North Park Marc
Marc has lived in North Park all his 49 years except the six he spent with the U.S. Marines. For the last 10 years, most of his days are spent pontificating from a central North Park picnic table, about everything from military failures to religion and local ordinances affecting homeless individuals. He affectionately refers to his fellow park dwellers as “these knuckleheads,” and knows the life cycles of the birds of prey living in the eucalyptus trees that provide the park’s only shade.
Marc’s military service included time in Panama, Sierra Leone, Saudia Arabia and Kuwait. He was a scout, he said, going ahead of the troops to mark coordinates for what targets needed to be hit, then going back in following a bombing raid to see what still needed to be “cleaned up.” He said his unit was the first one to arrive in Saudi Arabia. They engaged in a 100-hour war in Kuwait, he said. Another time it was 42 days of straight bombing raids. “Our main goal was to take out the Republican Guard. It was a cake walk,” Marc said.
The strategy fell apart once the enemy was removed from the urban centers, he offered. The Military Police that followed troops in to create and maintain a sense of order, were removed too soon. Looters took over the city and destroyed the euphoria that locals felt at being liberated and lost faith the U.S. knew what they were doing. Looters are the lowest form of life, he maintains, “They take advantage of the chaos for personal gain while everyone else is suffering. They should all be shot and the cops should be in jail.” He took it upon himself to intervene when two men were about to kill a child, taking out the two men. He was expelled from the Marines at the rank of lance corporal, and because of his actions, receives no financial or health benefits for his service.
The only assistance he receives from the government is the approximately $200 in food stamps currently allotted for that social service. He would rather fend for himself in the park than go inside or be part of a shelter or program that has multiple layers of rules. “Here in the park I can do whatever I want without repercussions,” he said. Nor does he trust the government. “I love my country, but the people who run it can kiss my ass.” A case in point was his love for raising reptiles and tropical fish. After coming home from a year deployment, he came home to the IRS going through his house confiscating and taking notes on all his possessions because he hadn’t paid taxes for the year while he was deployed. “I was deployed!” he told them. “I was defending your right to be wrong!”
He has strong opinions, though he admits to being soft-hearted. He loves helping people, but gets frustrated when he sees them giving up on helping themselves. He keeps his area of the park meticulously clean, picking up stray napkins that blow past his table from the tweakers splayed out on the grass nearby, fast asleep. He doesn’t allow drug deals at his table, though the occasional beer and legal pot are allowed within reason. He wants to make sure the park stays safe and supportive of the families in the neighborhood. He chides his stablemates when they swear in front of women and children.
The eighth child in a family where his mother wielded a heavy hand, and church on Sunday was not to be questioned, he couldn’t wait to join the military. His whole life growing up was drama. The only time his father raised a hand to him, he said, was a misunderstanding. Marc and his mother were in a pitched physical battle in the kitchen when his father walked in. Assuming Marc was the aggressor, the father picked Marc up and slammed his head into a wall. When everything got sorted out, Marc got ice cream for a month. He got his G.I. bill for graduating high school a year early, by enlisting in the Marines at age 17, though his Navy veteran father would have preferred he’d joined the Navy. Potentially incriminating federal hate crimes evidence against Marc and his fellow skinheads’ activities assaulting members of the LGBTQ community was also a factor in deciding to join the Marines. The military seemed a safer place than prison.
Coming home from the military, he lived with his mother for awhile, then found a more comfortable living in the alleys and the park. School kids who were ditching school would hang out with Marc and his crew, but they would always tell the kids to go to school. He quit doing narcotics on January 1, 2008, he said, he was tired of going to prison. Ironically, right after that decision, he was picked up on an outstanding warrant and sent back to prison. “I was a good boy, out on parole in 11 months,” he said, though he ended up back on the street, broke.
At one point, sleeping with his head down on the table, an older man tapped him on the shoulder asking if he would like to have some coffee and some of the cookies his wife had just baked. The kindness of Gordon and Sharon was transformative. “When you start spending more time in a cell than out, you need to make a change,” Marc said. “I found a church, became a caretaker.” He started making incremental changes in his attitude, even visiting his parole officer more than was a required, just to show off his new self. The day he was baptized, Marc walked over to his parole officer’s office, and stood outside the door grinning like a Cheshire cat, leaving a puddle of water from his soaked clothing on the hallway carpet.
He’s immensely proud of his association with the New Visions Church and the park clean ups they do, making sure the local muslim families know they are just as welcome in the park as everyone else even though it was a Christian group that cleaned it up. Local police also notice their efforts, Marc said, giving his table a wide berth during patrols. “This being nice is the hardest thing,” he said half joking, aware he needs to curb his anger at what he sees as blatant stupidity in his fellow humans. “I’ll give you three nice before I’ll hit you.”
His responsibilities with the church give him a pride he can hold onto. And he knows he las a long way to as a person, but at least feels he is in good company finally. “People ask me where I’m at in the Christian walk. Are you kidding? I’m still a baby!,” Marc said with a laugh. “I get voluntold to do stuff by my pastor all the time. Hey, it’s actually cool to be used,” he added.
“A lot of these people won’t get help because of dope, liquor …. Go get fixed. I’m babysitting adults out here. Whatever the main problem is, once you fix YOU, it’s a domino effect.”