My friend and colleague moved away today and it feels weird. It is difficult to look forward to a future without him around for friendship as well as business reasons. It is weird how fond I and others are of him. It also feels weird for me—the recovering nomad –to start a post like that, so let me explain.
We don’t hang out much, just for an hour or three each week. When we do hang we only occasionally eat or drink together. But, he was the first one I asked to join the 3 O’clock People leadership team when it needed to be rebuilt. I knew if I was going to succeed I needed his voice. I have called him “the Boss” for the last 6-9 months as I took over “leadership” about 9 and half months ago. And his assistance was one of the reasons I agreed to take over sole leadership when my co-leader developed medical issues and then changed priorities. His planning help let me pull off an amazing Christmas dinner with 3 times the amount of food needed for the 200 or so people that came to eat and made me look good to those who were rating my performance.
He acts like he is not running the show while telling me— and other volunteers—when feeds need to start, what needs to be there and how many people we need. Oh, and he rarely misses a week at 3OP, as the kids call it. He has cooked for us—although that was mostly me telling him to put his cooking where his ideas were after critiquing my Man-Meals a couple too many times. He assists whoever is “leading” each week and is my word on the street.
You see, Spider—not Spyder— is what some call an urban camper. He sets up camp every night with his queen size air mattress, tarps, blankets and reading light and breaks down every morning before most of this city awakes. His story is more common than the stories we come up with in our heads when we pass someone pushing a shopping cart. He has been sober since the 1980’s and drug free since the 1970’s. His dark past is well in the past. He moved to Portland and Oregon a couple years ago for a job that never materialized and quickly found himself without a roof over his head. He looked and was unsuccessful because of the economy and possibly other dynamics. He was a veteran so had his VA checks but they were not enough to rent a place or really eat in an urban environment, and so started learning “the system”. The system of how to survive in a wet cold climate with little money and few resources around. He is a little ugly, but a hard worker and skilled in more than one trade—construction, dry walling, carnival ride operation, cooking, inventory management, serving. He makes fun of me for my “office hands”— and gut— as he hauls the 40 quart pot of chili out to the car without hot pads. Then the tables and bin and 5 gallon thermos and asks what else “I” need, full well knowing he has checked everything before asking me.
And starting this Saturday I think I am going to need like 5 people to do all he did. One to haul all the materials, one to serve drinks and supervise the feed, and three people to give me shit for every move I make!
With that introduction, I would like to introduce you to my buddy Spider. I didn’t know his real name for at least two months and so you will have to find him in Iowa to learn that and where his street name comes from…