Sunday, September 09, 2012

Harbor Nocturne

Reading Harbor Nocturne by Joseph Wambaugh has me thinking to go back and re-read his earliest novels. It is quite likely that several Wambaugh books were part of my home library. The old lists of book quotes and books read is as long gone as are my personal library books.

There is a homeless character called Trombone Teddy who sleeps in a hardly used dumpster. Spoiler Alert: when cops are called, due to stench reported coming from a dumpster, they think Teddy's dead, only to discover he is sleeping atop a dead body. The cop asks him if he knew he "went to bed with a corpse." Teddy asks: "Are you talking bout that time last year when the guy next to me at the homeless shelter croaked during the night?"

Cops began handing Teddy money after the ordeal made the rounds. Teddy did "the sensible thing", "He went straight to the nearest liquore store...". First stop for many of my homeless peers. A funny scene happened when Teddy got so drunk he could not find his alternative sleep spot ~ a doorway where he left his blanket neatly folded. Will not spoil that scene for any who care to read the book.

As a mother is cleaning, her adult son says, "Why don't ou just roll up that cat hair and take it to the homeless shelter...They could stuff their lumpy mattressses with it. "

There is a mention of changes in San Pedro that "brought a hundred halfway houses and sober living homes---more than anywhere else in Los Angeles." I do not know if that is true. I did know homeless people met in Long Beach who would stay in San Pedro at such places ~ never remaining "clean and sober" or drug free. Having such a large number of homeless in Long Beach, it bothered me that the bus that picked us up to transport to temporary winter shelter, went to San Pedro. There were not enough beds for local homeless; many left standing in the rain as the shelter bus departed.

Later the actual winter shelter was located in San Pedro. I was so angry one night, unable to sleep, I was going to leave the shelter, stay on the streets until morning when I could catch a bus. I suffered it out, having heard from those in the know, how dangerous the streets in San Pedro were.

Outside of Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, people dress as super hero (or Disney) characters, enticing tourists to get photographed with them (for a fee.)  'Darth Vader' called the station to report "a quartet of Gypsy woman and a cltuch of homeless male transients were wrecking the business for everyone by harassing the tourists."

"The homeless transients had been working the more obvious tourists, especially the ones with cameras hanging from their necks, the easiest touches."

"The transients were about a decade younger than Trombone Teddy, but they had the ancient faces and watery eyes of hopeless juiceheads. Their only real difference from Teddy was that they usually slept at homeless shelters rather than in dumpsters. The mild summer nights precluded layered clothing, but even without the layers they still gave the impression of growing their clothes rather than wearing them."

Wambaugh continues describing the group of panhandling transients followed by a scene where two officers have the men play Jeopardy, the loser will be the one who goes to jail. In reality the cops are going to arrest the one who has an outstanding warrant. At one time a cop had written "...a ticket he knew very well would never get paid. Then it would go to warrant and eventually land the transient in jail for a couple of days the next time he was checked..."

The same scenario is true in Long Beach, especially when events like the Grand Prix will be bringing a lot of tourists to town. Local cops do a sweep picking up any homeless with outstanding warrants. Others, knowing this will happen, stay away from downtown area until event is over.

Some, like Sonny (RIP), did not mind at all going to jail for a few days or week. Sort of respite from the streets, sleeping off some of that alcohol he consumed in huge quantities; enough to make him falling down drunk, passed out no matter where he happened to be staggering. Definitely one of the local homeless Long Beach's finest wanted hidden for events.

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