When a bum meets a sucker

Open Space
Derek Franz
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Planning parties … sucks … sort of. There is always a fear of rejection: Will friends come? Or if not rejection, then something might go wrong. Someone might get hurt. Or someone might show up uninvited, like the transient who crashed a party of mine in college.

The apartment I shared with my roommate, Charlie, was ground level, next to the Boulder Creek bike path. That was the first problem. The second was that our “small gathering” became so successful we had no way to control the crowd. Our tiny space was so packed we didn’t notice the bum until he’d been schmoozing booze for some time. In perhaps the span of an hour, the angry, black, middle-aged homeless man creeped each guest out, one by one, until it was just the three of us standing in the kitchen.

He helped himself to the Jose Cuervo at 2 a.m. while Charlie and I looked at each other, wondering how we were going to get him out of our lives so we could go to bed. He wasn’t about to let us off the hook. Adept enough to know the untold dynamics of the situation better than any 21-year-old, the bum chatted like he was welcome, ignoring all social cues. As casually as he talked, however, he stuck to stories that hinted his physical power and anger. He was going to make it as hard and scary for us to get him out as he possibly could. Finally I sacked up. I asked him to leave. He got in my face, sucking down yet another shot of tequila as he accused me of being a rich, racist white boy. I should have punched him but I played into his stupid game. He knew right where to strike – the idealistic underbelly of nearly every white Boulder resident who preaches open-mindedness. Long conversation short, he manipulated me into giving him $20 to leave. Only he phrased it as “loan,” though we all knew better.

Shortly after, I coincidentally learned how to use throwing knives. I practiced on a stump out back by the creek, hoping to scare the hell out of that guy someday. He was smart enough not to hang around, though. All I managed to do was freak out the girls who lived in the area, my knives pinging into dead wood while darkness fell.

That whole experience was on my nerves when I planned a party for last weekend. Besides all the what-ifs, I had yet to even decorate the empty walls, let alone clean and bake food. I took half a day off work to run around around and get myself together, plus – oh, yeah – I still had to invite people!

It’s a mystery why an anal-retentive person like me would invite hordes of people to his home, where knick-knacks might be broken and beer spilled like laughter on the furniture. I guess it’s because I truly love my friends. There are so many of you in this valley! You know what I don’t like, though? Bums. Freeloaders. People who would take advantage of hospitality. That’s why my BB pistol was loaded and stashed, though it wasn’t needed on Saturday.

Derek Franz thinks there is a thin line between assuming the best in people and being a sucker. He is also wondering how to get Silly String out of carpet. Send tips to

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