Sunday, February 22, 2009


Maybe you have met him. He is a tallish white guy with his face tattooed to make him look like a clown. He lives in the Mid-Wilshire district of Los Angeles. Every once in a while you can see him Northbound 101 off ramp at Vermont Avenue holding a sign that says, "Help this poor clown buy marijuana." Solomon has seen quite a bit in his 23 years. He gestures with a half-eaten Subway breakfast wrap as he tells me that he was kicked out of the army because he is "A little, you know... loco." Apparently Subway breakfasts always taste better in pita wraps rather than bread, he told me that it had something to do with how they warmed them up with the eggs; I didn't quite understand what he meant.

He told me about the time he was kicked out of "that one mission" downtown. He had gotten angry at a security guard who was pounding on the bathroom door while he was trying to shave. He yelled at the guard and called him "gay." "I didn't really mean all that stuff I said. I was just angry. I've got a few anger problems." he recalled pensively. It is hard not to notice that Solomon has a big build and big hands, I wouldn't want to be around when he was angry.

He still gets a stipend from the military for his service: $900 a month. Aside from occasional meals, he sinks the money he gets into marijuana and trying to get an old astro van running again. He proceeded to tell me all of the things that he thinks are wrong with it and all the tools that he bought from the nearby Autozone to fix it. A couple of minutes later he told me that he fixed it all using "bare hands", but I'm sure he just meant that he did all the grunt-work himself.

He told me about how he refuses to do any drugs harder than marijuana because his mom did and he saw what hell that put her through. He told me that some of his relatives died in 9-11. He never referred to his mother in the present tense, or mention his dad.

When I told him that I was a pastor at a nearby church he said, "Really? Are you incognito or something?" I said, "No. Why do you ask?" He replied, "Because you aren't wearing black with that box on your collar." I told him that not all pastors wear liturgical collars, and that he was welcome to come and check out the church on Sundays. "Really?" he said again, "I've been to that church for food hand-outs during the week, but I didn't know they were open on Sundays."

Solomon and I are the exact same age.

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