• Trading a Harley for a good book

    Finding each other and the Lord, they’re satisfied living in a van

    by Erika Fiske

    MONTEREY— Riding Harleys, doing drugs, going to prison—Danny’s life wasn’t boring. But, maybe it was a little wasted.

    That’s what Danny says today, at the age of 62. He was sitting on a plastic crate by Del Monte Shopping Center on a Thursday afternoon, talking about his life and what went wrong. Unlike many of the homeless, he at least has a vehicle—a van. And he’s married.

    But he does miss those Harley motorcycles. He last sat on one of his own decades ago, in the late 1980s.

    As the homeless man spoke, his long beard bobbing with each word, he looked like someone out of the frontier days, one of those guys panning for gold in a rushing California stream.

    And then wife Katherine walked up in a long dress. She pointed out that the couple hasn’t had an argument in two years, even though Danny is her fourth husband. Why? For one thing, they’ve both found the Lord.

    That wasn’t the case with husbands in her past. The first just wanted someone to clean the house and got them both into crack. The second also was into crack, so Katherine finally left him after 15 years. She was recovering when she met husband three, a musician who then met someone else and “kicked me out,” she said. “Two weeks later I hooked up with Danny.”

    Despite the roller-coaster ride, the couple said they’ve been living happily ever after. And maybe reading has something to do with that. “We both have our noses in books a lot of the time,” Danny said. “I like fantasies and cowboy stories. It gets me out of this world. I’ve got a lot of Hobbit books in storage.”

    Katherine said she reads everything. She’s been reading The History of Chesapeake Bay, who-done-it books and many books written long ago—she likes the “big words” that fill their pages.

    Wearing a Harley T-shirt, black leather vest and jeans, and sporting long hair, Danny held the leash of his Shih Tzu named Sam—a rescue dog from an abusive home. The couple used to have four cats as well, but they’re down to one.

    “At first Sam wouldn’t come out from under the bed,” he said. “Now he loves everybody.”

    Danny grew up in an abusive home and was brought to this area at the age of six by his mother, who was running away from her abusive husband. The boy was thrown out of school by the 10th grade and things went downhill from there. “I was pretty much an outlaw,” he said. “I broke all the rules.”

    And that pretty much describes Danny’s life. During one court appearance, a judge gave him two choices, jail at age 17, or join the Marines. He chose the latter. But Danny managed to get thrown out of the Marines as well, and into military prison in New Hampshire.

    “I didn’t like being told what to do,” he said. “And I didn’t like saluting people.”

    From there Danny moved to L.A. and held many different jobs, from roofing and carpet laying to cooking at Kentucky Fried Chicken. He got into the drug culture and wound up in prison again. “I messed up my life,” he admitted. “Then, two years ago, I found God.”

    Danny attends church services down by Window on the Bay with other homeless men and women. He also cooks on Sundays at a Lutheran church in Monterey. “I never believed in any kind of religion. I was an atheist when I met this lady,” he said, looking up at his wife. “We’ve been together about six years.”

    Katherine is 46 and on disability. “This is the best marriage I’ve ever had,” she noted. While living in a van might not be her first choice, she’s okay with it.

    “I trust the Lord to take care of me,” she said.

    Danny’s also okay with life now, because he’s free. No more orders, no more salutes and no more prison bars. Just another good book from the local library.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on July 27, 2012

    Topics: Homeless Chronicles

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