The Die, Die, Die Guy and the Goofy Panhandling Red Parking Meters

7 March 2016, Monday – 3:31 P.M.

Anyone who spends time in Chico’s downtown has probably run into the Die, Die, Die Guy. I’ve been told his real name is James, but nearly everyone refers to him as the Die, Die, Die Guy because he walks the streets saying in his scratchy, gravelly sharp voice, “Die, die, die.”
Why James says die, die, die over and over is a mystery. It’s easy to assume he means death, but I once suggested that maybe he had been living in a commune and his job was to dye the tie-dyed clothing and he overdosed on LSD and now all he says is, “Dye, dye, dye.”
Not a likely scenario.
James is tall, thin, lacking entirely in good hygiene and his pants are often falling off. Normative society would refer to James as “chronically homeless” which, I guess he is. I have no idea where he sleeps.
Nor do I have a clue to the parallel universe he largely inhabits. Most would say that James is mentally ill.
I thought he was harmless (albeit aggressive sometimes in his asking for money or cigarettes) until last summer. A young woman was walking by, James blocked her path asking for change and when she politely refused he said, “Then I’ll rape you.”
The young woman shouted at him, “What? What did you just say?”
I thought this was unwise, confronting James in such a way, but understood that the young woman was within her rights. I placed myself between she and James and said something like, “He’s very ill. I’m sorry for what he said.”
The tone of my voice suggested that she move on which she did.
Since that time I’ve seen James face down, spread-eagle on the sidewalk and surrounded by cops.
A couple of hours ago while I was sitting in Peets, James walked in and in between chanting ‘die, die, die’ (or ‘dye, dye, dye’) he asked a couple of customers for something. He then walked out. One of the customers called the Chico P.D.
When the officer rolled up, the customer walked outside to greet him and explain James’ behavior and, I presume, complain.
A few yards away sat Tim on the sidewalk in front of the closed storefront announcing Wolfe Electric will soon move in. He has been camping there for quite awhile with his dog, Maggie and is often surrounded by a lot of debris.
He too is tall, often wears a long stage coach sort of coat and has a mass of blonde matted hair. Tim is gentle, quiet and seems to be having a really hard time.
I give him a cigarette whenever I see him. While he is prone asleep, I’ve seen many people leave food, change, kibble for Maggie and other gifts. That is endlessly heartwarming.
The funny things is that at the corner of Main and Second Streets where so much of this action takes place stands one of those red parking meters meant to deter James’, Tim’s and dozens of others solicitations.
Since the red wannabe bell-ringer meters were installed last August, I’ve seen the one in front of Peets used once.
The blurbs on the “Make Change Count” meters tell us that it accepts coins or plastic and the funds go to local agencies which “…provide services to those in need.”
Subsequent media has explained that the chosen agencies are the Jesus Center and the Torres Shelter (What about the 6th Street Drop-In Center for Youth which also does so much good?) and that the North Valley Community Foundation is administering the funds which leaves me antsy.
To my knowledge and research, no report has been released on how much money the red meters have raised thus far.
Conversely, although the Make Change Count folks advertise, “Make your change count and help the homeless in a positive way, rather than enabling behaviors that are detrimental to both the individual and community”, I don’t think the campaign is very effective. Admittedly, my opinion is based on observation only.
Not all people asking for money in downtown Chico use it for drugs and alcohol, but I suspect most do. Nonetheless, and with no small irony, right in front of the red parking meters, people give money to panhandlers all day long. Others gift food, cigarettes or whatever.
Often I’ll say to the gifters, “That’s very kind.”
Usually the response is something to the affect of, “I just want to help or we’re all human or it could happen to me.”
It seems as though most folks would rather interact with a human being rather than a panhandling parking meter.
Such are some of the authentic charms of downtown Chico.

Love and Peace,

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