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‘Just Some Dumb Homeless Kids’
An Inspired Afterward to Jimmy: 12/3/2022
© 2022 James LaFond
MAY/22/23
[Most of Jimmy will post on Lynn’s substack site.]
Over on the Westside again, [my oldest son] was hungry so I pulled off and what do I see? Ezelle's Famous Chicken. Old Ezelle is a chain now I guess. Ezelle fed my ass just about every night when I was a teenager, all the chicken and potatoes and beans and rolls and sweet potato pie, he had to throw it all out at the end of the night so me and Erek would show up just before 9. He didn't give a fuck that we were white, we were just some dumb homeless kids. You know I can't remember Colonel Sanders or Ronald McDonald ever doing the same. Hell, we ate Ezelle's for fucking years, never even considered buying a meal from the man.
Erek even ended up working as a cook there for a couple years.
Back in the 1950's that spot was a hamburger joint, and I read a great autobiography of Jimi Hendrix that told of when he was a hungry teenager with an alcoholic father and no food in the house and how he used to get free food from that same spot every night.
I walk into Ezelle's there in Tigard, Oregon the other day and just about cried. Everything so clean and bright and shiny, nestled in a strip mall. I guess it's something like driving past your dead grandparents house and seeing a gay couple living there. Seeing Ezelle's chicken there next to the Thirsty Lion Gastropub and the Range Rover of Portland dealership was too much for me. I ordered [my son's dinner and mentioned to the Asain kid at the counter that I owed Ezelle a few thousand dollars. He seemed interested and volunteered that HE sure wouldn't want to be owing Ezelle that much money.
It's silly of me to be standing in a chicken joint choking back tears, what the hell, somebody made it big and got rich. But damn. It still got to me.
Your sentimental friend,
Yeti Waters
Man, that is a really nice story. Now, as I sit against the wall in your garage, putting off finishing my pathetic autobiography, I thought I would use this opportunity to write the epilogue. Since you just lead the way in admitting that you were choking back tears, I might as well take the cue from your mention of driving by a grand parent’s old house to chart my lowest point as a man. It was that point at which my youthful desire at age 21 that drove me to sign a note on a house, had failed, 17 years later.
I tried like hell to pay that note for 17 years, and failed.
Once I decided against suicide at age 18, and ended up with a wife and son by 20, I wanted to provide them a house. At 20, I had modest dreams of working my ass off for 30 more years and collecting books in one room. Then, after the boys were gone and I no longer had to slave away and the house note was paid, I could read those books.
Well, I got hurt, hurt bad, missed 7 months of work and:
...could not make repairs on the house or even buy a sump pump for the flooded basement…
...had the car and truck voluntarily repoed, and the bank came after me for almost all the car loan…
...could not send the youngest son to private school on my reduced income and could not put him into the same prison system that we pulled his brother out of to save his life…
...could barely make it through 48 hours of work with the nagging back injury, so could not increase my income…
...my wife and son could not leave the house on foot due to the feral negro huntsmen prowling the area…
I was the last paleface to buy a house on that street.
The first black moved in next door, Erik and his wife.
I told Eric that I had to give the house back to the bank, that the few buyers were demanding that I pay closing costs and I was flat broke.
He said, “Darn, Jimmy. I’m sorry. You’re good neighbors. I moved out here to live with folks like you, not with what’s commin’.”
I told him that I was worried about my basement flooding over into his and about maybe crooks coming in and stripping out pipes and wires and causing damage to his nicer attached house. I had Wednesdays off.
We left in September 2000.
For a year, every Wednesday, until the bank auctioned the house at 4711 Luerssen Avenue off, I came back, checked the place out and then spent an hour or two or three sitting in the recliner I could not afford to have moved, or curled up on the love seat I could not afford to move. There was now power, so I left by 4 over that winter.
One time I curled up on the love seat and cried until the living room got dark.
It was a great embarrassment to be seen by the neighbors checking on my failed responsibility, my crushed dream, then walking out of the neighborhood for the three hour bus trip to Dundalk, in Baltimore County.
Every time I left I did so before Erik got home from work, walking past the six foot pine tree that my oldest son had brought home from school as a six inch seedling at age 7.
The following October, there was a notice on the door and the locks were changed. My humiliation was at an end.
Two years later, after my wife kicked me out, and I moved back into the city, I walked by and the place had all of the home improvements I never had the time or money to do.
Ten years later, I walked by. The tree was gone and it hurt so bad that I hustled right off. I have not had the stomach to walk by ever since.
Eight years after that, injuries increased and my income fell below that which I could afford to rent a room in Northeast Baltimore, the four by five mile zone I had called home for 36 of 38 years as a grocer—lets call it what I was, “A stock boy.”
Now, Big Guy, I’m the bum sleeping in your garage with a tear in his stomach, wondering if he’ll be able to heft his rucksack onto the train.
The books I had hoarded for 30 years, 1000 went into a landfill and the rest are scattered, given away, many unread, having been waiting for my waning days to sit and rest and read at long last.
In any case, my eyes are done, so I would not be able to enjoy them as I had dreamed.
Having failed at big dreams, that might have felt like a rough race well run. But having failed at Little Jimmy’s one simple childhood desire to grow old in a tiny row house, a brick house like the one where Tony and he had met on the small concrete porch to become brothers, and have some nice books and a comfortable bed to ease his way towards the yawning realm of the dead, that smacks of a life failed.
Whatever was left of Jimmy died in September 2000.
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