The View From An Office Window

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The view from the office window at times was like watching a silent movie. That allowed me to fill in the subtitles. For the first few months I was there, a few dozen homeless people slept in the church parking lot each night. About the time I arrived each morning at 7:30, they were rolling up their sleeping bags under the direction of a burly fellow who apparently served as the unofficial straw boss. Slabs of cardboard that served as a thin buffer between the asphalt and bedrolls were collected and deposited in the recycling dumpster across the alley. Cigarette butts and other litter were meticulously gathered. By the time the SUV-driving moms and dads arrived to leave the children at the church’s day school, the homeless had scattered to the streets, no doubt seeking shade and spare change.

Save for one black woman, who stayed the day on a bus bench near the parking lot. She was always dressed in several layers of clothes, her rusty shopping cart filled with possessions stashed behind the bench. Several times a day she would walk over to the church van and use the rear window as a mirror to check her hair, done up in pigtails with what looked — from a distance — to be aluminum foil.

My bride and I went away for nearly three weeks for our honeymoon in late July. When I returned to work, the homeless people were gone. Word was that the number of street folks enjoying the church’s largesse had grown unwieldy. There had been some unpleasant encounters. One day a crew came out and power-washed the parking lot and alley, as if to eliminate all traces.


Since early last summer, a middle-aged black man, nicely dressed in black, paces back and forth from 8:30 to 9:30 every Tuesday and Thursday morning, holding a small placard. He propped a few more placards, tent-style, on each end of the sidewalk by the church. Folks said hello to him, even waved as they entered or left the parking lot. I couldn’t read what the signs said from my office window, so one day recently I walked across the street to talk to him. I figured it involved some arcane denominational dispute.

He was happy to explain. His name is Harold, and he claims someone who volunteers in the church owes him $226.64 for etiquette lessons he provided. That is how me makes a living — that and his military pension. The signs are a bit harsh, calling this person a thief. One says, “A thief in the name of Jesus is still a thief.” I have no idea, or desire, to figure out who is in the right here, so I shake his hand and go back across the street.


I watched skateboarders swoop down the side street toward the Drag, a skill even when young I knew I could never acquire. As summer finally faded away sometime after Halloween, the gym shorts and Tyler’s T-shirts favored by female students gave way to tights tucked into Ugg boots, scarves draped around their necks once temperatures plunged into the 60s. The guys slouched into hoodies, of course. Aged professors walked creakily toward the Union while squirrels danced along the brick wall of the old carriage house across the alley from the church.

A family of possums took up residence in the sickly shrubs planted along the side of the church next to the alley. One day I watched out the office window as a fat possum waddled out under a bright sun, came down the alley into the church parking lot, and skittered under a parked car. I waited a while to see if someone would come out and have the Beelzebub scared out of her by the sight of a possum in broad daylight. But I had to give up and go to yet another meeting.

Another time, I was walking down the alley headed to lunch just as a possum leaped back into the shrubs. Since possums are nocturnal creatures, I worried about such behavior but decided I had larger concerns.


I enjoyed the view from the office window, seeing the Tower through a haze of fog to those rare times when rain lashed against the glass, hearing the muted sounds of the street performers setting up to perform in the pay-lot across the Drag. But the time has come to move along, to seek a new adventure, one that involves actually being able to live with my Beautiful Mystery Companion, daughter and dog back in East Texas. But I’ll still be filling this space each week, so please keep coming back.

P.S. I hope you enjoy the new website. Suggestions, critiques and kudos are always appreciated.

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  • Meredith


    Beautiful, Dad. East Texas is lucky to have you back.

    • admin


      Thanks, Mere. Do you get much spam in commenting. Man, I'm getting hammered. Just erased about 80 bs posts. Love, Dad

  • Don Hamilton


    Very enjoyable reading, as usual, old friend. As I read, I could not help but wonder if the church you were referring to was the University Methodist Church. You probably remember being a groomsman and photographer at a wedding in the chapel there many years ago. Enjoy Longview and your new life and I shall look forward to your perusings from time to time.

  • olmandon@aol.com


    I enjoyed the column, old friend. As I read, I could not help but wonder if the church to which you referred was the University Methodist Church. It seems to fit the description and locale details you provided. You probably remember being a groomsman and a photographer in a chapel there, many years ago. Enjoy Longview and your new life. I shall look forward to reading your perusings from time to time.

    • admin


      Thanks, Don. Yes. it is University Methodist, which I could see out my office window. I do remember the ceremony, albeit vaguely. My memory is pitiful at times. Ran into a buzz saw at UT, which was a bit disconcerting. But everything works out in the end. I'm glad to finally be able, once the house sells, to live with my family and quit this long commute. Take care, and I hope you keep reading. gb

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