Tabatha Deans

Bringing Integrity to the Written Word

May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose

May the bird of paradise fly up your nose, may an elephant caress you with his toes…” Those were the lyrics of a song by Little Jimmy Dickens that my parents used to listen to when I was growing up. I’ve always remembered the words to this song, and as an adult I realized this song was all about Karma. And if ever there was a time to call upon Karma, this morning was it.

I hiked to the bus stop on Broadway to catch the 0 bus to work, and as I approached the bus shelter I saw a man I have come to refer to as our local Camper. He’s older, and sleeps along the canal road in a small shelter he made for himself out of branches and logs. He’s always been respectful when our paths cross. He’s never asked for money, and is always up early to break his camp and get on the road. Usually I see him tramping up Broadway with his backpack, I suspect heading nowhere in particular.

Occasionally he was at the bus shelter before I arrived, and was always courteous as I approached. If he was smoking a cigarette, he would step around the back of the shelter so I wouldn’t have to smell it. If not, he would stand up and move out of the shelter, insisting I take the seat to wait for the bus. He never spoke, but I got an occasional grunt and nod in response to my greeting.

Today he was standing next to the shelter, and two young men were sitting on the bench inside the shelter. I greeted the camper as I approached, and he nodded silently. He seemed out of sorts, at least as out of sorts as a stranger can be. I noticed immediately that the two young men also appeared to be homeless—their several layers of clothes were filthy, as were their hands and the white plastic bags that held their belongings. They sat on the bench inside the shelter, smoking cigarettes and talking. Their conversation was laced with expletives, and they acted as if they hadn’t noticed my arrival. I wondered how, and why the Camper came to be hanging out with these two. Clearly they were not of the same caliber of people he was.

The Camper seemed frustrated and a little embarrassed at the behavior of his two friends, and avoided making any eye contact with me. I stood to the other side of the shelter, trying to avoid the cigarette smoke, vulgar conversation and general stink of these two youngsters. When the bus arrived, however, the Camper stood up and took the front of the line, they motioned for me to get on first. I thanked him, paid my fare and took a seat near the front.

The stinky young men flashed their transfers and headed to the back of the bus, where they continued their awful interaction. I was glad they hurried to the back and hopefully, after putting on my headphones, I wouldn’t have to listen to them anymore. After fishing my headphones out of my bag, I looked up to see the driver and the Camper in a discussion. The Camper’s eyes narrowed, and he hollered at the two men in the back of the bus.

Hey man, I need that transfer you promised.” That explained a lot. He was hanging with them because they promised him a free bus ride, probably downtown to a food bank or shelter where he could get something to eat. I suspect he traded cigarettes for the promise. Downtown was a good five or six mile walk. I couldn’t fault him for that exchange.

Dude, sorry. We only have one for two of us.” The two laughed at having fooled the old man. The Camper’s eyes glowed with rage, and I could tell he would love to get them alone in a dark alley. And I kind of hoped he would someday. He couldn’t mask the shame he must have felt, as everyone on the bus looked at him, knowing he would be put off the bus because of lack of fare. The pride on his face at that moment reminded me of my father. A man who was proud of who he was, regardless of circumstance.

I pulled out my book of transit passes and walked up to the driver.

I’ll pay this fare.” I said. The Camper looked me directly in the eyes and gave me a slight nod. I don’t know which was harder for him to accept—being duped by a couple of stinky bums, or having to accept my help. I smiled at him and hoped he would go directly to the back of the bus and confront the little snots, as their laughing had died down when they realized he would be riding the bus with them after all.

But he didn’t. He took the first seat at the front of the bus, placed his backpack at his feet, and silently faced the front.

I, however, invoked the power of Karma. “May the bird of paradise fly up your snotty, stinky, horrible little noses.

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Summer in the City

SUMMER IN THE CITY

I have never lived somewhere where the temperatures range from 50 to 80 degrees within a matter of 24 hours. Just yesterday I was lugging my jacket out of my backpack and deploying my umbrella as I sat at the bus stop waiting to come home. This morning I headed out again at six a.m to catch the mall shuttle. I wore shorts and sandals because it was really warm in my apartment, and questioned my judgment when I received a chilling blast of wind as I walked down 17th street. But by the time I reached the shuttle stop on Court I was sweating. I blame it on the Denver climate as I am peeling off my layers, but in a reality I’m not about to accept, it could be a hormone thing.

 

I ran into Carol at the Stout Street Station. I haven’t seen her for more than a year, and if you remember she’s my favorite panhandler.  I first met her when I was scouting apartments in Denver two years ago, and paid her a quarter for directions. She remembered me a year later when I moved here and we met again. She only asks for quarters, and only when she is in desperate need. She has turned me down before when I offered money, smiling and saying “naw, I only do that when I really need it.”

 

She greeted me today but didn’t ask for change. We chatted for a moment, then she wandered over to other waiting passengers, and I saw her ask them for change. I dug into my change bag and pulled out four quarters. I approached her just as the H line was pulling into the station.

“Are you looking for quarters?” I asked, smiling and leaning in close. She looked surprised, then smiled as she realized I remembered.

“Well, yeah,” she said. I slipped the quarters in her wrinkled, dirty hands.

“I’ve been saving them just for you,” I said. That brought another smile from her.

“Really?” she asked.

“Yup, Carol, just for you.” I winked at her and jumped on the train. I suspect my comments and thoughts meant more to her than the quarters I had given her.

 

 

May 19, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Young and the Restless

The Young and the Restless

Daylight saving time has, once again, messed me up. I have found myself wide awake at 4:30 a.m. every day this week, and knowing better than to fight it and try to return to slumber for an hour, I’ve gotten out of bed, enjoyed my coffee and headed out to the train early. Today I headed for the 6:01 H Line, and suspected it was going to be a weird day when I hit the mall to find an unusually large number of people milling about. A couple of tour buses were loading up, and about a dozen homeless people were headed for the shuttle. One particular couple frightened me a little, so I steered clear of them, putting on my headphones and pretending I couldn’t hear anything they were saying as they tried to talk to me.

As I waited for the train, I noticed they stayed pretty close to me. When I moved down the platform a bit to wait they followed. So when the train finally approached, I deliberately waited for them to board, then I walked to the front of the next car to avoid them. I discarded my backpack and set my lunchbag down on the seat, and as I made myself comfortable I noticed three gentleman taking seats around me. One was a middle-aged commuter, book in hand, the other was an older gentleman with wild, thick gray eyebrows, thick glasses and a hoodie. The third was a young man, mid-twenties, in a nice wool overcoat, pressed slacks and leather loafers.

The young man looked at all of us and declared,

“Who’s going to conversate with me?” He looked at me and I politely declined.

“Sorry, this is my quiet time for the day.” I put my headphones back on, but didn’t turn the music on so I could hear the outcome. The commuter remained silent and opened his book, and reluctantly, the old guy in the hoodie took the bait.

“I’ll conversate with you.” They sat down opposite each other on the seats, with the young man’s back to me, his arm hanging over the back of his seat and onto the seat in front of me.

“Tell me something I don’t know. Give me some wisdom, share your thoughts with me.” He begged the senior.

“Well, I had a stroke two years ago, so some parts of my brain are f*&%$d up,” he declared honestly. I noticed then that his left eye drooped slightly. “But I’ll give it a shot. How about this, did you know that black men can’t grow beards?” He headed into a lengthy explanation, but the young man stopped him.

“I think I do already know this, give me something else.” The old man thought for a minute.

“Okay, did you know there are only three elements necessary to build an atomic bomb? And one of them is naturally occurring here in Colorado.” The young man leaned forward on his seat.

“No, now I’m interested.”

I listened to them chat about various subjects for the first few stops, and the young man would turn around and try to engage myself and the commuter in the conversation. I wasn’t in the mood to chat, but soon their conversation turned to conspiracy theories. When the young man turned to me again, I noticed that his eyes were dilated to the point of being black, and he was wearing a wristband from some kind of event. Given his dress, the fact it was 6 a.m., and his excited conversation I deduced that he must be a college student, returning home from a rave where some kind of mind-blowing drug was served. He was passionate and angry about the state of his world, specifically politics, lack of humanity, global warming, and any other subject that would give a young person cause to reflect upon their future. He reminded me of a modern day Merry Prankster.

I tried to ignore him, but it became obvious that the young man needed a lesson in life.

Okay, maybe not so much a lesson as a little messing with his mind. The old man got off the train, and the young man turned to me, not knowing the extend of my conspiracy theory knowledge. He started talking about genetically modified food.

“I know.” I said. He went on to Big Pharma. Did I know there was a cure for cancer? Most all other diseases as well. The federal reserve…

I listened patiently for a few minutes. I had to be a little impressed with his passion. But my stop was coming up, and I needed to make my point. I had heard him tell the old man he was 24, but he didn’t know that. I leaned in close to him and said,

“You’re what? 24 years old?” His eyes grew wide as his overstimulated brain tried to figure out how I knew that. I let him sweat it for a second.

“Look, I’m twice your age, and all the stuff you’re learning now, I already know. But here’s something you don’t know. Be careful fighting big Pharma and Corporations, money can be used to break your legs or kill you. Be careful who you piss off. Don’t sell your soul to Corporate America, and stop smoking before you’re 30.”

I watched his eyes twitch as he silently processed my information. I dug in my bag looking for a piece of scratch paper and a pen. He began shaking his head “yes” vigorously and smiling.

“You are a smart lady. Yeah! You get it. Damn! I knew someone would get it.”

“Oh I get it,” I said, writing on the back of a paper from my bag. “Here’s the name of an organization here in Colorado. They’re grass roots and are fighting for change. They have some videos that will blow your mind, and I think they could use someone like you fighting for their cause.”

“F*&^%n’ A man. Thanks, thanks man. This is all right. The world’s gonna be all right.”

“There’s one more thing,” I said. “Most important.” He leaned in and I handed him the piece of paper I had torn from the top of a page.

“Never, ever, no matter what, trust the media.” He was nodding and thanking me as I got up and exited the train at the Yale station. I saw him looking at the paper I’d given him and couldn’t help but smile.

I had a press release from the White House I had printed out for a story I’m working on, and had used the back of it to print the name of the group for him. The backside of his note included the full logo of the White House, as well as “White House Media Affairs Office” in bold letters.

November 9, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment