Dave Egar was a street punk in Uptown Minneapolis. He already had a long and interesting history by the time I met him. I was only thirteen at the time, while he was about twenty-two. To me he was a sort of mythical figure. I know he was more faceted than I understood at the time, but my perception was limited and I couldn’t get into Williams Pub to spend a lot of time with him.
He was in charge of the squat we lived in on thirty-seventh and Garfield, and he was not terribly comfortable with that role, so he asserted his authority as little as possible. He did have his own room, and there was a bed in it, a luxury no one else had. But he was only in the squat when the bars were closed and he was tired.
He was beautiful. He had long hair when I met him and a short beard, his face was classically handsome. He always wore all black that winter, and typically had the tight jeans that punks always wore.
Everybody knew him. From the street kids to the crack dealers to the crazies hanging out on the corner that we called Pops or Grandma or whatever title seemed to fit. He knew everyone, and he spoke to all of us in the same manner. He never made the little kids feel little. I learned a lot by watching him interact with people.
When the police showed up during the Thanksgiving blizzard he stood in front of our door and tried to pass off our room as though no one were in it. Right up until the cops reached around him and shoved the door open. There must have been a dozen of us kids in there, all runaways, and none of us wanting to go home. He was smooth enough that the police wished us all a good night after asking if we felt safe. They let us stay.
One night around two in the morning he took the entire lot of us to Curly’s and bought us all a hot meal. Each of us had our own plate and we had cokes with it and none of us left much, even though shrunken stomachs had little room for a full meal. I remember the red light on the sign out front matched the red straws in the drinks, and they glowed even though the interior lighting was dim. He claimed he got the money off of a drunken yuppie. Not sure how true that was.. but we sure appreciated it. I doubt he kept any. He wasn’t like that.
But he did tell me one day while we were alone and keeping warm in the mall, after a long conversation, that I didn’t belong on the street and that I should go home. It wasn’t condescending and it wasn’t flippant. It was considered advice. He said I was too nice to be out there, it wasn’t safe for me.
I was arrested not long after. When I got myself in order and I managed to get back to Uptown a few months later he recognized me immediately and was a bit upset. He asked me if I was back and I told him I was visiting and he was relieved. He told me not to come back. He said “I can’t tell you what to do, it’s not my place, but don’t come back here to stay.” He was one of few adults who could get through to me. One of very few who knew me at all.
He hopped a train to New York, they told me. Aaron hung on my leg inside First Avenue and started to cry, years later. He told me Dave had died, someone had given him drugs and he didn’t make it. Dave never did drugs, he was a drinker, and the whole thing was suspicious. I was seventeen. It broke my heart. Every single street punk I was close to in my teens died from drugs. Some of them years later. But all of them are gone, before hitting thirty.
I tell my children about him. He has no equal. He is still missed.