Currently, the house on Williams includes a down-on-his-luck traveling musician and his family, a transgender man with multiple personality disorder, and a former meth addict who goes by the name Styxx.
With his ever-present aviator sunglasses and mustache, Styxx looks like some badass hybrid of Burt Reynolds and Steve Earle. He is a touch antisocial. When Kimes drops by his room in one of the converted sheds, Styxx screws the volume knob on his stereo so hard that Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” nearly blows Kimes out the door. Kimes blames the long-term meth use.
“Styxx,” he sighs. “Not exactly a people person.”
Tonight at the Yellow Church, Styxx is in charge of the audio-visual portion of the program. Music is his thing. Riding shotgun in the van, he takes over the stereo and pummels everyone with Led Zeppelin. On the way he growls excitedly about the time he landed the sweet speakers now housed in his apartment (“Speakers for tweakers, man,” he barks, “speakers for tweakers.”).
Kimes stops at Fred Meyer for microwavable bowls. In the checkout line, the magazine rack is filled with the likes of People and Us, airbrushed photos of John Travolta and his dead son on the covers. “Tragedy,” the headlines scream. On TV, Mayor Sam Adams is explaining his indiscretion. But empty pop-culture hand-wringing is not only worthless to the five folks in aisle twelve, it’s not even within their realm of reality. Socks. Soup. Hot coffee. These are the only currencies that matter.
At the church, Nikki and Mercy start setting up folding tables and chairs. An hour later, the Anawim congregation begins shuffling in. They’re greeted by the aroma of chicken tortilla soup and warm bread spilling from the kitchen, the sound of Jimmy Page’s satanic fret-work, and a slide show that Kimes has created of trippy Escher-meets-Bilbo-Baggins-style art in which feet morph into tree roots.
Kimes is a whirlwind of empathy. He shakes hands with friends who haven’t bathed in weeks. He hugs people who smell of urine. He passes out hand warmers. When a mentally ill man named Al becomes agitated and stomps away angrily, Kimes keeps after him: “We care, Al,” he yells after him. “We’re always here.”
With everyone finally fed, the lights go down. Thirty grizzled homeless men and women who have withstood some of life’s worst punishments settle into the dark—bellies full, bodies warm—to laugh at the misadventures of an animated elephant voiced by Jim Carrey. A man who looks like Charlie Manson starts chanting, “Horton, Horton … ”
Kimes slips into the back of the room and slumps onto a hard wooden pew. This is the burgeoning community of his dreams, realized in miniature: a self-sufficient operation that relies on hard work, interdependency, and a little luck to get by. For the first time in hours, he lets himself relax.