Andrew (#748) 01-02-15

I had just been turned down by a stranger, in front of my favorite coffee shop, no less. While licking my wounds, a barista, Joel ( came out and spoke with a man sitting alone. He was clearly outgoing, and worked somewhere nearby. When Joel left, I made my move. Andrew was very outgoing, and we had a long conversation about the local homeless situation.

He is a bartender at the Gator Club, about a block away. For 18 years he has seen the homeless, drunks, crack addicts, crooks – the gamut. Having been homeless himself, Andrew has seen it all, from both sides. He recounted local homeless people (some of whom I have photographed) who had one stroke of bad luck that destroyed their lives. And others who are crackheads, hustlers, and you-name-it. But overall, Andrew is nonjudgmental, and caring for the homeless population. One fellow has panhandled me several times, and is a former Stranger. Andrew says that Phil gets a Social Security check and has a place to live. Panhandled money goes for cigarettes. Another of my former strangers is an excellent pianist, but gets stinking drunk most nights, sometimes at the Gator Club, and is a general nuisance. One psychotic (harmless) fellow sat in front of the Gator Club rubbing oil on his feet and selling strange artwork. Andrew chased him off. “He's going to hurt business. We need business to pay our taxes, and pay his Social Security.”

What an interesting dialog. I look forward to chatting with him some more – so many stories to tell. Oh, and Andrew is positive that Obamacare is going to provide needed services for some of these people. That should appease some readers, and enrage others.