I recently visited Pink Bellamy’s castle (“It’s not a gingerbread house! It’s a castle”) amongst a small group of shanty houses built by the homeless. I’ve done numerous dumb things exploring and it’s very hard to rank them, but his ranks pretty damn high on my list of stupid things I’ve done.
First off I don’t want to stereotype the homeless, but some of them are mentally ill. Others are drunk. So their behavior can be… unpredictable. Some of them may feel that you are a threat to them just by being there. I’ve always wanted to visit Mr Bellamy because I felt his story may work well for a project I’m working on. I never did it because I didn’t want to go alone.
I read recently that the town is evicting Bellamy and his fellow homeless effective 3/1/05. I had to make a decision, and after a call for people to join me resulted in no takers, I went and visited by myself. In retrospect, it was better that I was alone. Had I shown up with one or two other guys, it would’ve definitely seemed threatening to the fellow I ran into.
Walking up the trail behind the Pathmark and across the tracks I immediately felt as if I didn’t belong. Across the tracks I could see in the distance a few shanty huts, and I walked the winding well worn trail thru the trees and bushes. One homeless man saw me coming and called to a fellow homeless man. They both walked down the trail and we each stopped 50 ft away from each other, separated by a chain hanging across the trail as a property boundary line of sorts, complete with US flag suspended in the middle of the chain directly across the path. One held a broken broom handle in his hands.
I explained I was looking for Pink Bellamy. I explained I wasn’t a reporter but rather a writer working on a project. They launched into a rant about reporters and how they didn’t really care about them, just the story. “One reporter really cares,” and he withdrew a business card from his pocket,” the rest can all go to hell.” As I began asking if I could perhaps speak to that reporter, he pirouetted and slipped the card into his pocket as he walked away.
The other man stated that he was the “property manager” and invited me in. Before doing so he asked “You got a camera?” He asked. “No,” I said, burying my hands deeper into my coat pocket where my digital camera lay snug and away. “Good, cause I see a camera, I’m gonna stick it up your ass like a fucking beacon!”
This man was the epitome of a homeless person. If I asked you to describe a homeless guy, you would describe him. 50ish with a scruffy beard and woolen cap. Smoking a cigarette and spitting frequently. A raspy cough. Wearing a US Army jacket and several layers of clothes. Spewing profanity every other word, and altering between being cooperative and confrontational. He didn’t make me feel at ease when he offered me a seat. When I hesitated, he yelled “Sit down NIGGGGAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!” so I figured I better accept his hospitality.
He was quite defensive, and made it clear he, Pink, as well as the rest of them, weren’t interested in reporters or talking about themselves. “My name’s George.” He said. “My name’s Bill,” I responded. “That ain’t my real name muthafucka, think I’d tell you my real name? I don’t know you!” Peridiocally getting weepy about the fact that he was being driven from his home, he angrily complained that the town had no right to do this. He kept asking what was in it for him, and I kept reminding him I was there to talk to Pink. “I’m his manager muthafucka, so I negotiate for him!” I told him I could probably pay him for his story, but I needed to speak to him first and see if his story would fit what I was looking for.
At one point while George was talking I heard a twig snap behind me on the trail so I turned around and George asked “You afraid NIGGGGAAHHHHH!!!!” “No, I thought that might be Mr Bellamy.” “No, you was afraid, and you should be cause you’re in my house muthafucka!”
So George began telling me about the squatters periodically punctuating it with “that’s $5” or “that’ll be another $5” and eventually he asked when he was going to get his money. I figured this was my out. I stood up and explained that I clearly had invaded their privacy and that I was sorry to have done it. I told him this had been a bad idea to bother the under the circumstances and that I would leave them alone. Without waiting for an answer I began walking the trail, periodically glancing backwards surepitously to make sure George (or someone else) wasn’t chasing me. I needn’t have worried. I could hear George yelling obscenities at me all the way till I crossed the railroad tracks.
Originally posted March 2005