list for getting a treatment bed. It’s many months long. The wait for a mental health bed is even longer. The main homeless outreach worker deals with this kind of stuff on a daily basis.
Another Occupier comments, “So I guess, after all this, we’re not gonna have a meeting? I think all the topics I want to discuss can wait a few more days”.
We sincerely hope to be back at People’s Plaza on Saturday.