Over the last several weeks, travel and working on developmental edits for Monument Road have kept me from posting, but not from making it down to the Day Center.
As usual, there's more than enough going on. We've had to ban a few guests for drug dealing and crack down on people leaving and coming back during the day. This is supposed to be a haven for those who want to get away from using and users—if even for a few hours—and we do what we can to keep it that way.
Most everyone—even the troublesmakers—will acknowledge the rules when they're enforced, but they stretch the hell out of them when they're not. As the guardian of the front door, I have to walk the line between treating people like adults and being taken of advantage of. Beyond the house rules themselves, the best tools at my disposal are respect and remembering names when guests walk in.
Last week, a guest sat out in the vestibule and played the house guitar for about an hour. He's a handsome guy, powerfully built, with a clear voice. On one song, I noticed he was working off the musical notation—not just tablature, which is for guitar players who can't read regular sheet music.
Back at the house I had a drawerful of Acoustic Guitar magazines I'd been saving the way some people save expired boxes of food. I wasn't going to use them, but they were too good to toss out. The covers featured all kinds of artists, ranging from Richard Thompson and Patty Griffin to Norman Blake and Keb Mo—as well as guitars well beyond the price range of a homeless man.
I asked MD if he was interested in them, and he responded enthusiastically.
Last night, during one of those quick fact checks that turns into a half-hour devoted to remotely related trivia, I ended up watching videotape highlights of my former high school's football team, which over the past two seasons had the most productive offense in the state and one of the best rushing offenses in the nation.
As an ex-footballer, I was curious about the no-huddle offense they ran and decided to check out a minute or two of video. I ended up watching for more than ten, as with deception and quick hand-offs, the team sliced apart the opposition as if the players were CGI renderings instead of real tacklers. One runner in particular found lanes and downfield blocking with the speed and grace of an Adrian Peterson. Of course, the video was edited to feature his long touchdown runs, but the supply of material seemed endless.
It was beautiful football that seemed to employ magic and dance instead of violence.
I knew the quarterback had won an award as the top player/citizen/scholar in the state, but who was that unstoppable No. 1? I looked him up and noted he shared a last name with the guitarist, and yes, a certain look around the eyes.
Today I brought in the magazines and had forgotten them until MD came in late to play the guitar. There were too many for him to carry away without a backpack, so he stowed most of them in his storage bin, where guests can secure belongings they can't leave in a shelter or camp. As he sorted through the pile, I asked if the running back was any relation.
He's my son, he said.
He's an amazing runner, I said.
Yes, he said proudly. He was one of the top running backs in the country. Now, I'm trying to get him healthy and ready to take advantage of the opportunities he has that I messed up.
He tried to talk to his son about his own mistakes, but the boy didn't want to hear it all, he said. He complained that the cops always showed up at his games. Why do they always come looking for you, he wanted to know.
Because that was the one time they'd know where I'd be, MD said.
I screwed up a lot of things for reasons that don't matter any more, he said. My boys are the best thing I've ever done and I want to be there for them. Back when I couldn't see them, I cried so much for my kids, my nickname was Cry Baby.
He smiled. You should see my youngest, he said. He's really going to be something.