A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.
Arnie is most likely a discard of the Gulf War and certainly a candidate for universal health care if we ever put the power of love before the power of big insurance and pharmaceutical bank. Arnie, who is a big, robust man of color, balding in a few spots, dingy curls hanging in a few others; whose mountain of blankets are perfectly folded and stacked to eye-level in his shopping cart, lives downtown in a secret nook somewhere between the public transit center and the Trader Joe’s parking lot.
I think Arnie’s comfortable in his own skin.
His organizational skills blow me away.
His rig has several bags strategically placed and securely latched hanging from his mobile home on wheels. Each bag serves a purpose.
Each contains a slice of life’s most invaluable necessities affording him that Boy Scout preparedness that I certainly envy.
I like Arnie. I like his eyes and I like the fact that he’s planted here in Monterey, mostly because all the “pretty people” do not.
It’s the very same group of people who, when I say I used to reside in a modular home park, get this questionable little expression on their faces while their noses curl up to their brows; the ones who smile 24/7 because their bills are paid, their bellies are full, their rings are bling, and their gardeners comes every other day. They see Arnie as this humungous drain sucking their tax dollars down and they immediately dart to the opposite side of the walk when they see him, offering no eye-contact while thinking,
“This guy doesn’t belong here…He urinates on our streets and besides, the soup kitchens are located in Salinas.”
I wonder if their same tax dollars paid for Arnie's asphyxiation from
Agent Orange during his tour?
I like his attitude. Often, when I walk by him on my way to my new place of employment, I hear him singing.
He loves the blues: the old stuff. The stuff you would’ve heard in the ‘40’s or ‘50’s spilling out of the doors and windows of the establishments
on Bourbon Street. Arnie sings the blues like nobody’s business.
I used to come to Trader Joe’s about twice a month while living at the park.
I had to because Prunetucky’s 2 markets couldn’t satisfy my cravings for Eggless Dill Salad or $7.99 gin. Each trip, I’d see Arnie (and his long and quite noticeable butt crack) plopped on the cement curb, accompanied by his shopping cart and a smile.
He’d always break from his song when he saw me, “There she is! Hello ma’am!” (Arnie’s the only person I don’t mind calling me ma’am.)
“How you doin today?”
So the other afternoon, while walking home, I saw Arnie and I told him I was a local now…that he’d surely see more of me. He asked me if I needed help loading my groceries into my car, remembering the time when I gave him a 5-spot for his generous offer. “I don’t have groceries today Arnie. I’m on foot, but next time!”
He waves me off and goes back to singing Well, I Done Got Over It.
I look forward to knowing Arnie.
I just can’t get myself in a pickle like I did a couple years back when I opened my heart, my door and my wallet to Julie in space 16.
I ended up with 17 gift-wrapped presents on my doorstep,
nonstop phone calls, her having a psychotic meltdown in a parking lot during our outing to Costco triggered by our singing These Boots Are Made For Walking, then finally the sheriff at my door.
But you know seeing Arnie again ignites an idea
in this crazy-ass head of mine…
There are lives to observe in my new pueblito;
lives as rich as those of the misfits where I come from and there are stories waiting to be told…
From the rich and famous of Pebble Beach to the haughties of Carmel; from the trendsetters of Alvarado Street to the discarded and forgotten Arnies at the town center…
They all have secrets to unlock.
And like the eccentric and dysfunctionals of my park,
theirs too are certainly worth documenting…