Takin’ it to the Streets Hallmark Homeless Christmas (Part 1)

Ethan lived in a van near a homeless encampment in Portland, but he wasn’t your typical resident of such places, although there is no such things as a typical resident of homeless communities in Oregon. Every person has a unique story. The one constant? They’ve been ravaged in some way by some cruel aspect of American life and were shattered as a result. Or they just had had enough of American bullshit and decided to check out.

Ethan was shattered but he wasn’t addicted to drugs or insane. He was also atypical as far as homeless people go in that he was super hot and hunky. He damn well could have walked off the set of a Hallmark Channel Christmas movie about the homeless if Hallmark made such movies.

Just how hot and hunky? (Go for it reader, to your heart’s content.)

Ethan ended up living in the van after serving five years in the Oregon State Penitentiary for involuntary manslaughter. He’d drank a third hazy IPA at the brewery where he was the head brewer, picked up his girlfriend after her shift at the vegan strip club, a deer darted across the road, he swerved, his truck hit a power pole, and she died instantly. In addition to the sentence, the girlfriend’s parents won a civil judgment against Ethan and pretty much cleaned him out.

Toward the end of his sentence, Ethan’s parents died of cancer five months apart and didn’t leave him much because they didn’t own anything of value except his father’s cherished 1995 Chevy G20 conversion van. Somehow, Ethan had scraped up enough money to have the van put in storage until his sentence ended.

Upon his release, Ethan had nowhere to live, no money, no friends, and no job because of his felony conviction. So he took to living in the van near the encampment that bordered a salmon-bearing stream where beavers lurked.

The encampment consisted of 11 RVs, a pallet shanty, five sedans, two trucks and five tent/tarp domiciles. One resident was also living in an Igloo dog house. The encampment was riddled with miscreants and Ethan was initially puzzled and appalled by their behavior but refrained from judgment and started helping them in tiny ways such as giving rides, calming frayed nerves, fixing a foos ball table, and showing them how to navigate web sites to acquire services or benefits.

Ethan also frequently played his acoustic guitar outside his van in the evenings and that often attracted a small (frequently wasted) audience that were partial to Ethan’s preference for classic rock, particularly anything by Bob Seger. Seger was Ethan’s favorite because his dad loved the meat and potato rocker’s songs, especially “Beautiful Loser,” with its still cosmically relevant lyrics:

Beautiful loser, read it on the wall
And realize, you just can’t have it all
You can’t have it all, you can’t have it all
Oh, oh, can’t have it all

Ethan was officially unemployed, but he worked hard nonetheless. He earned spending and gas money by busking around the neighborhood, redeeming cans and bottles, and mowing lawns for some of the elderly impoverished homeowners who couldn’t afford mechanized landscape crews.

Christmas approached. Ethan figured Christmas in a homeless encampment couldn’t be nearly as bad as Christmas in prison, but then again, he didn’t know. He decided to learn a few holiday songs in case they came in handy when it snowed or one of the residents verged on committing suicide.

Ethan was going on one year in the van. He was waiting for something to unfold that might move him in a different, better direction. But he had no idea where anything better might emerge. Certainly not from a homeless encampment. Not even a Hallmark Christmas movie about the homeless would dream up that cockeyed fantasy!