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July 21, 2008

hey, i'm not the guy you're in love with

Moving to my new house has me in a damn strange state of mind. Most of the bars by my house have a weird, generic yuppie clientele. I walk by, look in, and nothing entices me to go in and see if I can strike up a conversation. My North Seattle friends (the few of them) are faraway. It was a long, strange weekend where I missed a lot of people, and ran into a lot of people I didn't expect to see.

By Sunday, wandering the Fremont Sunday Market and seeing all the same stuff that's always there, I was in quite a weird mood. I hopped a bus downtown to check out the Batman: Dark Knight movie at the Cinerama, thinking that perhaps it would cheer me up.

It did, a little. You know, honestly those seats at Cinerama are of the most uncomfortable kind. Kind of lame for a deluxe movie theater. By the time I left, my back was in knots from having no way to comfortably sit for the whole movie.

I walked out, hungry and in a daze with a small bowl in my pocket to smoke. I wanted a little company for it. So, I went to what's known as 'the stage'... a tiered platform at Westlake Center where the homeless kids hang out. I kind of plopped myself down on one of the steps and people-watched and let everyone sitting there check me out.

Before long, a well-groomed guy with a goatee and nice jeans showed up and started chatting everyone up. He was the only black guy among them, so of course he went by the moniker "whitey". He obviously had a job and a place, but had been among this crowd before and still hung out with them.

Everyone seemed to know him. I watched him greet everyone and trade barbs, and then he said he was bored and wanted to go drink. He called out one of the girls in the group (Heather) and asked if she wanted to come drink with him. She coolly decided to.

Something about Whitey seemed right, so I stepped up to him and said if they wouldn't mind my company for a moment, I'd buy the first round. He nodded, and started to make his goodbyes and arrangements with the denizens of the stage.

We talked for a moment while people were getting their shit together. There had been some promotion in Westlake center for a new shampoo, with some big clear-walled trailer parked on the wide brick surface of the beach, and it was about wrapping up. There was a cute gay guy in a tight striped shirt trying to get rid of the last of the samples so they could leave, begging the homeless kids to take them off their hands so he could leave and go out on some date he had planned.

Whitey said something to me about it being a little strange that I was willing to go to such great lengths just to hang out (ie. buying a round) but I looked at him and said, "It's not a great length really. It's only about this far." and I held up my thumb and forefinger a couple of inches apart. "Sometimes," I said, "I really need to drink with strangers."

"Hm." he said, and that seemed to satisfy his curiosity.

Other people ended up coming with us, and there was a beer-buying strategy discussion that ended with Whitey and I getting beer. I bought a couple of PBR King-Can six packs and we all headed off to Freeway Park. Evidently this is the safe place for homeless kids to drink, and indeed it was quite a little party on Sunday evening.

Our group settled into a choice spot, my bowl was smoked, and many King-Cans were cracked. We were settled by a big cement fountain, at the bottom of two stairways, and it was a fairly secluded and peaceful location with a view of some nice tall buildings.

There were a few different groups in the park, and people came and left our group from time to time. One of the guys went by "Frantic" and it turned out that he didn't even know the meaning of the word. I gave a rough definition and then looked up the exact definition on my iPhone, which duly impressed them. Nobody gave me a hard time for it, or made me feel out of place, even though I was dressed pretty nice.

Whitey himself was quite a character. I guessed correctly that he had been a former homeless person and meth head himself, and that he had rose to his current situation by getting up mornings under a bridge and hauling his ass to the day-labor place every morning.

He seemed to consider himself a bit of a street preacher to this kids, and clearly imagined them to be his flock in some way. We was well-spoken, prideful, actually kinda wise, and proud of his income and situation. He only had a room, but talked about how important a goal it was to him to get a place of his own at some point so he could cook breakfast naked in his kitchen if he wished. Having wanted that once myself and finally attained it I totally understood him. Even though I rarely do any actual naked cooking... it's just too chilly most of the time.

I looked up at him, and I had a realization, even as I spoke it aloud, "Know why I wanted to hang out, Whitey? Because there's this guy I know, that I really love, but I'm having some serious struggles with. I guess I kind of thought that this would help me work it out."

He really did look like the guy, and have the same air of lordly wisdom and arrogance, and addict history behind him. He looked me in the eye.

"Hey, I'm not the guy you're in love with," he said, simply.

I laughed my ass off. "I know, and I'm not trying to make you him. But it helps me somehow."

That seemed to satisfy him some, and he did talk about it again later. He said, "If this guy is anything like me, you just need to get together with him and drink, and what's going on between the two of you will naturally come out."

A small group of us went to subway, and I tried not to insult anyone, but I discretely said to a couple of them, "Hey, do you need to be fed?"

I spent probably $30 the whole night on beer and sandwiches, and I would say it was a pretty awesome use of my entertainment dollar. The core group of four of us or so felt happy and well fed as we went back and drank the last of our beers in the park as it got dark.

At one point, Whitey and someone went on a beer run. I gave him a few bucks in cash, and when he left, I just faded off and took a bus home.