Regular Americans Speak Out Part 4 Teacher and Homeless Person

A series of essays from various regular Americans on love, work, and life in these United States including a teacher and a homeless person.

America Speaks

BILL DUNN, Skid Row resident, Philadelphia, Pa.

"What I remember most is that when I got older, maybe 14 or 15, I used to go down to the Row a lot. I'd find an excuse to walk through there on my way into town or something. Partly curiosity, but mostly the rumor that my father was there. I guess it was my age as much as anything. I was looking, like all kids that age, I guess, for parts of myself, for searching out roots--for that part of my lost father in me. I didn't tell anyone about it. It took me a long time--walking the Row, asking around.

"Finally I found him. He was standing outside a bar, leaning a little uncertainly against the glass, squinting into the sun. He didn't look much like the old photographs my mother had kept, his hair was matted, he was filthy and unshaven. When I told him who I was he just started at me. His mouth dropped open a little, and then his hands moved up shaking and slowly covering his face. I just said 'Why?' But he didn't say anything. He just pushed me away and staggered into the bar. I'll never forget that. He didn't say anything." (From: Skid Row and Its Alternatives by Blumberg, Shipley, and Shandler. Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1973.)

JOSEPH PLECK, teacher, Ann Arbor, Mich.

"There was a dodge-ball game we played regularly, which had 2 forms. In the 1st form, there were 2 teams, and the idea was to throw the ball at people on the other team. If you hit them, they were out, but if they caught the ball you threw at them, then you were out--the game going on until everyone on one team was out. In the 2nd form, sometimes called 'bombardment,' or 'German' dodge-ball, the principle was the same, except that there were no teams, only individuals. With several balls going in a class of 30, the energy level could get quite high. I was never much good at throwing the ball with any force or accuracy, but I got to be very good at dodging, so my basic strategy was to avoid being hit. But the problem was that I often ended up as one of the last 2 people in the game. Then the other person would keep throwing the ball at me until I was so worn down and exhausted that I would finally be hit, with the whole class watching this gladiatorial contest. This got to be extremely painful, both because I always lost and also because it showed everyone else that I couldn't really throw the ball. I soon learned to let myself get hit about halfway through the game. I learned several things in this game: I learned to be hyper-alert to attacks from other men, and good at dodging them; I also learned that it is extremely important to avoid being conspicuous in the male war of all-against-all." (From: "My Male Sex Role--and Ours," Win, April 11, 1974.)

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