Traffic is deadlocked at the intersection of Clark, Diversey, and Broadway, and as a driver struggles to negotiate a right turn he is suddenly greeted by a short man who, thrusting himself into the middle of the now moving traffic, raises his right arm high above his head, and then pushes his left forward in a churning, chugging motion that seems to propel him into the street.
"Hello sir," he yells, knocking on the car's window. He then stops short and, giving a crisp, military-style salute, gestures outward, "I'm hungry and could use a sandwich--do you have any food? I need some food."
Frightened or perplexed, the driver rolls up his window and hits the gas; the little man in the street adjusts his backpack and wades on through the traffic, oblivious to the cars speeding, stopping, and turning around him.
For the past three years Darryl Hodge has been making a set run every day, beginning near Broadway and Montrose early in the day, sometimes leading him as far south as the Loop before he returns home.
"I'm on a disability pension and have been living on the streets for three years," Hodge said as he sat down to eat a donated sandwich just off Broadway. "I got a place to sleep, it's a good place that's hard to find, near Broadway and Montrose, and that's where I live when I'm not flying.
"It's also rough out there," Hodge continued, staring seriously at his lunch. "I don't cheat, I don't rob, and I don't steal, even though I could, so I am dependent on others for money to buy food."
Hodge, who stands about five feet four and bears a slight resemblance to jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins, continued to munch on his lunch, then began to wind down his machinery on this unusually warm winter day.
"I have been doing this for a while," he said, "trying to survive and get food. I start every day at Montrose and Broadway and go as far as I can, and sometimes the people are all right and sometimes they aren't. Some of the stores are OK, too, like the liquor store on Broadway and Belmont, and I never have any trouble with the police. They are just doing their job," he continued as his face brightened, "and I am just doing mine, so we leave each other alone.
"I like to fly because it's more fun than walking, but one time when I was in Detroit something really funny happened. I was taking off on an expressway ramp and some guy asked if he could film me. Well I said it was OK," Hodge continued, "and about two weeks later the guy stopped and pulled me into his van. I started to watch myself on videotape and I couldn't believe how crazy I looked.
"It's funny," he said, his large brown eyes gazing sadly onto the street, "but at that moment I thought that I must look really crazy in other people's eyes, and at that time I thought about getting a job."
With that he finished his sandwich and put the others into his pack. After a few moments of silence, he got up and said he had to catch a flight to Cleveland. Then he raised his right arm high in the air while his left arm pulled an imaginary lever, and he quickly headed south on Clark, chugging along, and not stopping for red lights.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jon Randolph.