Letters

Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

Home · Articles · News · Features · Homeless for the Holidays/Hobo...
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Homeless for the Holidays/Hobo Don

Anne Stanton - December 28th, 2009
Homeless for the Holidays
An Interview with Hobo Don
By Anne Stanton
What is a hobo’s life like here in Northern Michigan at Christmastime?
You don’t have to look far to find the answer.
I first heard about “Hobo” Don Espy through Keith Schwartz, who works
at Sight and Sound at the Traverse Area District Library.
Keith told me a couple of months ago that Don had been robbed. A
homeless guy robbed. I thought it interesting, so I asked Keith to ask
Don to give me a call for an interview. And at last he did.
We met at the library last week, where Don and several other homeless
people routinely find a warm, quiet place to listen to music and read.
Don and I met in a conference room, where he sipped from a bottle
containing some wicked looking yellow liquid (vodka I guessed), as he
told me about his life.

NE: Keith told me you were robbed a couple of months ago.
DON: I’ve been robbed, kicked to the curb. People have a vehicle, a
home, HBO, a Social Security check and they want to steal from a guy
who has nothing. They have no consideration. I was robbed again the
other day at Central United Methodist Church --someone took my
hairbrush which was by my bed. Someone once took a library book and
didn’t give it back. It took me four years to get a library card. I
was so upset, but Keith said, “It’s okay man. We’ll still let you
take out books.” Finally, I got the book back.

NE: Tell me a little about yourself, how you became homeless.
DON: I’m not homeless. I’m houseless. I don’t like that term at all
man. … I’ve got a long time out on the streets. I’ve fallen in love
with Traverse City. I love this community. There are a lot of good
folks here. I feel at home. Finally, I’ve found a home after all my
drifting, all my wandering.

NE: What is that you love?
DON: It’s the people. They look you in the eye. It’s nice to say hello
— “Hello!” I’ve met some great people. People who care. I feel part of
this community and I look out for it. If I see a child or senior
citizen getting hurt, I do something. … I love this town so much, my
friend and I, we do street justice. There was a guy showing himself
right out in front of the nursery (at an area church) and I got so
angry. I threw his bike out in the alleyway. I told him, “This is
Traverse City! You can’t do that here.” He said, “I was just adjusting
my pants.” They arrested him for indecent exposure.
The boys in blue know me. They know me as Hobo Don. They understand
that I’m an alcoholic. Last year, I was in a snow bank, sleeping in
the back stairway of the State Theatre. They woke me up. “Don, what
are you doing!” I had no blanket, just my jacket. They saved my life
man. Then they arrested me for disorderly conduct. The D.A. amended it
to trespass, attempted assault. The judge kicked my butt, hit me hard
for it--$850! I pay $25 a month. Traverse City is about money. They
want money instead of putting you into jail. I have people trying to
change the system.

NE: I know that you’re sleeping at area churches, in a program called
Safe Harbor (a group of churches and volunteers that rotate providing
shelter for the homeless in the colder months). Where else do you
sleep when it’s warm outside?
DON: I like Union Street Bridge. When the salmon are spawning, you’re
jumping all night, too. But it’s a good sound compared to snoring or
coughing all night.

NE: So you’ve been homeless for quite a long time. See any trends?
DON: We’re getting more people from Saginaw, Grand Rapids, Flint, even
as far as Detroit. There are services up here, compared to down there.
Not as much competition and easier access. Think of it. You’re
competing with 300 others compared to 3,000.

NE: What did you do before you were homeless?
DON: I was a forest fighter. I was a G.S.-4 and worked for 17 years.

NE: You said when we met that you own two pairs of clothes. Do you need more?
DON: I never have what I need. I guess I’ve got everything I need. But
I miss companionship. I do. I’m scared to talk to my children. I
haven’t talked to my children for 17 years. They’re in upstate New
York. I was married one time. I’ll tell you a joke. Some guy told me I
was a mother *!#% and I said, “Yup, and I’ve got six children to prove
it.” He had no comeback on that one, man.

NE: How do you feel about your life?
DON: I feel like I’ve chosen it. I’m grateful for it. I don’t blame it
on the government or bad luck. But I’m tired of being a sounding board
to people. I want to read a book. “I’m sorry, leave me alone, I don’t
want to hear your problems. Let me sleep.” Some of them call me Doctor
Don. I used to do a lot of LSD. That makes me more perceptible to
people’s feelings. But I need my space too. When someone starts
ragging about their lives, I say, “I’m sorry, but I’m not your
psychologist.” I would say that, but I’m not that rude.
Sometimes I feel like a failure. I have no friends. But I’ve got God.
It works out in different ways. Someone down the street needs a dollar
bill, and I give it to him. It’s my thing to give, and I tell them,
pass it on. And then they do. I learned about debit cards. No, no, no.
I got a block on my ATM. I tried to help too many people. …. I have a
friend at Baypointe Church. She wants to shape me and form me. She’s
my friend man. She loves me, man. This is the person I love from Safe
Harbor. You sleep on the floor at these churches, on mats. Next week
it’s the Presbyterian Church and it changes every two weeks. They
should make a rule -- two bags per person, only what you can carry.
Some people have six or seven bags. I’ve suggested a two-bag rule to
the coordinator of Safe Harbor.

NE: Are you happy?
DON: I’m at that point in my life, I’m happy, but God please forgive
me, don’t reject me. I used to fear dying, but I don’t fear dying
anymore. I used to be ashamed of being homeless, but I learned one
day, I care about people. But I don’t want their problems. But I love
them anyways. I’m dying.

NE: Why do you say you’re dying?
DON: You start dying the day you’re born. Don’t you know that! I’ve
been stabbed seven times during the Watts riot. Burned in Vermont in
2003 in my camp. I had half a gallon of vodka, a sleeping bag. One and
one equals two. Want to see my scars?
(He lifts his shirt and shows me. Ouch.)

NE: That must have hurt.
DON: I was too numbed to feel it. The doctor told me my fun in the sun
is over. He had to take skin off my legs to patch up my torso. I
rolled with the flow. It was my screw-up.
Sometimes I wish I’d never been born. It’s not money. Sometimes I wish
I wouldn’t wake up again. I feel that way. I’m so abused man. It
hurts. I’m a man. I’m a tough guy. I can’t use my hands. I’m so old.
I’m 56-1/2 going on 90. I’m not over the hill yet.
I wonder about it sometimes. I’d like to meet someone, but I’m scared
of responsibility. I keep myself alone that way. It’s scary. No, no,
no, don’t come close. I’m Hobo Don. I’ve got almost 20 years of being
alone. It would be nice to cuddle and hug someone. As far as sex goes,
it scares me. I have six children. I’m here today, gone tomorrow. I’m
subject to fly away. I have six children. I raised them up for 10
years. I was working out in Colorado, and my wife became pregnant by a
17-year-old. She was 34. It blew my mind. That was it. I dropped my
house, I dropped everything. I walked away, and I’ve never been back.
I’ll never go back.

NE: And you really like drinking. Do you ever wish alcohol didn’t exist?
DON: No! Of course not. It numbs my feelings. I like it. A
psychologist told me I was destined to be an alcoholic. It’s gone
father to son, father to son, but I didn’t pass it onto my children. I
left before it happened. I didn’t want them to grow up to be like me.
My daughter is a bank officer and she’s married. I have a grand
daughter who is 12, who I’ve never met. I’m scared to go back. They’ve
got their lives. If I went back, I’d disrupt their lives. They’re
doing their thing.
I’m not selfish. I’m not a selfish man. I’ll take the pain; I’ve got
two shoulders. Many times, I cry my brains out and no one ever sees
me. I’m not cold hearted. I cry out of guilt, out of not being there.
Just because I live on the streets doesn’t mean I don’t feel.

NE: Do people look at you as they walk by?
DON: Most of the time. I say, “God bless you.” They say, “God bless
you too.” Some are zombies, buried in their own heads, but I don’t
take it as a personal insult. Hey, do you have any money so I can buy
something to drink?

NE: I’m sorry I don’t. I gave my last dollar to my husband this
morning for a cup of coffee. But I have these two free certificates
for pies at the Grand Traverse Pie Company.
DON: Where’s the Pie Company?
NE: On Front Street.
DON: Well, okay. Are you sure you don’t have any money?
NE: I’m sorry, but I really don’t.
DON: Okay, well, God bless you.
NE: God bless you too.

 
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