Tucson Salvage: The Boxer | Tucson Salvage

If there’s ever been a city beacon of sugary optimism and hope, it’s one of those Dunkin ‘Donuts / Baskin-Robins combo things, all pink and orange, chirping and bright, and when the hot wind turns just right, the smell of donuts sweetens the disgusting mix of car exhaust and melting parking lot tar. Creates unholy chaos on an empty stomach.

The Tucson Junction is otherwise characterized by utterly universal serenity, the 24-hour Walgreens, a BBVA bank, a closed auto-detailing joint. Wait there in the shadowless 106-degree parking lot as if you were a police officer or as if you were a coping, or as if you were waiting for a noon action, some action and there he is, moving with inner strength, pacing up and down , between the Dunkin ‘Donuts / Baskin-Robins sign (its flashing message board reads “Order in advance and skip the wait”) and the shady bus stop.

Soon there is an assessment of the enemy, the corner traffic light pole, an elbow bump. Like a boxer, he jumps back a few steps, as light as a feather in a red bandit scarf, and lowers himself into the fighting position, fists up, feet apart, and he fires, knuckles street metal in a precise rhythm, um-bip-bip, uh bip- bip, yes. He jumps back, satisfied, spins once and again, fists clenched, this time a two-stage dance, and, um bi-bip, um bi-bip, yeah … If that official pole of the Department of Transportation were a person, he was down, Man.

A snow-haired guy in a cowboy hat and a shitty white pickup truck with the front bumper hanging down parks at Dunkin ‘, gets out and sits under the tiny orange awning, a lean overhang that only implies shade but barely protects against bird shit, a cosmetic prop like it is don’t really want people hanging out outside in daylight. He doesn’t notice the boxer. A woman who teaches her son, points her finger hard in the face, waits at the end of the traffic at the red light, the SUV air conditioning blows back her hair, does not see the boxer, although he is right there. In fact, the maybe a hundred people in every direction at this busy intersection would see him right now if they looked. There is no audience, and like something Paul Simon once sung, its story is seldom told.

Then the boxer sees a flash of green, disappears across the street into a blurry shop window on Grant Road and Swan.

He later reappears across the street in the shadow of the closed car boutique, a long time ago a gas station. The boxer is AG, “AG Gonzales”. His aesthetic shows self-care, meticulous street samurai lines, a hoodie hanging from his head, a knife and bandanas dangling from belt loops, black cycling gloves adorn his hands. He wears white, sturdy construction site boots, his clothes are neatly folded and stowed in his two shopping trolleys, the backs are tied together at the front and in which boxes, rucksacks and a serrated machete are close at hand. Hand sanitizer on top.

There are six others here, men and women, young and wrinkled, huddled together for the shade and the one working electrical outlet, their belongings, and bagged ice, groceries, and clay. Veiled, tired and patient as cattle, waiting to be told what they are doing wrong.

The summer gaws in front of them – the burning days, the hours in a vacuum, the constant ugly sizzling of traffic, the shitty song you can imagine gets stuck on repetition and booms from invisible speakers. Indifference reigns here, nimble and smooth, and a few come and go, all energy sunk into the horrors of street life, the vain search for a tiny bit of comfort. Could also be handcuffed to a heating pipe. Yet there is peace and contribution here, a place where the haves share and reveal so much more – hell, everything – than the haves. It’s unwritten benevolence easy to see that they value one another – there is an unspoken domestic bond, some kind of family guarantee in what they are together.

A young woman with an intriguing swirl of a thigh tattoo in sailor greens and blues walks over and hands Gonzales a full container of apple juice. Another asks if he would like banana chips. The crowd of people are not exactly friends, Gonzales calls them acquaintances, yet he entrusts them with his cart when he steps away, his knowing instinct for people, how to break away from the “liars and thieves”.

A guy with huge Jesus hair massages the back, shoulders and stomach of a woman sitting on a curb, the tenderness softens her face under long blond curls and shows an urgent need.


Gonzales does not talk or explain much, as if he sees himself as a series of traditional anecdotes, a disconnection from himself and the world: he never met his father, has no desire to do so. He is 29 and has been homeless for 10 years, has been jailed for trespassing (“everyone has”) and is often pressured by police officers to move on (“They are trying to get us to go northwest of here”). He has severe PTSD , mostly “termination problems”; his mother had “her own life” growing up and she lives somewhere in Tucson now, he doesn’t know where. He has siblings but only talks to one sister, who sometimes helps him with money, and on a rare day when there’s nothing left to share, he hangs a charity sign on the corner. His spanish is fine, which helps.

Born in Tucson, attended high school somewhere on the “east side” studying for a GED and the last time he laughed was yesterday and it was good. “We have our shows,” he nods, “and I rap some.”

Gonzales suffers from bipolar ADHD, multi-personality disorder, “all of it”. And the doctors? “You never helped.”

“Honestly,” says the boyish man, “I’ve been doing this for too long, I’m sick of it.” He pulls down his scarf to make the conversation clearer and a strikingly handsome face shows up, this engaging blend of Native American and Hispanic genes has done him many favors, the dark features, sharp of facial growth, and the unbearable considering the decade tough street, he looks younger than he is.

When Gonzales stands still, his wiry body gives the feeling that he could buckle under the pressure of the act. When he moves he’s a lean boxer. Makes sense in view of the constant street fights and persecutions, the unprovoked clashes with right-wing assholes and elitist liberals.

“It’s not that we’re bothering them. Some want to help the community – the good side – but they still make us the bad guys. Many of us do nothing to hurt or steal someone. Why be rude? us?

“You can be in a house,” he continues. “We have to make ours. You are allowed to go to work every day, shower every day. “We hurt. After a moment, he adds, “I’m not homeless. I’m homeless. I can build a little house that I sleep in with cardboard and my shopping cart.”

Gonzales’ street boxing is liberation, a kind of livelihood, a frustration in the wounds of a life so learned he can barely recognize it. The machete and knife protect against this, although he insists that he never had to pull them on anyone, “but you never know.”

He gave up looking for some jobs under the table years ago. Mentally disabled aside, someone out here stole their birth certificate and ID, another absolute nightmare to negotiate. He has nothing to show who the hell he is. And he won’t hack stolen property, himself or drugs: “Hell no. That will lead you to prison, to death. That’s crazy. My only drugs are cigarettes and weed, which aren’t even a drug anymore when I can get it. ”

Fear of yourself alleviates some struggles as well as intensifies others. He will explode if he is jailed, handcuffed, or placed in a temporary home like the Salvation Army. For example there is claustrophobia, PTSD. “It’s better that I don’t, I don’t know what could happen. I’m going to have blackouts so I don’t know what the result will be tomorrow morning.”

He pulls a half-melted popsicle from a cellophane wrapper, the last one from a box he shares among his friends.

“Okay, I’ll get on with my day,” he says, biting into the rest of the thing, careful not to spill the red liquid on himself. He’s half grinning. “I’m waiting to talk to some people who owe me money.”

And the boxer enters his grim column of trolleys, arranges a few things on top of that, and tries to resume the fight, at least until night falls.

He turns around and says, “The world is corrupt, people are fascinated by violence. It’s a great mystery.”


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