The alley behind the mission used to be a dead end. It went just beyond the mission and then widened into a turn around for cars. There were benches along the alley. Men gathered there for conversation and to smoke. The men talked about the things men usually talk about. things like woman, sports, gossip, religion, politics and women again. Sometimes they also talked about memories; old hurts, lost families, cars they had owned, and military experiences.
Once in awhile, I heard laughter. Often I heard anger. A few times I was called upon to break up fights. Once I overheard someone say, “There goes George and that damn smile.” I took it as a compliment.
Los Angeles had the privilege of having two of the greatest sports announcers in the history of broadcasting. Vin Scully did the Dodgers baseball team and Chick Hearn did the Lakers. If the Lakers or the Dodgers were playing you could count on there being a number radios out back in the alley tuned in.
It wasn’t just the mission folks that listened either. The homeless people that slept on the sidewalks or under the bridges had their radios tuned in also.
Street talk included Chick’s phrases like “The mustard came off the hotdog” or “Into the popcorn machine”, or “No Harm, no foul,” just like talk in the suburbs was enriched by his sayings.
Vin is special in a different way. He has us all, skid row and suburbs, convinced that he loves us and that he thinks we deserve the very best broadcast he can possibly give us. He has such dignity and joy in his speech. He was sort of the uncle the street people wished they had.
I wonder if Chick knew and if Vin knows how much good they do for the homeless? Those two great men have given street people a lot of joy despite the fact that the homeless live in a very unhappy situation.