Night In The City

In the hear of Phoenix lies a suberranean sone where day fades into night nearly without notice, where the city doesn't shut down with the sunset, and where, for some, the day begins with the night. Welcome to the night watch.

Frank, it turns out, has worked on some of the most desired torsos around: Las Vegas showgirls. Before that he was a dancer, touring the country with an international dance troupe.

"I only work on women, I don't work on men," he says. "I can't deal with the body hair. I don't like putting suntan oil on myself."

Female only then, right?
"A woman's body is entirely different than a man's," he says, his face drawn into a seriousness that says his job is not boy's stuff, not something to joke about. "Her psyche is entirely different. It is what sexuality is all about."

Does he have many job complaints?
"What do you think?" he responds, laughing softly, his hands kneading Joylee's oiled lower back and derriere. Joylee lies there contentedly, with eyes closed, smiling.

Washing Windows
On 16th Street, south past Roosevelt on the west side of the road, is the low-lying Garfield neighborhood, a collection of half-lovely, half-discarded Spanish style, cinder-block and flimsy wood homes mostly inhabited by Latino families. There is a searing presence of jets flying overhead from nearby Sky Harbor airport. In the evening, children with handfuls of coins play on the streets and chase popsicle trucks. The air is filled with distorted Tejano music and bouquets of home cooking: meat dishes, rice and tortillas. At night teenage Chicana girls wearing flared hip-huggers travel in groups to the nearby Kmart, and mothers push babies in strollers that dangle rosaries as older toddlers bounce alongside. Teenage boys band together under street lamps, and men talk, laugh and drink on their porches. On the east side of 16th Street is St. Luke's hospital, and surrounding that are dormitory-like dwellings for government-subsidized families.

Servicing a portion of Garfield's resident needs is a cluster of businesses on the southeast corner of Roosevelt and 16th Street. There, a scraggly laundromat is always crowded with people waiting around as if expecting some celebration to start. There is a check-cashing center--a mainstay enterprise located wherever a profit is to be made from people who don't earn one. There is a panderia selling prayer candles and saint cards. And in this area one can also purchase a new identity; passports, social security cards and fake state IDs are available at negotiable prices. And there are plenty of places to cop heroin and crack.

Here a person can score a couple hits of crack cocaine for less than the price of a bean burrito. And some do purchase amounts that small, usually addicts who get lucky with a minimum of panhandling effort. Thirty-eight-year-old David Hodge knows such efforts only too well.

"What coke does to me is, is it makes me not give a shit. It takes the pain away," he says standing under the lights at Ramiro's 24-hour Mexican food drive-through, his brittle, sandy brown hair curling up at his neck from under a dirty cap, his dull green eyes reflecting one in countless sets of headlights he looks into in a night.

"When I have money, I don't always go for coke, but I do some of the time, but I don't want to."

Hodge is homeless, usually residing under a bush on Willetta behind the Kmart at 16th Street and Roosevelt. He has no blankets with which to stay warm, and his only jacket was recently stolen. Hodge spends his nights on these streets armed with a squeegee, a water bucket and a spray bottle of glass cleaner--the tools of his current trade as a car window washer. He offers a first-class window cleaning in exchange for a tip, dubious employment that most would call panhandling.

Soft-spoken, diminutive and resigned, Hodge has all but raised the white flag of surrender. "I know I can't continue to go on like this. Sometimes I wish I was dead, but part of me wants me to put my life back together and get back to my family."

As stated, Hodge's drug of choice is not booze. So it is with some wonder that he notes, "You'd be surprised about how many people are willing to give beer instead of money; they think I need beer instead of the money. If I drank I'd be plastered all the time at no expense."

In his squalor-ready attire, politely offering up his services to car after car, knowing full well that most of the cars' occupants will scorn him, Hodge in action is a man embracing his own cheerless futility, like a window-washing Sisyphus.

In the low-tolerance climate Phoenix currently offers its homeless, it's not surprising that on a regular basis, Hodge gets ridiculed, hassled and, sometimes, pounded on.

"I did get the crap beat out of me one night a couple months ago. The Texaco down on Seventh Street. There was this biker kind of guy workin' there, and for some reason he didn't like me. I went in and asked for a pack of matches, and he wouldn't give them to me. All the other employees always gave them to me, and he wouldn't. He was really shitty towards me. And as I'm walking out I see this guy at the gas pump and I simply ask him, "Sir would you possibly have a book of matches in your truck that I could get from you? And this guy's coming up behind me going, 'leave the customers alone.'"

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