Though there have been literally hundreds of days that people may have died, but not anyone that I had any type of connection with socially or otherwise. The days between those days have become fewer days in between as of late however.
A few of these days ago, it was Christmas again in the Modesto Airport District and other areas throughout the city as well. Tevan Nicholson, known to me and several others as Terry, was found mortally injured in a house not far from where we have chatted daily for approximately the past four months now. Long enough to offer up interesting anecdotes and stories regarding our time together, however briefly one may say it had a quality for me that was useful in describing the negative aspects of outreach advocacy.
In other words, Terry was the poster child of how useless and futile my progress has been in affecting lives and returning to another part of the city with methodology that can be counted on as effective in the solution of “poverty problems” for the “rest of the population”.
Terry was quite the challenge – every day – In the early mornings, 7 to 9 am, I could catch Terry sitting on an obscure curb in the Yosemite Jack In The Box parking lot, reading. We would discuss various authors, often trading several names in rapid fire succession, seeking for recognition within each other’s memory.
But after about 9 in the morning, the conversation would begin to change as a mutual friend of ours, Ricky, would rise from his “camp” slumber around 10 in the morning – every day, mind you. That was before the weather began to change to a tepid chill in the nights. For then Ricky and Terry had foregone their camps to reside in the mission. This would mean that they could not stay out until 9 or 10 o’clock at night, as Ricky normally camped at this time, with Terry following, if he had been lucky enough not to be arrested that day for public intoxication.
Both of them were able to take up residence at the mission, however, it was no more than a week at the most, that one of the Black Shirts (a term many of the Mission residents use to describe the staff) banned Terry from the Mission for six months.
It was far later than the 9 Am threshold for Terry. Terry was quite verbally abusive by this time to anyone he thought were not willing to either give him change for a beer, cigarettes or food. This of course was inclusive of everyone, except for “Mr. Stanford”. I had a free pass because I was a “beautiful man” and Terry would drone on and on how I was the only person that ever gave him two dollars. I didn’t have to, but I did. I did that for him. I am a beautiful man. But to everyone else, including our mutual friend, Ricky, it was, “bend over bitch. Let me fuck you up the ass. Shit if you don’t want to just give me fifty cent. Fifty cent. God damn, that ain’t much!”
It was that kind of talk that got him kicked out of the Mission. I did happen to catch the Black Shirt that had banished Terry into the cold, one night in the Vietnam Refuge Donut Salon, parked like a 25 year old RV right next door to the Mission.
Often the Black Shirts roam in, like eugenically rogue Modesto Police officers and order their sixty-five cent donut and eighty-five cent small coffee, making small talk with the frightened refugees behind the counter and saying ad-noseum, “praise God”. “Praise Jesus”. “Glory be unto him”.
It was during one of these “look how much I act like Jesus” diatribes of the Black Shirt, that I caught him off guard by actually making conversation – “Hey, there’s this black guy that you kicked out of the mission last night……”
“Hey, I know you have a heart for these people, but they gotta follow the rules.”
“I understand that, but look, what if I come with him and have dinner every night and stay until he goes to bed – I can keep him calm for you.”
“Sorry bud, no can do. He knows the rules. He broke ‘em. My hands are tied ‘brother’. Have you tried the other shelter at 9th and D?”
“Yeah, I’m working on that – I hear they have a breathalyzer though – my guy’s not going to be able to pass that. Look, we’re going to have some freezes pretty soon and I don’t wanna to pick this guy up in a body bag along the river. Can you please, just let me come with him and stay with him until it’s lights out.”
“I gotta go bud. God bless you.” He summed up, extending his gritty slimy hand, like his shit didn’t stink.
“Allright, look”, I said, “ I will let you know about the Red Shield ok, but if I have to, I’ll go to the office during the day. I can’t leave him in the frost.”
I knew of course, how bad Terry got between the hours of nine to nine every day. Drunk. Belligerent and oh so verbally assaulting. Because, it was not more than perhaps a week before my plea to the Black Shirt that I had gone into the Jack In the Box to acquire some tacos for a junky senior citizen sitting in Terry’s morning spot.
But this was before the nights pushed many into the Mission. Several of us would converge at the same spot where Terry and me would discuss literature in the mornings. As I came out of the restaurant, I was consumed by a mother’s force of will to defend Terry from five white teens beating on him with their fists.
The automation of my actions took me almost as much by surprise as my sudden increased strength. So much so, that shortly after freeing Terry from this hate crime, the little Okie red-neck’s returned with their numbers doubled and wielding a machete during my ensuing 911 call.
After the dust settled and I spoke with the police, once again later that evening, one officer said, “Hey your friend got a free pass today, but we had to kick him out of Jack in The Box. He laid down and was going to sleep on the floor, right in front of the counter!”
For the next several days, my routine walks through the Airport Business District was comprised of scenery and reminders – SS symbols and White Power slogans. On telephone poles and crosswalk controls.
A few days after my altercation with the Black Shirt at the Vietnamese Massaged Donut Parlor, Terry boldly came to my work. And as I met him at the door, the first thing I asked him was, “So, what did you just get out of jail again?”
“No man. I’ve been sober for two days!”, he replied with his scrunched up eyebrows launching a celebration of sobriety. I was able to enjoy 3 more days of Terry’s sobriety after that.
Terry never wanted me to video tape him or take his picture, so I cannot show you what he looked like. Though it would be nice if the McClatchy Bee Pravda would take some sympathetic time to provide these things, it would probably not fit their “homeless elimination” agenda.
I could probably fill in the missing pieces that led to Terry’s injuries at the hands of this neo-nazi skin-head – but, even he has little to worry about.
No one really cares about Terry. Not even the false prophet Black Shirt that shrugged his shoulders in the name of God when he condemned Terry to die, if not from the freeze, then by the Nazi disease.
Rest in peace my friend, we will meet again.
In Loving Memory - Terry Nicholson 1965 – 2010
Terry, God even loves the vacuum guy. I’ll tell him you said hello! Naw, just kidding!
Copyright 2010 Robert Stanford all rights reserved.