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. β€œHe'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.