Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Rockabilly Dave




There are two kinds of down and outs--the cops here call them meltdowns, the ones on drugs--and its either the kind that just do not give a shit, an example being a guy that sits by the boarded up Waldenbooks barely shaking a cup and just yelling "gimme chaaange!" over and over. If the guy was next to me and I heard him speaking anything but those two words, I might not recognize him. He's not missing a limb, nor is he mentally deficient. He is just too lazy to work, otherwise he would be making an effort to actually exist past two words and a plastic cup from White Castle. He's not an alcoholic like the guy in the second photo, which I took way back in 1990. He is actually flat on his face outside a voting parlor. He's not a drug addict, like the short dude I posted on a few weeks back. I looked for work more than White Castle guy while I still HAD a job downtown.

Then there is Dave. I ran into him after must be four years easy, I was having lunch with Greg, so he snapped a photo of us. We were eating outside, just near where Dave usually hits the lunch crowd, by the Walgreens on Monroe & Clark. See, people know Dave by name, he sells STREETWISE, which is a weekly paper about homeless people and certain Chicago events and every dollar copy they sell the person gets fifty cents of it. Might've been my Elvis tie that got Dave talking to me about old times, and I'd see him often after that, though sometimes not for weeks at a stretch because he found work of some sort. Not just Elvis, but our town's answer to Jimmy Ellis, Ral Donner. Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash. As we talked people would come by and drop a few quarters in a box thing he has just because they knew he was cool. Always acknowledging him by name. He was interviewed in the paper once, not offering his last name, just asking to be called Rockabilly Dave. He'd lived in L.A. a lifetime ago, and I doubt Chicago allowed him a tabula rasa on its' bastard streets. He can talk about certain concerts the way some writers use their knowledge of cars or old wax platters, examples seen in any George Pelecanos novel. Maybe there's something that keeps him from holding a job. It sure isn't drink. Maybe Dave can't deal with the public in private, or maybe the employers are assholes who don't like it if he scares the clientele. Rockabilly Dave deserves more.

4 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

Everyone needs a place to exist. Maybe Dave has found his niche, although it would be nice if he could live a little better.

HemlockMan said...

Some people just don't fit in. It's a just a fact. You don't need a substance abuse problem to not want to run the rat race.

I used to encounter an old bum around one of my shops from time to time. He was a classic panhandler. No drug or alcohol or behavioral problems that I ever saw or heard about. He was quite fun to talk to, unless he asked you for a "loan", which he would do if he made you laugh (which he could easily do). He lived in various shelters and such and was always clean and wore the most garishly colored clothing he could find in the clothes bins or good will shops. It was not unusual to see him wearing fluorescent clothing (which had to be tough to find). He claimed to know many famous people and could convincingly speak about encounters with any famous person you might mention haphazardly. Of course he never had met these folk, but he could talk a good fight, for damned sure. I recall him telling me that Carole King dedicated a song to him at one of her concerts. As I said, he could make you laugh.

K said...

I support Rockabilly Dave in all his pursuits.

Capcom said...

Yes, like Van Gogh. Even if someone is a genius, if they don't fit into the norm of the era that they live in, it's hard to succeed. Sometimes there's a little of that in all of us, depending on where we might be forced to fit in at any given moment or place.