Friday, June 1, 2018

Observing the Beach Homeless - 30 Years Ago

These sightings, reluctant interactions, all took place circa mid-1983 - early '84.  Richie and I married in '83 and lived for a couple of years at the Peppertree Apartments, PCH, Hermosa Beach, until the rent went up on our two bedroom place and Richie elected to buy a house.  We've lived in it ever since.  This preamble is to give you a sense of where we were at the time of these sightings.

I had a ride-along assignment for a local paper with the HBPD.  As the officer drove us up and down the streets around the beach, I said, "There's a guy - I think he's nuts - wears a Speedo - bright green - and nothing else and is always on the beach.  He walks funny, as if he didn't have any toes ..."

"Oh, yeah, that's 'Thumper' we call him - likes to, uh, hump car fenders for his, er, gratification.  When he gets too obnoxious - y'know - around little kids 'n stuff, we pick him up and give him a ride over to Torrance (inland by several miles) and turn him loose.  He always comes back.  But (with some satisfaction) it takes him awhile!" and laughed, clearly pleased at that situation.  I don't think anyone at the station would have grieved excessively if Thumper'd gotten hitten by a car while perhaps molesting another one.

The Cowboy
The Peppertree is in easy walking distance of the Hermosa Library and so I went there a lot.  Very often I'd see the same guy - beat-up cowboy hat, faded shirt and jeans and beat-up cowboy boots, sitting quietly in a chair in the sitting area of this library.  He was as quiet as a mouse, I never saw him talking to anyone.  The only sounds emanating from him were the hushed flick of a turning page from the Western he was reading.  Louis L'Amour, Zane Grey - all Western writers -had a devoted fan.

I described him to the officer and he said, enthusiastically, "Oh, he's a great guy!  Never causes a lick of trouble - great guy.  (Confidingly)  On rainy or cold nights we bring him in from under the Pier to the station for the night - give him a warm cell and a hot dinner and breakfast.  (Encouragingly) Totally harmless," which had been my impression, too.

The Lady in White
She was a familiar site on Ardmore Street, walking along by the curb in the street, pushing a shopping cart/baby buggy with God knows what inside it - no one wanted to know because inspecting it would perforce require an interchange with her and she was one angry woman.  No one ever saw her in anything but what looked very like a nun's outfit, only instead of black it was snow white, from her nurse's shoes (?) to the wimple/veil on her head.

As she pushed her cart, she shook a fist and yelled at passing drivers.  She was a familiar sight to local police who couldn't really legally bust her  and who also didn't want to simply because she was such poison to try to deal with - fists didn't only get waved, they hit.  This irritates policemen.

The One Who Punched Me
Richie and I had walked down to the supermarket and were carrying groceries home to the Peppertree one nice afternoon.  As we walked, we noticed a woman, 30-ish, from a distance of about half a block walking towards us, clearly angry about something, gesticulating, talking angrily and animatedly to herself.  She was wearing jeans, a sweatshirt (80 degrees; we had on shorts and t-shirts) As we neared each other, I passed Richie and stepped closer to the street side of the sidewalk to give her plenty of room.  When she got even with me, she spun, and socked me good one on my left bicep.  I yelled, "OW!  THAT HURT!" but she had continued blithely on her merry way, still talking animatedly and angrily to no one at all.

In rapid succession - shock!  horror!  pain!  anger! revenge! flitted by, but a well-founded caution held me back from putting the bag of groceries on the sidewalk and taking off after her.   "Punch me, bitch!"  I really was shaken by this incident.  How often do we get attacked for no reason at all and we're NOT in a bar?

Back at the apartment, I called the police, described what had happened and gave them a description and that she was headed South.  They were gracious enough to go on the hunt - assault charges which I was perfectly ready to sign off on - but reported back that she had vanished.

The Raging SWAT Guy
This incident took place in the Redondo Beach Library - Who knew libraries were such dangerous places?

A Saturday afternoon, in 2005 or so.   I am walking toward the check-out desk when a man who had been walking behind me suddenly came to life and passed me with speed.  He already looked scary, clad as he was in storm trooper boots, all black pants, wife beater undershirt - black -  which showed off his impressively  muscled arms and chest to advantage.  As he strode (no other word) past me, he cracked the big, black leather belt he had ripped from his pants like a whip and muttered furiously.  He was clearly in a massive rage and I was glad he was so focused inwardly that he didn't see either the customers or the clerks.

He blasted through the Exit and was gone.   I asked  the library check out personnel why they hadn't called the police - "They're right next door!"

"Oh," one of them replied, "he's been here before - hasn't hit anyone yet."

As I, in my own turn, stomped away - that belt had been heavy, studded and lashed about with vigor - I thought "Well, easy for you - you've got a nice high counter to hide behind and a locked entryway."

I have seen him since then - same outfit, but a calm demeanor.  Must be on his meds.  In fairness, he was neatly and cleanly garbed, his black leather SWAT boots were polished to a glitter and he had a haircut and looked clean.  It's unlikely he was homeless so I shouldn't have included him.

But he was an unlikely sight in a library, let me tell you.  What looked exactly like a SWAT guy in a bad movie freaking out?  That'll get your attention, trust me on this.

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