A Picture of America in Picture Rocks
Dave was sitting on the back of a truck next to another guy in dark glasses and a hat. They were apparently selling homemade motorized bicycles with little 50cc engines welded to them. The price tags read about $600-$800 per bike. I couldn't distinguish why the prices were different. Dave was quick to speak and quick to correct, he wasn't selling the bikes, that was Joe's job. He was just there because Joe was "paying him to sit there, drink, and keep him company."
He gestured back to a wide, shady tree about 100 feet back. Dave's been living under the tree next to the Wagon Wheel bar in Picture Rocks, Arizona for about 3 months, "since Christmas." He says it's not the first time he's had to crash there. He was living there before when a friend, a Vietnam veteran offered him a place to stay and asked him to help as a caretaker. His friend had a stroke a while back so he was a falling risk, and Dave needed a place to stay. "There were a good number of times I'd come in and he was stumbling and bloody, so I had to help stitch him up. But eventually he recovered really well from the stroke itself. I like to say he patched up 95% just like me." He held up his hands, with a finger half missing on his left hand.
"These days, his alzheimers gets bad at the end of the day. In his mind he's back in war, and I'm the 'gook' to him. So one day he told me to 'get out' and he's throwing things and such, so I came back to this spot."
Dave has a relatively upbeat attitude compared to his bike selling truck mate, who didn't have much to say besides some odd jokes about drinking gasoline and train accidents, but that didn't stop him from criticism of the country.
Dave grew up in South Bend, IN, right across from Notre Dame. He remembers looking up at the golden dome of the school and knowing he could never go there. "I tell people it's because I'm an atheist, but it was always a money thing. I could never afford it there, and even if I got a scholarship, I'd never have the money to fit in." His comments bit effortlessly to the core of most of the issues we talk about every day.
When we left, Dave insisted we all shake hands one more time and thanked us. "It's nice to have a moment to talk to people with thoughts in their heads." Hope we live up to that.