The journey began at Calvin's house. It was simply the most fucked-up house on NW 22nd Avenue. A towering sea grape tree hunkered out front. Cardboard had been stuffed in many of the windows. I wandered up to the front door where a sagging Bahamanian woman sat rocking on the front porch, a long cigarette in her hand.
I explained my intentions. "Opa-locka that way," she said, pointing down the road. As I turned on my heels and headed back to my car, a small balding man popped out of the door in a wife beater and colorful striped shorts. "Who are you?"
When I told him, he seemed to hop high into the air. "A trouble maker! Well, shit. Do you have a cigarette?"
I answered no. "I hate you," he said.
But not for long. He tossed me a plastic yellow deck chair and took a purple one for himself and we headed for the back yard --an unruly patch of grass strewn with six tires, a few chunks of cinderblock and an overturned shopping cart.
"I'm Calvin" he announced. "It means: The bald. Bald head, bald-faced truth, that's what I'm about."
Calvin had been a technician for the Air Force. He came to Overtown from Augusta, Georgia in the fifties and enjoyed living it up there after his release from the military. After the town was dispersed and destroyed he wandered all over.
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He describes his occupation as simply, "surviving." The woman he lives with now, he says, is simply crazy. "I wished I'd never asked her for a cigarette on the street," he says. "She's got the attitude that she's paid a fare and now she owns the bus. Woman, you don't own the bus, you bought a ride." He would leave, he says, but his car is broken and all of his shit is there.
He eloquenlty broke down the feeling of being squashed out (hounded from all directions, unable to earn a living) and quoted generously from Farahkhan. "I've got no crime, I've got no drugs under my belt, but I sure will soon. It's like squeezing a pimple: it's gonna burst, bruise or simply hurt. Well I'm about to get the hurt on out here."
His car is broken down and Calvin can't go anywhere but the Marathon Gas Station, where a group of men on bicycles wash cars, drink beer, and deal crack. There, he picks up his cigarettes and beer.
As he spoke, an obese caucasian in a blue jumpsuit snapped photos of the sea grape out front with a digital camera --the only apsect of the decrepit house that distinguished it in any way. "Who would have known you could get several hundred dollars for a sea grape?" Calvin asked. "But then I realized that it's the only Sea Grape Tree in the neighborhood... the rest are just shrubs." --Calvin Godfrey