Tampa was nice, Tampa was hot and I was really not dressed for the heat. My bag was back at the bus station and I was looking for a cool place to spend the rest of the day. At least I found what was known as the "Mission" on the streets, but it wasn't what I believed a Mission ought to be. It consisted of two young girls, volunteers from a nearby church, who knew about Sunday services and that was about it. They turned up their noses at the thought of "any body" working in "this heat". I headed back to the bus station. One guy had told me that Orlando had a "neat" Mission. So, I caught another bus.
There was a bathroom on board and a good place to change clothes. It was just as hot in Orlando.
I asked about the "Mission" and could find no one who seemed to know anything about one in Orlando, even the Police who were wondering about me. They stopped me and asked for ID. "From Texas, eh? What are you doing in Orlando?" and then before I could answer, "Where were you last night?" It was a good thing that I had kept my copy of my bus ticket. There had been a rape in downtown Orlando last night and the witnesses had told the Police, "He looked like a transient."
They told me about the "rescue" Mission and I headed there, being told I would have to wait in line to get a bed and it was a long line, in the heat I was really not interested in a bed, I was interested in finding friends on the streets. One of the guys ahead of me asked if I knew about the "Coffee" house that was nearby. "They don't have beds, but they do have good coffee and good music." I got out of the line and headed for the Coffee house, which was open, even though it was still morning.
I walked in and found some guys sorting through food donations and old clothes. I asked about the music and was told that it started around Seven in the evening, but they did not have any coffee. I left to discover more about downtown Orlando. The first place I found had "rooms" to rent and I signed up for a week. "Are you sure you want a week?" the clerk asked. "Yes, of course. Why do you ask?" "We don't get many white guys in this place" was his answer and I assured him, I wanted to stay a week. I headed along the same street and came to the Orange Blossom Trail that I had heard about when we were coming back from Miami a couple of years before. "That is where the 'action' is' I was told then, so I headed South to see what I could see. Sure enough, I came across a couple of 'ladies' who wondered why I was walking. I gave them some 'smart aleck' answer and then asked them if they knew Jesus. "I just knew he was a 'preacher boy' when we saw him coming down the street," one told the other one, "Where are your 'tracts', preacher man?"
I ignored the question and then told them I was just passing through town. "Any chance there is a place close where we could get a beer?" I asked and they pointed to a place down the street. "I'll be heading there and if you ladies would like to have a beer with me, come on along." It did not surprise me that it took awhile, but they eventually joined me. They had to be in their early twenties and one thing led to another until I had to ask, "Why?" What did surprise me was that the younger of the two had a tale to tell and when she paused, the other one shared hers. They had a "man" and I would learn, he lived in the same place I had just rented a room. That did not surprise me, either. "I will tell you what I can do if you are interested. There was a hotel I passed across the street from the Rescue Mission. Give me a couple of hours and I will rent you a room in that hotel. Just give me the names you would be are using." They looked at one another and then wrote something down on a piece of paper they got from the bar tender. It was their names and i told them, their room would be available by 4PM.
They left and the bartender laughed as he had obviously overheard our conversation. "Man, that was cool and you get to shack up with them for the rest of the night, eh?" "No sir, I probably will never see either of them again, but if I do, I bet they will be interested in the "Jesus" who they will discover was the name of the guy who rented their room for them." They were gone from the street when I left the bar and I was glad about that. If I was to stay in Orlando, I didn't want a reputation of dealing with hookers.
I guess I walked a couple of miles along the "OBT" which was what the 'natives' seemed to call it and when I got tired, I took a cab back to the hotel I had mentioned to the 'ladies'. With a tip in advance, I had no problem of paying for the room in advance for my "cousins" who would get there about 4PM. He was really surprised when I told him that I was paying for a week in advance.
Then I headed back to the Coffee house and sat down outside of the door that was locked. I knew that others would be joining me and it didn't take long. My clothes were not new, but they had been used and I knew that fact would help others to join me. All I did was ask a lot of questions and listen. When they told me they thought they were out of coffee, I excused myself and headed for the restaurant across the tracks.
On my way, I took a $50 bill I had hidden in my socks and asked for the manager when I walked in. "I want to buy a case of coffee," I told him, "and have you deliver it to the Coffee house down the street. Have your man tell them that it came from Jesus, when He had heard they were out, OK? It was a deal and I walked the other way to be certain that no one would believe it came from me.