The Neighbors You Don't Know

The Clump of Woods, Terrible Tee's war club, and other stories from lives lived outdoors in the city

Tee hands Willie the remainder of a day-old cocktail, a fruit juice and vodka mix. Willie tucks it into the corner of the tent for safekeeping. Tall Joe takes a tug of beer. He looks at Willie and urges him to get dried out. "All the drinking and partying we're doing is just a slow way of committing suicide," Tall Joe says, tossing an empty into the trash heap. "And there goes another one."

After a little while, Dobson, Tall Joe, and Tee go on their way. Willie stays behind. "It was nice of you to drop by," he says. "Happy New Year."


Mike Mosedale

The first week of the new year did not bring much in the way of good fortune to Willie or Tall Joe. Willie went missing for a few days. When he finally surfaced back at the Clump of Woods, he told Dobson that he woke up at Hennepin County Medical Center with no idea how he wound up there. He remembers that his bad leg was hurting terribly and that he was drinking hard. Then nothing.

On the first Sunday of the new year, Dobson made his regular stop to visit the North Side Boys. Tall Joe was there. In the middle of the fellowship, he went into a convulsive seizure and was taken by ambulance to HCMC. "My alcohol level got too low," he explained a week later when he was back on the streets. In the interim, he reported, the city boarded the house where his buddies were squatting. He'd been couch surfing, still hoping to get into treatment.

For Terrible Tee, the new year brought a better sort of change: She got an apartment of her own.

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