Today, I attended a musical festival at CASS, a shelter for the homeless, in Phoenix Arizona. I was there in support of a second annual fundraising event entitled Let Us Heal, the creation of musician Nick Heward and Matthew Odmark. I went by bus. A recent car crash has left me reluctant to drive, I have decided to wait until after the holidays to place my hands once again on a steering wheel.
The bus was crowded and there was a bully aboard. Someday I will write about the many times I have interceded on behalf of the victims of some of these seekers of bloodlust. I did that today when this particular bully began to berate and threaten the driver. The complaints were just; his threats were not. I interceded but in so doing became the next victim. He jabbed me hard in the ribs with his elbow. My arms will not raise high enough to reach the overhead bars so I was stationed at the baggage shelf near the front of the bus which allowed me to grab the low bars around that shelf behind me. I hung on tightly. The passengers near me shouted in protest at the misdeed. I asked the driver to stop and to escort the bully to the curb. The driver refused. I asked for police assistance. the driver refused that also. I tried to call for help by cellphone. I was too focused on my adversary to do so.
The bully jabbed me again (it still hurts eight hours later). The crowd shouted again. The bully jabbed me in the face. I stomped on the bully’s foot. The bully shouted in protest and threatened to carve me with a knife supposedly hidden in his pocket. I stomped his foot again. The bully backed away. I told the driver that I was going to make a report and that he needed to open the door. Finally he hit the “open” button and the other passengers vocally ejected the loudmouth interloper. I left a few blocks later. I made a report to the bus company.
After finally arriving at my destination I mingled with friends and enjoyed the music which helped me to replace the memory of earlier events with warmer experiences. I met a fellow named Stuart or Stewart (I’m not sure) and we talked and sang along with Nick. I visited with Mandy about her visit with Nick to a small rural, California community and we listened and hummed along with the music. As I looked around at all the homeless folks lying about, visiting and listening to the music I remembered a few years ago when I had spent a year or so at the shelter, teaching those coming through, how to use the equipment at the facilities at St Joseph the Worker and at Cass; my job had been teaching people how to use the Internet to find work. And I wondered if I would ever find myself here as a tenant, as a person in need. Eventually, it was time to go; traveling on a public transport system means leaving early and getting home late.
But, as I left I witnessed yet another bully having “justifiable” fun. This particular seeker of mayhem wore a uniform and had two brown-shirt assistants in tow. Their victim was a foul-mouthed old lady who weighed about 90 pounds. 90 vs. 900; these young men were huge. The head bully was stiff-arming the woman who was loaded down with her belongings. She stumbled but regained her balance. The aggressor, fueled by his victim’s loss of control, pushed her again. She turned and challenged him.
My camera’s battery had gone dead only minutes before so I quickly stationed myself between the woman and the guard who then stiff-armed me. I turned and told him that I was with the entertainers and that pictures had already been taken of his bad behavior. He backed off but as we left, he and his pals followed the two of us as I helped the old lady move her belongings down the road. I shall report the incident on Monday.
On the way home I found a great little cafe in an old neighborhood. Everyone seemed to know everyone else, the menu had 1999 prices and there were plenty of napkins on the table. Though I am by most accounts a practicing vegan I saw the most fantastic looking hot dog on a customers plate and ordered one for myself. It was even better than it looked. I brought most of it home to feed a neighbor’s cat but I will return soon and examine their menu. On the way home my thoughts were occupied not so much by the few seconds of terror that day but by the message of Let Us Heal and passing it on. And oh yes, the most wonderful hotdog ever. A pretty good way to end a warm winter day, wouldn’t you say?