Eddie was the very first homeless person I met who actually left me with a positive impression – so few have over the years.
Eddie was always happy and always eager to make friends. In fact, that was kind of his trade mark thing. Whenever he was drunk, which was most of the time, he asked everyone who passed by him, or looked in his direction, “Are you my friend?” His voice was a high pitched and lilting southern accent.
Steve Martin said that a sad song just cannot be played on a banjo. Eddie’s voice was like that, the tone was too friendly and upbeat to believe he ever spoke a mean word and meant it. He loved country music and if he was drunk enough, he’d be singing, and taking requests. His favorite seemed to be the Bellamy Brothers’ “If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?” And, usually when singing that line he was also giving a telephone poll a bear hug and dry humping it. He was funny too.
One day we were talking about past jobs, and he revealed that he used to be a machinist, and worked on some big equipment. He then proceeded to take off his shirt and flexed his biceps. Everyone gathered was astonished at his atlas build, not an ounce of fat on him and he even sported a decent 6pack. Not bad for a an guy who was at least in his 50’s if not older and who had been an alcoholic for several years.
Sometimes he would get so drunk that he couldn’t stand up. He could barely move from where he laid, his body partially propped up against the outer wall of the rescue mission. All the more he would prompt people to answer his question, which at times like these sounded more like begging, “Are you my friend?”
Not only did he wish to be friends with the world, being that he was so big hearted, but there also seemed a bit of fear in his voice. He knew he was vulnerable in that drunken state and for his own protection spent what little energy he had befriending people so that they wouldn’t roll him instead. (If you’re not familiar, “Getting rolled” is a mugging that usually happens to drunks down alleys. Eddie was a tough guy, and I’m sure he could handle a beat down better than most people. I”m sure he experienced his share.
After my first experience of homelessness, I joined the Navy and was gone from Nashville for a couple years. When I returned, Eddie was no longer around. I never heard what happened to him.