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Venice Update

News of Venice, CA and Marina del Rey CA

Duke Needs a Beer

Friday morning, while walking Ocean Front Walk, I saw this man with the beer sign.  I asked him if I could set down next to him.  He said “yah” and then said:  “It was nice that I would stop and talk with him.”

I introduced myself and Duke put out his hand as quickly as he gave me his name and a big smile.  Asked him how long he’d been here and he said without hesitation “114 days.”  I was amazed that he would pin it down so preciously.

“Yep, caught my friend in bed with my fiancée and that was when I headed south,” he said.  “Use to live in Washington state.  We lived together two years before she became my fiancée and that was for another four years.  So after six years, it was just too much for me when that happened.”

“You haven’t been here the 114 days, have you,” I asked.

“No, I was in Santa Monica before I came to Venice,” he said.  “Santa Monica doesn’t like panhandlers much.  If you are standing up and move one leg toward someone, police say you are aggressive.  If you take your hat off in front of someone to get a coin, you are aggressive.  The ticket is $375.  I know.

“Police are much stricter in Santa Monica than Venice.  Police in Santa Monica tell you to move on.  ‘Go to Venice or downtown.’  They don’t want homeless there but they have them.”

Duke wasn’t sure whether Santa Monica had more or less homeless than Venice.  He said he just didn’t know.
“You can’t drink on the ocean front walk and beach area in Venice,” he said. “I had a bottle open and police asked me to come to the squad car.  They just warned me. So I don’t drink on the boardwalk.

The ticket is community service, I think.”

Looking at the beer sign, I asked: “Well, how many beers do you drink a day?”

Duke said:  “I start the morning with a quart of vodka, and have five or six 40-oz beers during the day and in the evening” he started to say but was distracted.  Duke neither acted like he was drunk nor smelled of alcohol when I sat on bench.

I asked him if he would go to a shelter and once again I heard the emphatic “No way.  I was in prison once and that soured me from ever getting near anything like a shelter.  I sleep down the street in one of the alleys with my 24-year-old niece.”

When asked where she was, he said she was at AA.  So I asked why he didn’t go too and he said “the time was not right yet.”

“I am a landscaper and two places want me to work for them when I get sober.”

One of his friends stopped by and made a comment about his wooden sign.  The friend wanted to know if it helped, if it was better than the cardboard.  Duke volunteered that he made $30 yesterday and that was enough for booze and food for the day.

Guess on left, Duke in middle, and Nate on right.
His friend’s name was Guess and Guess’s dog was named Ditto.  Ditto had two different colored eyes, one blue and one green.  Each eye color could be the envy of any dog.

Guess was from Maine and had been gone from home for over a year. He volunteered that he was nineteen.   I asked him if “Guess” really was his name and he said yes.  He left home for the New York occupy event and never returned.  Assume that he does “occupy” when needed where ever he is.

I asked him what he had to protest in New York at his young age of nineteen.  Guess suddenly changed from a nineteen year old to a louder, older, firmer speaker with a prepared script and spoke as one who wanted to convince a nonbeliever on the other side of the fence.

I listened to what he had to say and was in a total state of silent wonderment.  I started to make a comment about one statement he had made but then thought better.  He had been rehearsed by less knowledgeable people than me. Why interject truth.

My only comment was and which was calmly stated: “I have years on you. You have a lot to learn.”  Guess quieted down and came down from his podium.  At that he rolled up his sleeve and showed me a tattoo of a question mark.

“Always question,” he said and we laughed in agreement.  My thoughts went to his family.

And then there was Nate, who stopped right after Guess. Nate wasn’t much older than Guess.   Nate wouldn’t speak.  Nate was from Nashville, Tennessee, and was attracted to Venice beach because, as he wrote “he reads a lot.”  He had invoked a vow of silence.  I asked him why and he wrote on his note pad something to the effect that he had “things to sort out.”

Duke was getting tired of the notepad delay when he talked to Nate and asked him to get rid of it.  But Nate was insistent.  Guess mentioned that he should probably start a vow of silence too.  I was thinking it would or could be good for all of us occasionally.

I left the three of them bunched together for the photo.  It wasn’t until later I realized I hadn’t asked the two boys if they went to the shelter or if they would.  That was my original purpose … to find out if people used the shelter, or if they would if they had a place to store their “stuff.”

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