Originally published July 15, 2001
Slumped against a low stone wall, Cecil Leading Horse reaches for his bottle of Wild Irish Rose, loses his balance and tips over onto the sidewalk and into the rain.
By chance, a firetruck rumbles by the weedy sidewalks and boarded-up businesses of this flat stretch of Tacoma Avenue South. Spotting Cecil, the crew pulls to the curb and calls for an ambulance.
Four paramedics move in.
"Where do you want to go today, Cecil?" one asks good-naturedly as the paramedics hoist the 54-year-old homeless alcoholic onto a gurney. "How about Tacoma General? The nurses are cuter there."
Stinking like mildewed socks, Leading Horse – known to everyone who deals with him as Cecil – snorts and shakes a wobbly, tattoo-covered fist. He mashes his lips together, but no sound comes out. Finally, he growls something indecipherable at his helpers.
One of the paramedics snickers. But most people who deal with Tacoma's most infamous wino find little to laugh at anymore.
Since Cecil arrived here from Seattle 11 years ago, his chronic boozing has cost taxpayers, ambulance services and hospitals an estimated $2.1 million.
One private ambulance company ranks him No. 1 in Western Washington and No. 9 in the nation among its most frequent customers.
Cecil's landed in Tacoma's two major hospitals a combined 820 times and in Seattle's Harborview Medical Center another 120 times. He's also spent hundreds of hours in smaller hospitals, overnight detox centers and Pierce County Jail.
In all this time, no one in Tacoma has figured out how to help Cecil kick his decades-old habit. Neither a task force of police, social service workers and hospital staffers nor a high-level study has done any good. Cecil talks about quitting, but his resolve trickles away as soon as he sees his street buddies guzzling from a brown-paper sack.
"I see an empty beer can, and I start craving it," says Cecil, whose swollen, pockmarked face looks like a lump of reddish-brown clay that still needs molding. Two small brown, permanently blood-shot eyes tell of a man resigned to his addiction.
No one – including Cecil – really knows much about his history, though he's as much a fixture here as the bus stop bench at South Ninth Street and Tacoma Avenue South where he sleeps most nights. Cecil carries no identification. No wallet-size photos. No old letters. Nothing.
Through the boozy fog, scraps of an earlier life emerge. But if there's any truth to his tales of bayoneting enemy soldiers in the jungles of Vietnam, then the U.S. Marines have no record of it. And what of the college degree in criminology Cecil says he's just two credits short of completing? The faded transcripts exist only in his mind.
Still, many who spend time with Cecil hold a genuine affection for him. To many paramedics, drug counselors and his homeless friends, Cecil is streetwise, but no hustler.
He never forgets to say thank you for a gift of a cup of coffee or – one of his favorites – a fried chicken breast from the Handy Mart Grocery & Deli.
When sober, Cecil sketches simple pen-and-ink drawings of Indian headdresses and gives them away to anyone who asks for one.
In a husky staccato that reveals his Sioux roots, he spins drifting tales about eagles guiding lost Indians on the grassy plains of South Dakota. At times like these, the tone of his voice is almost childlike in its need to persuade you he's not lying.
"I love Cecil," said John Carman, a Tacoma firefighter. He works out of Fire Station No.1, where a printed sign no one could miss reminds crews to mark all Cecil runs in the log book with a pink highlighter.
"He's just one of the more unfortunate people I will ever know in my life," Carman said. "He is trapped in a cycle that he's way beyond breaking."
Rebecca Bird is a Pierce County addiction counselor who has known Cecil for years. In 1982, Bird quit a half-gallon-a-day whiskey habit. Now, after 19 years of sobriety, she is Cecil's most ardent supporter, his streetwise buddy, his conscience.
In her tiny, cluttered office on South Fawcett, Bird keeps a snapshot of Cecil sitting cross-legged on a ledge with his drinking buddies.
To those who wonder why Bird thinks she can halt Cecil's self-destruction, she replies:
"Nobody's thrown dirt on him yet."
Plenty of paramedics would be happy if they never saw Cecil again.
Rumor has it Cecil has broken the nose of at least one who didn't duck quickly enough. And some crews suspect he falls over on purpose because he craves attention.
So why not leave Cecil to fend for himself?
Under county rules, all paramedics in Pierce County are required to assume that their patient might be dying. Those who disregard the rules face suspension.
"It's hard to determine what's wrong with the patient," said Dr. Clark Waffle, medical program director for Pierce County Emergency Medical Services. "That's why he's transported – to make sure there's nothing serious going on."
There usually isn't, other than a serious hangover.
Cecil routinely arrives at the emergency room with a blood-alcohol level of 0.40 percent – five times the amount considered too drunk to drive – but doctors say his liver shows almost no sign of decay.
"Some people try to lead a healthy lifestyle and get struck down through no fault of their own, and meanwhile, here's Cecil, who does everything wrong and seems invulnerable," said Robert Wachtel, emergency room doctor at Tacoma General.
ER doctors at Tacoma General and St. Joseph Medical Center usually don't bother anymore to give Cecil blood tests or hook him up to an IV. He just rips out the needles.
A few hours later, after a groggy night's sleep and perhaps a bite to eat, he's back on the streets – and reaching for another drink.
And if the fire crews are lucky, it might be another week or two before they're called out to respond to Cecil lying face down on the sidewalk.
"If they give him a tombstone," said Carman, the firefighter, "they should put on it: 'Cecil Leading Horse: Report of a Man Down.'"
A dense fog covers much of the landscape of Cecil's memory.
He says he's only two credits short of a college degree. Sometimes those unfinished classes are at a campus in Detroit, sometimes in South Dakota, other times in Nebraska. None of it checks out.
One constant, however, is Cecil's birthplace – Valentine, Neb.
This turns out to be true.
Cecil came into the world on Christmas Eve 1946, born to Louis Leading Horse and Margaret Good Voice, according to Nebraska birth records. In honor of St. Nick, Cecil's mom named him Nicholas. It didn't stick.
Valentine, a town of about 3,000 people, sits 10 miles below the South Dakota border amid low, sandy hills, where Big Bluestem grass rustles in biting, wintry winds. During a "blowout," golden-brown sand whips through town in swirling eddies.
Ranching is the chief industry in the region, where cattle outnumber people 100 to 1.
Cecil doesn't remember much about his early years, but this he recalls: His father was a bootlegger who bought booze cheap in Nebraska and sold it at twice the price to Indians in South Dakota.
Cecil's mother helped out, but never took a drink herself.
"My dad always told me, 'Don't rely or depend on other people,'" Cecil said. "He grew up the hard way."
Cecil first tasted liquor at age 7.
Each day, he watched his father clutching a bottle of muscatel wine, drinking himself into oblivion on a recliner. One day, a half-full bottle fell from the fingers of his slumbering father.
"I got up and I took it," Cecil recalled. "My brother Victor said, 'Don't do that.' But I took it anyway. I took three sips and blacked out."
And so it began for Cecil.
But the roots of his affliction began in pioneering America, where hard-drinking fur trappers traded liquor to the Indians for pelts.
In 21st-century America, the debate continues over whether that early exposure or some genetic predisposition – or a combination of the two – causes this plague among many American Indians.
Whatever the case, the legacy is clear on the Rosebud Reservation, where Cecil is a registered member. Empty liquor bottles and beer cans line Interstate 83, which cuts through the middle of the South Dakota reservation and lies just north of Valentine.
Unemployment consistently runs about 85 percent. In remembrance of those killed in alcohol-related car wrecks, some in the tribe hold a "sobriety walk" each year, marching 11 miles from the reservation to Kilgore, Neb., a popular drinking destination.
Cecil's journey from Valentine to the Puget Sound is all but impossible to trace.
Hand-written school census records from 1960 put Cecil and his parents in Cozad, a tiny southcentral Nebraska town that once boasted of being America's alfalfa capital.
From there, the trail goes cold.
As with his Vietnam stories, almost nothing Cecil says can be confirmed. Not his days as a tribal policeman in Pine Ridge, S.D., or his claims of having a son, Nicholas Jr., who works as a sheriff's deputy in the same city, or a daughter, Theresa, who's a nurse somewhere in the Midwest.
Cecil at one time was married to a woman named Ruby. But they divorced long ago, he says.
"I told her: 'I did my part and you did your part raising the kids. Now it's my time. I don't want to drag you along.'"
In the 1970s and '80s, Cecil showed up in police records from Grand Island, Neb., to Sioux Falls, S.D., on charges ranging from shoplifting to aggravated assault.
In the mid-1980s, Cecil's urge to wander led him to Seattle, where he went looking for a cousin. He found her living in lower Queen Anne. But three weeks later, police arrested her boyfriend, and she bolted for South Dakota, Cecil says.
Cecil cleared out of town a couple of years later and made his way to Tacoma. And here he has remained, curling up at night in flop houses, on bus-stop benches or beneath a dirty piece of flattened cardboard.
Life on the streets
Earlier in his life, Cecil roamed the grassy expanse of the Great Plains states, searching for part-time farm work. Now his world is confined to an area the size of two football fields.
Wright Park and Sixth Avenue mark the northern boundary; the County-City Building and South Ninth Street are at the southern end. South Martin Luther King Jr. Way lies at the western edge and to the east, Tacoma Avenue South.
Cecil almost never steps outside of this self-imposed boundary, even to take advantage of the comforts of the Tacoma Rescue Mission on Commerce Street.
He's deeply suspicious of the mission, where many of the city's homeless bunk down at night.
"The first time I was there, someone stole my tennis shoes," Cecil says.
Mostly, there's no need for Cecil to travel very far. His neighborhood is home to half a dozen long-abandoned homes, where he can sit and drink without being bothered.
The office where Cecil collects his only steady income – a federal disability check he gets because he's legally blind – is just around the corner from his favorite bus stop bench.
And Cecil is never more than a block from The Lucky Seven or the I Street Market, where the coolers are always stocked with chilled Wild Irish Rose.
Whatever else alcohol has done to Cecil's brain, it's left undisturbed the mental map that leads him to these destinations each morning.
One such morning in early spring, Cecil slouches on the bus stop bench at South Ninth Street and Tacoma Avenue South. He shivers uncontrollably – the consequence of a night spent lying on wet, cracked pavement.
A Pierce Transit bus hisses to a halt. A handful of riders steps into the midmorning drizzle. A transit worker sweeps cigarette butts off the pavement and into a metal dustpan.
No one looks at Cecil, filthy and bleary. Perhaps they know eye contact will invite an unwelcome plea for spare change.
But Cecil badly wants a drink.
Just then, Debbie, an old buddy and a prostitute, saunters up to the bus stop. A tall, bony woman with sunken cheeks, she offers to buy Cecil a jug of wine – a little something to still the tremors in his bloated, leathery hands.
Day in and day out, Cecil's cronies are drawn to him by the certainty of a drink, others just to catch up on the news from the streets. One of the regulars is Quarterman, a homeless man in a neon-pink baseball cap who got his nickname because he won't take pennies, nickels or dimes.
Debbie asks Cecil whether he's ready to make a beer run.
"Yuh," Cecil replies in a quiet voice expressing resignation more than desire.
Shaking, Cecil rises and braces himself against the bus shelter.
His chin tucked into his chest, Cecil sets off with a jerky, Frankenstein-like gait. His toes point outward, so that he zigs and zags. As Cecil explains it, he walks this way not from the booze, but because of a knee shattered years ago after a tumble from a bar stool in Rapid City, S.D.
Cecil and his friends trudge west up South Ninth Street to The Lucky Seven.
They pass the slab-sided County-City Building, where the arm of a crane – 140 feet up – swings into place above the rising cement walls of the new jail, and by a new, cartoon-bright McDonald's with a fleshy-pink, faux Chihuly sculpture in the lobby.
At The Lucky Seven, Debbie buys the day's first round – three 22-ounce bottles of Steel Reserve beer.
"I don't mind drinking beer, but my preference is wine," Cecil says. "I used to drink Thunderbird, but it was full of chemicals, and it slowed me down."
His fortified wine of choice is Wild Irish Rose, a pale, coppery-red liquid that comes in a flat bottle with a gold screw-top cap and sells for $2.19 a pint. It's unnaturally sweet, like grape Kool-Aid, and burns going down.
By day's end, Cecil will consume eight to nine pints of the stuff, roughly the same volume of fluid as the blood in his body.
And when the well of booze sometimes runs dry, Cecil improvises.
If he's desperate enough, he punches a hole in a can of hair spray or mixes Listerine mouth wash with Kool-Aid – "Wishy Washy," as Cecil calls it.
Or a stick of deodorant – popped out of its plastic case, then wrapped in an old T-shirt and squeezed – yields enough alcohol to recharge the buzz.
This has been Cecil's life for 30 years. Decades of booze or worse gushing down his throat.
Feeding the habit
Good thing, too. Cecil and his crew have used up the last of their spare change up at the I Street Market.
Now they're clustered beneath a shady maple tree above a sunken lot overgrown with brambles. They pass around a 22-ouncer wrapped in a twisted brown-paper sack, each taking furtive gulps.
Just then, two women approach.
One has a bundled pink blanket pressed against her stomach. She pulls back the blanket to reveal a sleeping newborn.
"Come on, Cecil," the young mother says, yanking his sleeve and then looping an arm through his. The second woman takes his other arm.
At a quicker pace than Cecil's used to, the women lead him downtown.
Cecil is especially popular on the three days each week he collects his dribble of cash.
Each month, Cecil gets $555.90 in federal disability payments. The government says he's entitled to the money because cataracts in his left eye have left him legally blind, and he can't work.
The money keeps coming even though Cecil spends almost all of it on booze.
Today, a $25 check awaits Cecil in a dingy little office near Tacoma Avenue South and South Ninth Street. Mark Haskey stands behind a small, open window, dolling out money to adults whom the government has deemed incapable of handling their own financial affairs.
Cigarette butts litter the floor. On one wall, a Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department poster reads: "I just need a few drinks to loosen me up." Under the caption, a man is on his knees, his head hanging over a toilet bowl.
Dozens of tattered lives pass in front of Haskey's window, and framed like this, each appears briefly as a portrait of despair.
Haskey's clients almost always want more money than he's willing to give them. They negotiate – sometimes at the top of their lungs.
Cecil quietly waits his turn. When it comes, he politely asks for enough money to buy a pair of shoes. Haskey prints out a check and hands it to Cecil, who promptly cashes it at one of his favorite refueling stations.
"You try to eliminate as best you can the possibility of them spending money on drugs and alcohol, but I know it happens," Haskey said later.
Cecil, unlike most of his friends, receives enough money each month to afford a room. Haskey has tried repeatedly to find Cecil a place to live away from the streets. But Cecil never stays long. Sometimes, he simply gives the keys to a friend and wanders off, Haskey said.
It's to the point now where almost no one will rent to Cecil.
Help comes to Cecil
Sometimes, Tacoma demands a break from Cecil.
For him, that means a van ride north to a campus of Spanish-style, turn-of-the century buildings perched on a hill overlooking Sedro-Woolley.
If Cecil ever kicks his habit, his recovery will likely begin here – at Pioneer Center North, a long-term treatment facility.
At the center, clients learn that if you don't stop drinking, alcohol will eventually turn your liver into a fatty, cyst-riddled blob. And slowly, counselors help clients dismantle the wall of denial that stops so many drunks from seeking help.
One thing separates the center from most other treatment centers – a judge can order a person held there against his will for up to five months.
Not everyone can get in. Among other things, state law says you must be in the grip of an addiction so awful you're dangerous to yourself or others.
A 12-foot cyclone fence and a list of strict rules greet new arrivals. Yet, some addicts beg to be committed, only to be told they don't meet the criteria.
Cecil, who never fails to qualify for treatment, is usually clawing to get out. During the 17 times he's been committed to the center from Pierce County, Cecil has gone over, under and through the fence.
When he stays for the typical duration of 60 days, he's often just taking up space.
"I hear them counseling, but I'm not listening," he said.
Yet, on one of his trips to Sedro-Woolley, Cecil told staff members the patients might benefit from a "circle talk," a Native American way of sharing thoughts.
And when he's there, "Cecil puts on weight; he's clean; he's funny," said Bird, the Pierce County addiction counselor.
To Bird and others, all of this means Cecil is not beyond help.
"What that tells me is it is possible to treat this guy," said Ken Stark, director of the state Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse. "The problem is we are not having the right mix of services when he gets back to the community."
Stark is talking about a halfway house, a place where booze isn't allowed but where professional help is available to tame temptation.
Some in Tacoma complain that Pierce County is a dumping ground for social service agencies, but some addiction counselors say it's pitifully short on good halfway houses.
The few in Tacoma don't offer the kind of structure the Cecils of the world need to keep them from slipping into comfortable habits, Cecil's helpers say.
Instead, Cecil usually ends up at the Tacoma Detoxification Center on South Fawcett Street. Here, some drunks arrive with withdrawal symptoms so bad they claim to see giant spiders, boats in the hallways or people who aren't there.
In the late 1990s, Cecil sought almost daily help at the county-funded facility.
Chronic drunks like Cecil stagger in on their own or in a cab, sometimes courtesy of a hospital's ER staff. Either way, they get clean beds – usually for no more than three nights – and maybe a sedative to control some of the nastiest side effects of alcohol withdrawal.
Cecil was one of detox's most difficult cases. He fought with staff members, hurled handfuls of food and urinated on them.
"The staff got so burned out and nothing was changing," Bird said. "You come to a place where you say, 'Are you helping or hurting?'"
Now, Cecil is allowed into detox only twice a month. Mary DeGruy, the agency's program director, said she was worried both about Cecil's safety and that of her workers.
On a recent trip to detox, he drank no alcohol for five days and slept on a bed in a bare dorm room he shared with a handful of other alcoholics.
On the morning of his last day in detox, Cecil walked into the center's library a transformed man. Bird was there to see him, sitting at a distance, but keeping her eyes fixed on Cecil, like a proud mother.
The alcohol-induced flush and swelling had vanished from his face. His long black hair fell cleanly about his shoulders. He looked a little self-conscious and sleepy, as though he had just emerged from a long, steamy shower.
His mind clear, he finally talked in more than a slurry mumble.
Did he worry about what decades of drinking are doing to his body?
"No," he answers. "I lost my dad to cirrhosis. Two sisters died from cirrhosis. I have two nephews who died that way. If they're gone, how come I can't go? I'm not saying I want to die. I'm just not afraid to die."
Did he know why he keeps drinking?
"Sometimes, I ask myself: 'What's wrong with me?'" Cecil says. "I've had sobriety before and I can do it again, but I always come up with the stupidest excuses not to."
Probe deeper about his need to drink, and he mumbles something about losing too many friends to alcohol abuse, and then slithers into another subject.
Bird has a theory about this.
"When Cecil's not drinking, I think he has a recall of his life, and that's when the shame and the guilt and the fear come in," she said.
And so he keeps drinking to blur the memories.
24 hours with Cecil
At 8:10 the next morning, Cecil steps out of detox into brilliant sunlight.
There's no hanging around. No chatting. No indecision. Soldier-like, he trudges up the hill toward The Lucky Seven.
Nineteen minutes later, he's standing with three friends in an alley behind the convenience store, chugging his first pint of Wild Irish Rose.
The crumpled disability check Cecil had in his pocket was enough to also buy three 22-ouncers of Steel Reserve for his friends: one for Jack; one for Cloud; and one for a woman with a smoker's voice and a coy smile who won't give her name.
In a community of colorful characters, Cloud is pure Technicolor. His fluffy Siamese cat, Cloudy, has taken up residence stretched out across his shoulders. Wherever he goes, Cloud brings three things: Cloudy, a battered guitar and a 2-cent joke.
"Do you know how to catch a squirrel?" asks Cloud, showing off his mostly toothless grin. "Climb up a tree, act like a nut and when you get next to him, grab him."
Cecil chuckles and tries a joke of his own. It falls flat. He takes another swig of his wine.
When Cecil can't scrape together enough change to buy his own alcohol, one of his buddies always seems to be there, plucking a bottle from inside a coat. When he's sober, Cecil resents such generosity. It's bad enough he's drinking himself to death, Cecil says. He doesn't need help from his friends.
But still, when there's liquid in the bottle, no one's in a hurry to go anywhere. So Cloud strums his guitar, wailing something that sounds vaguely like John Lennon:
"Every time I look at you,
you make me want to say,
La, la, la, la."
Jack, a skinny, quiet guy in his mid-30s, puffs into a harmonica. He misses all the notes, but no one complains.
With an unlit cigarette dangling from his lips, Cecil offers up a story about his time in Vietnam. Like most Cecil stories, it can't be confirmed. The National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Mo., has no record of Cecil ever serving.
In this story, Cecil is a U.S. Marine, dragging a wounded American soldier through a jungle teeming with enemy soldiers. Whizzing bullets can't stop him from carrying the soldier safely to a waiting helicopter.
In the next story, Cecil comes face to face with an enemy soldier.
"I hang him upside down in a tree," Cecil says. "In his language, he started crying – it's still in the back of my mind. I said, 'Stop crying, because it ain't gonna do you no good.' Then I took my bayonet and stabbed him."
A little later, Cecil claims the Marines honored his efforts.
"They said, 'You are doing more than your part,'" Cecil recalls. "They gave me a Purple Heart, a Medal of Honor and an honorable discharge."
Cecil will repeat the same story – in exactly the same way – a dozen times that day.
By noon, Cecil has guzzled at least three pints of wine.
The gathering shifts to a low cement wall in front of a boarded-up house on Tacoma Avenue South. Cecil and his friends call it The Ledge.
Crazy Gary arrives, carrying a Nerf football. He's wearing a Chicago Bulls jersey and has a thick black line painted under each eye. He tosses the ball to Cecil.
Rumor has it Gary's head has been through not one, but two, windshields. He claims to be Cecil's cousin, which Cecil says is bull.
Most everyone tolerates Crazy Gary. He's harmless. Can't throw a spiral to save his life, though.
And how did Crazy Gary get his name?
Earlier in the week, Cecil begins to answer that question as he sips steaming black coffee from a Styrofoam cup at the Handy Mart Grocery & Deli.
Before Cecil can explain, Crazy Gary passes by and picks a fight with a tree that has snagged the hood of his jacket. Crazy Gary snarls and claws at his foe. A frail limb clatters to the sidewalk.
Cecil doesn't even look up. He just takes another sip of his coffee.
Back at The Ledge – after Cecil and his buddies demonstrate the folly of mixing alcohol with football – they stumble off to Wright Park. Cecil hasn't been there since the Feb. 28 earthquake, when he fell over three times trying to pick up his half-full jug.
About 4:30 p.m., Cecil is sitting at a park picnic table with his friends. He's downed at least five pints. It's a little breezy, though still warm and quiet. The park's towering evergreens muffle the sound of passing traffic.
A hard-breathing jogger runs past the drinkers, oblivious to the slurry banter.
Out of the blue, Cecil rises, shakes his fists and yells at no one in particular, "Kiss my brown ass!" But no one takes him seriously.
A few hours later, the sun slips below Tacoma's jagged horizon. The air has turned chilly and Cecil hobbles alone to his bus stop.
With no blanket, he tips over onto a wooden bench about as wide as an ironing board.
"I'm at another bus stop," Cecil slurs. "I realize my life is unmanageable. I'm half- blind and still the only thing I look forward to is the next bottle."
A vicious cycle
Cecil can't keep this up forever.
Even if his liver doesn't give out, alcohol will find other avenues to attack his body.
Last summer, paramedics found Cecil lying in Wright Park. This time, he didn't take a sorry swing at them. They called his name. No growl. Nothing.
At Tacoma General, Cecil coughed up so much blood that it began flooding his lungs. The doctors weren't sure what was wrong. They thought it might be an ulcer in his digestive tract.
They pushed a plastic tube into his airway to help him breathe. A balloon was inflated just below his vocal chords to stop the flow of blood into his lungs. A heart monitor bleeped steadily.
For almost a week, Cecil lay in intensive care. Doctors didn't know whether he'd survive.
"It was very, very scary," said DeGruy, Tacoma's detox program director.
But Cecil, being Cecil, didn't die.
After he came to, Bird and DeGruy visited him in his hospital room. Bird squeezed Cecil's hand, and, smiling weakly, Cecil said it was time to finally quit drinking.
Doctors wouldn't say just what caused the bleeding. In any case, after Cecil checked out, he soon found himself scrounging up change for yet another Lucky Seven run.
But Cecil doesn't dwell in the past. He couldn't if he wanted to. His brush with death exists only as a muddle of blurry images in his mind.
From time to time, Cecil finds temporary lodging with friends. This time it's in a peeling clapboard house in Tacoma. The windows are dark because the power has been turned off.
Sitting on the porch at dusk, Cecil talks about the future – about getting married.
Linda is the name of his bride-to-be. She lives in South Tacoma, though she never shows her face in Cecil territory, and his friends doubt she exists. Linda doesn't like the neighborhood, is all Cecil will say.
But it's official, Cecil insists. He even bought a ring.
That's apparently not enough for Linda's father.
"We're in love, but for some reason (her father) doesn't believe in tattoos," says Cecil, whose body is covered with inky scribbles. "He said, 'That's destroying your body.'"
It's also dawning on Cecil that the bus stop bench on Tacoma Avenue South might not work as a honeymoon suite.
No concrete plans yet for a home, but Cecil says he's got a big TV – with a remote – that will go nicely in the living room.
This is odd, coming from Cecil, who almost never talks about material things. Mostly, because his pockets hold just enough cash on any given day for half a dozen bottles of Wild Irish Rose.
But what would Cecil do if he actually had money – to buy anything he wanted?
Well then, he'd really live in style.
"I'd buy me a liquor store and a sleeping bag," he says, "so I could sleep outside by the back door."