Your spirit is in the air

Broad Ripple is a strange place — quite like Joyce’s Nighttown, I think. Of course, I’ve never read Ulysees so take everything I say with a grain of salt.

Case in point: Earlier tonight, I was thirsty and I wanted to go get a Coke. So I set out on foot for the local McDonald’s. On my way there I thought I decided to get a two-cheeseburger combo meal, even though I wasn’t very hungry.

Like most fast food cashiers in Broad Ripple, the one I encountered was on drugs. He seemed very offended when his pretty Spanish co-worker tried to put the French fries on my tray before my cheeseburgers had been assembled.

“No, NO!” he cried out. “They have to stay HOT!”

I looked the girl in eyes and shrugged my shoulders as if to say I don’t care if you leave them on the tray or not but she went ahead and put them back under the warming light for an additional 30 seconds anyway. As I sat down, I thought about how I am always asking my mother to serve me her cooking at a lower temperature.

The meal passed without further incident. It did turn out that I didn’t want that second hamburger after all so I threw it away. After all, I didn’t really feel like walking down Broad Ripple avenue clutching a single McDonald’s cheeseburger … but I would regret that decision almost immediately.

That’s because after dodging a Durango intent on plowing me over in the liquor store parking lot, I was approached by a beggar named Theresa. She looked relatively clean and she was wearing a shiny gold watch but I don’t want to be the kind of person who judges people by their appearance, even beggars.

“Can you help me get some food,” Theresa asked me. I thought of the McDonald’s cheeseburger.

“I would like to help you out,” I explained as I usually do in these situations, “but I don’t have any cash.”

Typically, that is the end of it, but Theresa was either very hungry or very cunning.

“Do you have a credit card?” she asked. “You could buy me some food at the restaurant.”

She had me there.

After all, why not help a poor soul out? Could be good karma, I thought. Theresa explained that she wanted a gyro, so we walked over to the Parthenon. She was babbling incoherently — perhaps a sign of mental illness, but I caught the part where she asked me how long I had lived in the area and if I was married of all things. She asked what I was doing out; I lied and said I was just walking around aimlessly. For some reason, I was careful not to even tell her the direction in which I lived. Three times she asked me if I was going to be walking this way anyway. I told her I am hard of hearing, which I think is probably true. I did hear her ask if I would also buy her a beer, which I said I would.

We got to the gyro joint and we walked inside. I looked around for something for me to buy for myself, not wanting to seem like the kind of idiot who just takes beggars off the street and buys them food, but I didn’t see anything I wanted. Theresa asked the counter guy for a beer. He explained that they didn’t have any beer and that she’d have to order it in the bar downstairs. I hopped that would be the end of it and we could part ways, but after I signed the slip for the gyro she told the counter guy she had to go get that beer.

So Theresa and I walked down stairs to the Casba. I looked around; it was all college-looking kids in polo shirts. I didn’t see anyone else aiding a vagrant. We walked over the back bar. I asked Theresa what she liked to drink. At first, she told me it was Budweiser, but then she asked me if they had Michelob. I told her I didn’t know so Theresa asked the bartender. He said they had it on draft, but Theresa just kept saying “Michelob.” Then she made the universal sign for bottle by holding one index finger about nine inches above the other one. In response, the barkeep produced a bottle of Michelob Ultra, clearly labeled. Theresa looked it over and asked the bartender if it was Michelob before finally saying, “Bud.”

“Make that two,” I said.

We sat at the bar with our Budweisers for a moment, but I could tell Theresa was anxious about leaving her food unattended. I figured this was a common trait among the indigent. She rapidly excused herself; once again I thought that would be the last of it. I was puzzled that she didn’t thank me vociferously, although I wasn’t looking for glory. No, I was feeling like brooding, but the only available corner kept getting lit up by an intermittent spotlight and I didn’t particularly feel like being on display for the aforementioned college kids, so I left my beer sitting on a ledge, half empty.

At the top of the stairs, I found Theresa sitting out on the restaurant’s outdoor patio, eating her gyro and drinking her beer. I sat down across from her.

“How is it?” I asked.

“It’s alright,” she said.

“Just alright?”

“Well, it’s pretty good.”

I told her I was heading off to find something to do (also a lie) but I bid her goodbye and told her, “God bless.” In my experience, people begging for your money on the street love this kind of language.

As I walked away, I noted that the usual street-corner megaphone evangelist had been replaced by a guy with a guitar singing about Jesus. At first I thought it might be my friend Nathan, but it was some other guy. As I walked on, his song filled the air. I thought about how much I secretly admire people like him, people who believe in something that strongly, and I walked home behind a bunch of people laughing and prancing in club clothes.