For ten years I would pass George almost everyday on my way to work. Sometimes I would roll down my window and give him spare change or maybe a dollar or two. Sometimes I’d give him food left over from a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. If I caught the light we would chat and he would ask how the family was doing. Then he would tell me he was trying to get enough money so he could visit his mother in Tampa, FL or that the cops threw out all his belongings from his home under the Interstate 95 viaduct. He said once the cops threw him in the back of a police van, gave him the “nickel ride” and dropped him off in the middle of the night by the stadiums in South Philadelphia hoping to get rid of him. It worked for a about a week, but George would find his way back to Columbus Blvd. walking along the railroad tracks collecting change from passing motorists.
In December of 2008 I stopped at the light and George came over. He asked me how I was doing and I told him I had just lost my job at the newspaper. A surprised look came over his face and he said, “That’s tough.” Then he asked me what I was going to do. I said I didn’t know at the moment but would figure something out. Suddenly his empathy turned to concern when he bluntly responded, “Don’t come out here.”
April 23, 2010
© 2010 Peter Tobia