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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Hobo Friends

Antonio. Donald. Q. Whistles (legal name).

These are just a few of the fine friends I've made over the past few years who just happen to live on the streets. Can I call them my homies if they don't technically have homes? I feel like that's not a cool question to ask.

For whatever reason, I seem to have a special connection with these people--it's probably the fact that I grew up in the white suburbs of Northern Virginia with four Panera's in a 10-mile radius, but who really knows. These relationships have come about largely because I don't know how to avert my eyes or resist responding to someone who calls me "Little Lady." Homeless people are people too! My kind of people:

Antonio - Antonio frequented the corner of the street near my magazine internship when I lived in Kentucky. He practiced the hollaback tactic, where he'd strike up random conversation with any and everyone and after a few solid minutes of talking would casually throw in that he needed five bucks. I was a poor college student so I typically told him, "Yeah man, same," and we'd laugh and laugh and then he'd ignore me, but there were a couple of times where I brought him a Starbucks Iced Coffee that secured me a spot on his good side. I never got to say good-bye to him when that internship finished up, but with Antonio and I, it was never going to be good-bye, just see you later.

Russ - Russ was the first of many homeless buddies I made when I worked in DC. Russ never asked for money or food, but was quick to dole out a compliment, usually in the spring or summer when it was skirt season. "Girl, the fire department know about dem legs? Because they makin' me HOT!" is a personal favorite. Russ always, always, always wanted a hug, but the closest I'd let him get was a fist bump or high five with an exaggeratedly extended arm because while I love new friends, I'm a far cry from Mother Theresa.

Q - Q is a frienemy. Every single morning for over a year, he was waiting at the top or bottom of the escalator at my Metro stop ready to harass me with his beatboxing or outbursts of pure gibberish. For the most part I could ignore him, but one fateful day I was just not having it, and when he lunged in front of me shouting nonsense, I looked him straight in his lazy eye and yelled, "CAN YOU FUCKING NOT?" I gained Q's respect that day. For the next 3 months, I could hear the "bm-ts bm k bm tkt bm" as I approached, but as soon as we crossed paths, he would go silent and we would exchange a head nod/eyebrow raise of friendship. I only learned of his deceitful ways when one day, I overheard him having a normal, gibberish-free conversation with a traffic cop. I quit my job three days later because I couldn't stand to face him ever again.

Tyrone - Tyrone has set the standard for NYC hobo friends. He's a musician (peep the business card), a comedian, a people person, and has 4 teeth. Tyrone posts himself up mid-platform at the Lexington Avenue-53rd Street subway station with a guitar, microphone, boom box, and duffel bag of tricks. There was recently another guy there trying to serenade the commuters with a lovely rendition of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide," and Tyrone shut it down with a mostly-freestyled version of "Every Breath You Take" by The Police. Nice try, Stevie Nicks, this is Tyrone Territory. Every evening I see him there, we wave to each other, and he asks me when we're going to work out together (I sometimes have my gym bag). I never answer this question because I'm terrified I'm just being na├»ve and not getting the innuendo; however, I'd be more than happy to collaborate on a "More Than Words" duet whenever he asks.


I swear to God I have real friends too, but sometimes even they can't hold a candle to the likes of my hobros. When was the last time any of you gifted me a bracelet made of straw wrappers? Your impeccable hygiene and consistent income do not interest me--give me a wool blanket and some dingy fingernails any day of the week.


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