The Ghost of Ramiro


This homeless man used to be my neighbor, maybe around 5-7 years ago. Nowadays he carries his belongings in a shopping cart and passes the days doing weird crazy things, like shaking his head at full throttle in a circle as if he’s trying to cast off the pulgas or just wants it to pop off entirely. He doesn’t seem to recognize me, but I remember him.

Back when I first moved to Lincoln Heights you could find all kinds of good deals on big spaces, that all seems gone now. But it was quite common to see renters moving to and from houses on the same block, either cuz they were forced out or they just found a better deal. (I lived in 3 different places on one block: once just 2 houses down from the first, then right across the street. Moving is kinda less complicated but you end up having to walk that damn heavy fridge over longer distances than if you were loading it onto a truck.) Incredibly, I ended up being the next door neighbor to Ramiro and his family twice, even when we both moved out of that first block.

When I first met Ramiro he used to often sit in his blue pickup truck, drinking a beer, it seemed to be his getaway spot. But since he was parked right outside his place, his wife Maria (yeah, that was her name, I’m not making this shit up) was always calling him for something. Usually a trip to the market or somewhere. No matter if I was just getting home, helping out with the garden, or trying to get the shitty car to run, his salutation of choice was always Ya Mero? Since it was a question (basically, ‘almost done?’) it usually led to some response that explained a little about what I was doing and a small conversation ensued. When I was in a hurry the response was simply Si, ya mero.

Maria always seemed exasperated with him, I think it was because of his drinking but it was probably other things as well. At first he seemed okay. Once we were neighbors at the second location it was obvious the drink had taken hold of him. He wasn’t working and was just getting drunk, day in and out. Cops started showing up to the house regularly as well as paramedics, the poor man’s doctor. Ramiro seemed to be losing it, he had the shakes really bad and I’d see him sitting on his porch with a twelve of Natural Light at 8am, chugging them down as if he was on a deadline. At some point he got into the habit of peeing on the lawn, with his dick completely in view of the public yet he was not at all concerned, as if he was unaware of anyone or anything.

Then he disappeared.


Maria hinted that he had problems, I didn’t probe. But Ramiro was gone. I figured he died, considering his health issues. Maybe he could have ended up in jail, but I really doubted it since he didn’t fuck with anyone, just minding his own aluminum can. Whatever, he was gone. Eventually the family moved away and about two years after that I ran into Maria in a different stretch of Lincoln Heights. I didn’t ask about him as she had obviously moved on and was doing relatively well with her life. She was still friendly and neighborly, despite our past confrontations over that missing ruda. Emergency health remedies need no approval in the middle of the night.

Earlier this year I was driving by the laundromat and I spotted some homeless guy that looked familiar, but it didn’t seem possible. A week or two later I get a close up look, and sure enough, it’s the dead guy Ramiro. Or formally dead, at least to me. He had a few blankets and lots more issues than I remember. He doesn’t seem to be drinking anymore but that past seems to have altered his mind. He looks around a lot but doesn’t focus on anything. He has the craziness now. I gave him some pocket change, he didn’t recognize me. He mutters things to himself, I can’t pick up what he is saying.

Mostly I run into him at the laundry. The day I took these pics he seemed to be hovering all over, since I encountered him again a few hours later in a different part of town. He’s not a friend of mine, just some random ex-neighbor. I think the idea for this post is just to document how a person moves from the margins of society over to that void thats off the page.


This is the body of Ramiro, it still moves and functions, but it’s a shell of the person it once was. No, he’s not destined to be a footnote in history, he’s just another ordinary man making his way through the same coil we all traverse. He just got to an unexpected bend faster than most of us.

This is the specter of a forgotten man.

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12 Responses to The Ghost of Ramiro

  1. CWM says:

    great post,man

  2. browne says:

    It’s always weird to see someone become one of the walking dead. I went to high school with this real party girl. Then years after graduation I saw this homeless woman talking to herself. And I just stared at her and looked down real quick.

  3. kualyque says:

    wow, right on. thanks for writing this. set this side by side with all that Steve Lopez Soloist violin player stuff and you see why just the mere contrasting presence of something beautiful, real, and truthful, is such a threat in that it highlights what is missing in those stories and works that mainly just make for “nice” and easily consumable books and movies for that other population of walking dead.

  4. CWM says:

    one of the sad things about this story is that the dude probably just needed some basic social services—a little drug and alcohol treatment and some mental health services, I’d guess—to get his shit together, but of course that was inaccessible to him, like it is to some many of us. And now whatever potentials he had–to love, to create, etc–are likely being wasted as the voices in his head and the hunger in his stomach drag him to a certain death.

    Meanwhile, in other news, Obama is giving billions to the bankers and insurance companies…

    It’s fucking sick.

  5. tin says:

    you can sure tell a story. for some reason, i haven’t had good luck meeting my neighbors. i just move so much, from city to city. i hope ramiro finds a place to call home soon.

  6. RosaMaria says:

    We all encounter people like Ramiro, but we’re too busy with our own little lives. How many of us would actually take the time to seriously reach out and help a Ramiro? On the other hand, I know of a homeless woman who hung out at a freeway off-ramp, in the Valley. She had reached the bottom. She had a little tent and people would hand her some change or a carton of milk. One day, one of the usual commuters reached out. He actually contacted several other people who were also familiar with the woman. They found out she had family out of state. They raised funds for her, cleaned her up, got in touch w/ her family and payed for a flight back home. Sigh….she was back 10 months later, under another little tent, waiting for handouts again. Don’t know about Ramiro, but some people, whether they’re aware or not, don’t want help.

  7. alienation says:

    I once ran into an elementary school friend hustling at the gas station. He looked like he’d derailed his life, and we talked. He bullshitted me. I was kind of scared, not of him, but of that feeling of what if it were me in his shoes. I wanted to get his number and hang out, but I didn’t. At the time, I was dropping into some depression, and when you’re profoundly blue, you shouldn’t get anywhere near drugs or drink, and I was scared. CWM is right on. If he’s reading this: I am sorry.

  8. eerriikkaa says:

    Some heavy stuff and you always deliver.

    This really makes me think twice about the homeless people who wander the streets in the city I live in.

  9. el chavo, great posting. i wonder a lot about the people that have lost control of themselves. and it’s a reminder that we as humans need constant interaction and support in order to stay sane. a simple hello can change the course of someone’s day. unfortunately for Ramiro, things didn’t turn out for the best.

  10. Posquien says:

    great post! very insightful…

  11. Dude says:

    Its all fun and games till somebody gets hurt. Another loser in someone elses game pays the ultimate price.

  12. Lorena says:

    this is a sad, but beautiful story. Why is it that some of the best stories come out of the pain of living, that as human beings we can all identify with? There is a strange space between fear and intrigue, like rubber necking at an accident that causes us to look

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