Monday, March 2, 2009

Brian. on the corner of 6th & cherry street

Brian is from texas.  where is he now, nobody seems to know.  somebody said under the bridge. somebody said on the corner of 6th and cherry street.  somebody else saw him walking to an apartment complex for people with mental issues.  he was booted out of nickelsville about the time the camp moved from its previous location on 5oth street and 15th avenue to the present one on 16th and 45th.  in the days prior he spoke about being stressed by the move and all that it involved.

the move was only 5 blocks, and i heard lots of people in the congregation were helping nickelsville's residents:  move the tents, the belongings, the porta-potties, the kitchen, and all.  it was very stressful  and many people were apprehensive.  Brian withdrew from kitchen participation for the last several weeks, he was in charge of something, too busy to cook, but still stopped to chat.  as the moving day was approaching he grew visibly restless, spoke of inability to sleep and focus.  when we hugged good-bye one day i had no clue it would be our last hug.

when i visited nickelsville next in their new location some people said Brian broke some of the rules, others said he was set-up, the effect was the same:  no Brian.   'he is no longer here', the usual statement about someone who is not coming back to nickelsville.

Brian was one of the first people i met in nickelsville; his southern hospitality probably prompted him to ask 'how may i help you?' when i was somewhat lost and not exactly sure what to do which might be helpful on my first or second visit to the camp.  he approached me trying to put me at ease, which was, i later noted, his usual attitude towards everyone.

pretty soon Brian was assisting me to find and clean the soup bucket and round up the soup ingredients, as at the time he was in charge of the food tent.  he was also a lone helper in the kitchen for several weeks, before the people in nickelsville somewhat got used to idea that hot soup is coming on regular basis and started to volunteer cooking themselves.

Brian was definitely  a 'follower' type of cook:  'it's YOUR THING, you do it any way you want, i'm here to help'.  but he did get quite passionate talking about 'the soup essence'.  he loved 'the soup essence' and how, if properly done,  it fills one with the sense of contentment.  he said he was anemic most of his life and very aware that his body needs proper nourishment.  we often discussed what makes minestrone soup  minestrone, and chicken-rice soup chicken-rice:  the essence.

our cooperation soon became almost an institutional one:  i would print the soup recipe for Brian in advance, he would try to find the ingredients and would call me the day of cooking to report on the ones he couldn't locate, so i could supply them.  somewhere on my computer there are several soup recipes i typed for Brian, including explaining 'the essence'; i'll include them somewhere at this blog  when i find them.

Brian told me he grew up in arkansas projects, but his mom made sure that he would become 'someone', and using her contacts she made sure he attended good schools and graduated from college.  the way Brian holds himself does betray his high intelligence and good schooling:  he seemed to know a lot about the world's affairs and could relate to almost any topic brought up in his presence with wit, knowledge and humor.  our kitchen conversations were simply delightful and i felt i was learning a lot from him.

Brian said his degree was in media and communication, and that he worked several years for corporate america, bought his first house when he was 27, momma was happy.  then he grew disenchanted with the whole system, tired of hearing he that he has job due to 'quotas' and not his achievements so he chucked it all. 

and what about momma?  'she never understood this, i tried to explain, i love her very much but she couldn't get it'.  what she couldn't get, said Brian, is that he started to see his role in the world differently that the one he was prepared and educated for.  he realized that he himself is a survivor, but many people are not, so he wanted to help them in their existence.

i'm not quite sure how becoming homeless fits in that story - whether it was religious or philosophical stance for him,  but Brian surely cared about weaker people in the camp:  i saw him mentoring newcomers, showing them how to pitch the tent so one doesn't wake up in the pool of water when it rains, and i observed that people looked up to him.

it was Brian who explained to me that some people in the camp are always by the grill, capable of securing and cooking food for themselves, and sometimes for a few others, as well.  but there are many people in nickelsville by sheer bad circumstances of life; they never comprehended how they got there,  or how to survive,  rather unprepared to fend for themselves.  they only eat canned, cold food, or whatever offered, too busy trying to understand what landed them where they are, and coping with everyday troubles.  he gave the soup cooking entire new meaning.
to be finished...

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