Letter from the Editor 

There's a guy I see three or four times a week. We don't speak. We don't have a relationship. I just see him — usually as I'm driving to work along Vance, somewhere between the MIFA building and Lauderdale Street. He's been walking the same beat for years.

He's very tall, 6' 5" at least. He's thin and dark and quite obviously a lost ball in the high weeds of life. He wears odd, mismatched clothes — sometimes a green hospital shirt, sometimes a sportscoat and shorts. His pants almost always end above his socks.

He always carries something — often a battered black briefcase, sometimes an empty plastic milk crate. His gait is slow. He drags his feet, his eyes staring blankly at the sidewalk. Sometimes he sets the plastic milk crate on the sidewalk and shoots a deflated gray basketball at it. The ball lands with a splat and doesn't move. He slowly walks to the ball, picks it up, and shoots again. It's a cruel parody of Hoop Dreams.

I've asked people here at work about him. I thought maybe he was a former Tiger basketball player who had hit hard times. But no one knows anything about him.

Last week, he was sitting on the curb at a stoplight on Vance as I pulled up to the corner. He looked at me. I looked at him. I lowered my window and said, "Do you need some help?" He stared, expressionless, then slowly shook his head no. It was the tiredest, saddest no I've ever seen.

There's been a lot of consternation about panhandlers downtown lately. And they are a problem. But there's a big difference between a guy with a line of B.S. hitting you up for "enough money to catch a bus to Millington" and a guy who's just lost and sick and alone.

And maybe this man really doesn't need help. Maybe he has a family that takes care of him, feeds him, loves him. But I doubt it. More likely, he's mentally ill, but not enough to be institutionalized. So he shuffles along Vance with nothing to do and nowhere to go — just an unquenchable urge to keep walking in Memphis.

Bruce VanWyngarden

brucev@memphisflyer.com

Keep the Flyer Free!

Always independent, always free (never a paywall),
the Memphis Flyer is your source for the best in local news and information.

Now we want to expand and enhance our work.
That's why we're asking you to join us as a Frequent Flyer member.

You'll get membership perks (find out more about those here) and help us continue to deliver the independent journalism you've come to expect.


Favorite

Speaking of Panhandler

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Blogs

News Blog

Facebook Reprimands MPD for Fake Accounts

Music Blog

Love Story

Hungry Memphis

All-Star Chef Lineup to Celebrate Andrew Michael's 10th

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Music Video Monday: Brennan Villines

News Blog

Explore Bike Share Expands to Mud Island

From My Seat

The USFL: When Pro Football Was Fun

Tiger Blue

Tigers 52, South Alabama 35

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Let's Do The Time Warp Drive-In With John Waters

Intermission Impossible

Hattiloo Puts the School-to-Prison Pipeline in the Spotlight

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Bruce VanWyngarden

Readers also liked…

ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2018

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation