Requiem For A Wino


They pulled the plug on “Pops” the other day at Huntington Memorial Hospital.

He was brain dead and his family members called the last shot for Pops, that’s the way he would have wanted it. According to the other winito’s Pops was dragging his leg and arm around totally limp for three weeks, his mouth was twisting at the corner and his headaches were increasing in intensity. The winito’s said that even though they were begging Pops too go to the hospital he wouldn’t budge and finally went into convulsions and someone called 911.

Pops was one of the local neighborhood winitos, they usually consist of between half a dozen and a dozen alcoholics depending on who is busted or in detox or has gotten religion. Pops was the undisputed “mero chingon”of the local bottle gang, a well-liked, well-spoken, very respectable gentleman callejero, who everybody in the neighborhood (except the LAPD) was fond of.

Pops was in his late forties and an old vato loco from Big Hazard who had lived la vida loca and who was finally worn down and given a ten count by life. He had a brother who was also an ex pinto and street person, he also has a brother who is a detective with the LAPD and a sister who is a attorney for the LA County Prosecutors Office, a not too uncommon family dynamic in the LA Eastside.

Over the years his family tried to get help for Pops but to no avail, some might say his life was his choice and maybe they are right, but I don’t think so. Sometimes no matter how a family tries, no matter how intelligent and street smart a person is, no matter how evident the outcome is, the demons inside a person decide. Was it a woman? Was it a childhood trauma? Was it a biological disorder?

Who’s to say, except there by the grace of God go I.

There are many neighborhoods that have a local wino group, if you live on the LA Eastside it’s a given that you have some local winito’s down at the corner.

Pops and his callejero homies were all good vato’s who would watch your house and report any funny business, they were also more up on the chisme and pedo going on than any newpaper or news source.

Hey Pops, what’s up with all the shooting and cars peeling out and sirens I been hearing all night lately? Pops, “ hang tight and stay low for awhile cause it’s the Avenues and Highland Park gangsters who are on the prowl and looking for each other”. Pops, “Hey last night there was a shooting and fight down on Figueroa, it’s Avenue 43 and Clover lately”, or, “Oh the new gavachos who moved into Tito’s old house are both teachers at the Montessori school in Eagle Rock, they got no kids but have two Cocker Spaniel dogs”, or,

“Hey did you hear? Rocky and Chencha broke up, he moved in with a young mojadita over in South Gate”.

All the news fit or unfit to hear could be gleaned from Pops or the other winito’s.

I used to let Pops or his homies park there bikes in the backyard, I’ll buy one of them a burrito sometimes, at times I or the people in the neighborhood will give them some money for a tall boy or a short dog when they are broke and crudo and have the shakes and hurting in the morning.

Sometimes these unfortunates are despised and abused by people as undesirables, dirty, drunk, and insane. I’ve seen many of these poor souls after being beaten to a pulp, stabbed, bleeding, incoherent, not wanting a doctor but a drink. The LAPD constantly hassling them and threatening them. telling them to move on.

Pops was a good guy, all his winito homies are in a terrible state of sadness and mourning over Pops death, they blame themselves for not doing something more for him.

RIP Pops and May the Lord, or whoever is in charge, protect the winito’s from harm.

Diego Rivera. The Day of the Dead. 1924. Fresco. Ministry of Education, Mexico City, Mexico.

11 thoughts on “Requiem For A Wino

  1. if i got change i always give it,unless i am in a bad mood.on christmas i like to pass out lenos to the bums, one time i had a huge bag of shake close to a half pound i wasn’t going to smoke it i gave it one one of the locals bums and he just said this is for me and i said its yours he stuffed it under his shirt and took of running i never seen him so happy.

  2. What a beautifully written and very moving elegy, DQ.

    Indeed Pops, rest in peace.

  3. Great piece DQ! These are the kind of stories that prove LA Eastside is unique!

    There’s a few small wino camps around LH, they’re all mostly harmless, they just want to get their drunk on and sit and talk and wino-out. There was one guy with a really good singing voice and he’d break out into song regularly though I haven’t seen him in awhile. I’ve caught some of them stealing my potted plants from my front porch at night, but they don’t move too fast and are easy to catch. They don’t put up a fight, they just hand over the plants and plead forgiveness. Just trying to get by, we’ve all been there.

  4. Thank you for this beautiful tribute DQ!
    My great uncle David was part of the winito crowd on Cesar Chavez back when it was known as Brooklyn. He liked to drink and hang out on the street but also tried to keep appearances by taming his hair with Tres Flores and wearing slacks.
    I’d often see him on the street but I don’t think he even realized we were related. My favorite memory of him was watching him coolly take in a performance of Circle Jerks at one of the last Street Scene festivals Downtown.

  5. Thank you all for the slap on the back, we all need one sometimes. Pops was one of those people (we all know or are related to someone like him) who might be called an underachiever, although that is not really fair, who with all this talent and natural ability, like Chavo’s friend the street singer, battled demons all his life and never caught a real break. Some people are more sensitive than others and life just kicks the shit out of them, and they end up self medicating with drugs and alcohol.
    How many talented and especially artistically inclined people, who never get the nurturing or catch a real break end up living that merciless street existence?

  6. Whenever I come across Winitos I take it as an opportunity to be kind and social to my fellow man (or woman)and treat them in the manner most human beings like to be treated. Just because they’re down & out or messed up for whatever reasons, doesn’t mean they won’t respond to a friendly “Hey man, what’s up?” In fact, I never met a Wino who didn’t respond in friendly fashion to my greetings. That’s more than I can say for all the “non-winos” out there I’ve passed on the street.
    Thanks for the post DQ.

  7. Just to follow up on odd incident that plays to Al Desmadre taking opportunities to be kind: I was biking home a couple weeks ago along the Ballona Creek Bikeway between Mar Vista and Culver City. Some scruffy guy was lugging a trash bag up the concrete bank stuffed full of recyclables he’d probably spent all day collecting. As he got to the guard rail he saw me approaching and for no reason I could understand let loose calling me “motherfucking fuckhead” and “fucking faggot!” among other insults. I’m not sure if he was trying to goad me into a fight or just letting off steam but as I passed him I just shrugged and let out an exasperated “Have a nice night my friend!” and kept on going. If nothing else, it shut him up.

    This morning coming in to work I passed him and he was down at the water’s edge. When he saw me I fully expected another tirade, but instead he stopped, smiled and gave me a thumbs up. I returned the favor.

  8. Maybe that angry dude just has a problem with his mind, and that keeps him from holding a regular job.

    dq: that was a beautiful elegy.

  9. You know the thing with most people who have more obvious challenges if you get past the what is and what is not appropriate and talk to people, regardless of who they are or their circumstances even if they are rude to you or seem rude nine out of ten times those people will be cool with you.

    I had a freind once who told me that with people like the man in the above story, your neighborhood alcoholic, the neighborhood collector of cans…etc…is that at some point people stop talking to them and that is what makes people go off the deep end.

    If you are human and no other human talks to you it can make you crazy or at least more crazy.

    Imagine how different LA would be if everyone made an effort to say hello to everyone regardless of people’s circumstances.


  10. Will, Al, Browne, all, that is the point of my story, just because someone is on the skids,a homeless wino, crazy street person, or a hype, doesn’t mean that they aren’t fellow human beings who also have a story and a history.
    A kind word, a couple of bucks, a recognition of them as human beings, even with all the baggage, is what in the final analysis makes us human beings.
    Lord knows that this seems to be in short supply in much of our society today.

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