'Submarine Man'

by Bob 'Dex' Armstrong

I enter Washington,DC every morning from Virginia by way of the 14th Street Bridge....and end up passing the intersection by the Bureau of Engraving and Holocaust Museum and Dept of Agriculture a minute to two minutes later. There's a homeless guy there named Andrew. Young fellow by the normally accepted stereotypical standard of hardcore bums and panhandlers.

He's got a beard about 18 inches long, a rats nest load of hair....a face that has been playing soap hookey for what may be years. His clothes are so ragged that they don't even qualify to be called rags...they are whatever the next step down from rags is called.

I normally give a negative response when approached by panhandlers...they simply piss me off. But I deeply respect a fellow with a good work ethic, and my Pal Andrew is ALWAYS there...faithfully selling both the WASHINGTON POST and WASHINGTON TIMES...rain, shine, earthquake, flood, snow, hail, fire storm...He's there. Only days he misses is when the other bums raid his "camp" beat him half to death and "Steal all my stuff."

There are mornings where he has stitches and eyes so puffed up he can barely see...but the poor sonuvabitch is there.

He saw my minature Dolphins in my lapel one morning and I became "Submarine Man"...I give him on average $5 every day (somewhere between $3 and $7)...for the utterly selfish reason that it makes me feel good to hear his..."God Bless You, Submarine Man."...and know that he means it...and to know that he can at least afford the Double Chili Dog Special, with chips and Dr. Pepper the old Gypsy guy across the street, sells.

Sometimes when the light is red...we talk. He tells me that on the weekends he visits the Zoo to keep track of the progress of the twin white tigers born there last year....You ever want a white tiger twins update, see my pal Andrew. He has what can only be considered a beautiful life philosophy....I can't say if I can comprehend all of it because the only lessons I get are essentially less than one minute sound bites waiting for a green light. It's essentially a complete lifestyle patterned on a cross between the Golden Rule and The Sermon on the Mount...Don't laugh, he not only believes it but LIVES it.

He feeds squirrels....I know because I have bankrolled a helluva lot of peanuts during the winter and have seen him sitting on a park bench feeding his flock in the snow.

Solveig worries about him...One day, we got two wool blankets, a pack, eating utensils, a jacknife, can opener, a bunch of cans of Hormel Chili, SPAM, Dinty Moore Beef Stew and Devilled Ham...plates, pans, a Sterno Stove (with twenty, two-hour Sterno cans) and a two-cell MAGlite. Solveig drove to work with me one morning and she sat in the middle seat in the mini-van and passed the blankets and loaded pack to Andrew when we stopped...

Two days later, the preditory homeless thieves found him sleeping in a corrogated cardboard box, beat the living hell out of him and stole everything. He was embarrassed to tell me...So I said.."Forget about the nasty bastards......Tell me what's happ'nin to the tiger twins...." And a great big smile came across his battered and blood caked face.."They're great...Their Mom is doing a great job with them."

Speaking of mothers...He's gotta have somebody somewhere that cares about him.....My Mother used to say, "There's a Christmas tree somewhere with a seat next to it for everybody."

It was raining like that old 'cow pissing on a flat rock' this morning...and he was there...soaked to the skin....smiling from under his sopping watch cap...

"Good morning Submarine Man......God Bless You."

"God Bless you too, Andrew.....Here's seven bucks promise me you'll go to the Chinese Carryout and get a bowl of hot soup when he opens."

"I promise, Submarine Man."

The beat patrolman at Ag tells me that the kid does not use dope or drink...that he's just a free spirit who detached himself from planet earth fifteen years ago and his only intimate relationships and close associates are birds, squirrels and most of the residents of the National Zoo. Poor Andrew is the personification of the term "goodness".

Thanks for listening.

Andrew's buddy...Submarine Man.