Street people were rarely homeless. Some had substance abuse and emotional problems, but not all. Most had very unique skills and abilities. They just used the street as their living room where they entertained their friends. There were several unique humans inhabiting the area.
Atlantis Rising became a gathering place. I worked with the crew renovating the grocery store into Atlantis Rising. It was the most unique and friendly place. Anyone felt welcomed to hang out under the inside tree in the gallery. There was an old wino, Jacob, who had been given acid which had dried him out. Now he was a philosopher ex-drunk, still-bum expert on living on the fringes. He stood ready to share his advice and opinions with anyone who showed the slightest interest. On the corner of 10th and Peachtree going East past the liquor store was a stereotypical Chinese laundry. The man who owned and operated it was called Mr. Chin. He still dressed in Chinese robes and knew little English. What English he did know was almost impossible to understand because of his accent. He as known for his excellent cleaning and had over the years of hard work put three kids through college. They were all middle-class now and begged him to leave the area now Hippies had over run it. Mr. Chin liked Hippies. They were polite and did not mistreat or make fun of him.
At the end of each month Mr. Chin brought all the clothes that had been unclaimed over a month at his shop, to the free store the Diggers ran inside Atlantis Rising. Each afternoon he came to sip tea under the inside tree and play chess with speed freaks. His opponents mumbled away ninety to nothing. Mr. Chin talked excitedly and emotionally in Chinese and English, occasionally waving his hands. Neither opponent understood anything the other said, but they would at times look at the other and nod with deep understanding. I watched many games and could never discern any rules. Mr. Chin or his speed-freak opponent would pick up a piece and move it in any direction for any number of jumps. Sometimes checkers were added. This might be followed by excited talk and a piece being removed from or placed back upon the table. The same player might take several turns in a row. Sometimes disputes arose and incomprehensible arguments ensued. Weirdly, babbling back and forth always seemed to bring them to mutual satisfaction and the game continued. At some point they seemed to just as incomprehensibly decide one of them had won. They would shake, Mr. Chin would bow deeply. And each went their separate ways.
Watching these wonderland games was the most intriguing thing of an already strange workday at Atlantis Rising.
Jacob,The Strip’s wino lawyer sage.
Wolfe and Tom ‘The Birdman’ Millican at his perpetual post across from the Mitchell House at 10th Street.
Little Stevie, Mouse. The list goes on and on …