Being homeless wears you out, and wears you down, and only those who can manage to occasionally break from the constant drone of unhappiness can survive homelessness for very long. I learned this valuable lesson from one of the best friends I ever had on the streets, Jimmy Stoner.
It was the summer of 1984 and I was on my second episode of homelessness when Jimmy and I first met at the Anchor Home of the Nashville Rescue Mission. Jimmy was incredibly intelligent and resourceful, and he understood his place in society better than most. He knew that society rejected him, but he was ok with that, he rejected society back. He was big, and scary, and looked homeless. Whenever he noticed that someone was staring at him, he would do something vulgar, like shove a finger up his large hairy nose and stare back at them.
Once a week, Jimmy and I would go to the plasma center to give blood and earn a little money. With that money we could catch the Nolensville Road bus down to Cinema South. Before going to the theater we would stop at a pizza shop where they had an "all-you-can-eat" lunch buffet. Jimmy and I hit that buffet like we hadn't eaten in a week. And, when you consider the usual food we ate at the mission, you'd understand why we gorged ourselves. Stuffed to the gills, we would walk over to the movie house, pay for a movie, and proceed to watch every movie in the place. If we liked a particular movie, Jimmy was mesmerized by The Terminator, we would watch it several times in a row. There never seemed to be any management around the theater, just some high school kids working there, who really didn't care. So, we pretty much had the run of the place. Only after the last movie for the night had shown, or we had become bored, would we catch the bus back to the mission.
During those few hours each week, I could forget that I was homeless, that I was living at a rescue mission, and that there was little real hope for my life. I would rather forget most of my homeless experiences, if I could. But, I'll remember those times hanging out with Jimmy as some of the best I ever had.