That Thursday April morning began just as the rest of his days at the Budget Inn Motel on Government Street in downtown Mobile. Spring was here and Ken was up and out by 6:45AM, crossing Government Street to McDonald’s for his usual oatmeal breakfast. He would look through the window and watch the world in all its hurry, hustle, and bustle pass by. His mind then drifted to Momma Gray, his furry feline friend who was for all purposes his only family. After breakfast, he made his “catwalk” to find and feed Momma Gray. He loved that old cat. He usually fed her twice a day, once in the morning and again later in the afternoon. Usually, as lunch would roll around, Ken would visit Popeyes just down the street and order his 2-piece mild with cole-slaw (they give senior discounts, usually 10%). He would routinely dine in, for it was a respite from the old Budget Inn. After lunch, he would return to his room and hang out for a while, watch some TV, and later take a walk to find Momma Gray. Ken would come back to his room late afternoon or early evening. He usually skipped dinner and would turn in early, but today would be different.
I first met Ken routinely walked by my office in the early afternoon hours with a sleeve of turkey. I thought it odd at first. I figured he must live in the area. And then I would sometimes see him in the morning. Ken, I would later learn, was the son of a World War I veteran. Ken, like his father, served his country. Ken signed up for service when he was just 18 years old. He moved to Mobile because of the beautiful buildings and homes. He was in Air Force for 10 years and later in the Navy for 3 years . While in the Navy, he served in Scotland and Japan during the height of the Cold War. As a communications technician, he monitored Russians.
He sauntered at his own pace as his years seemed to suggest he was on his own time. My curiosity ended when I saw him in my office parking lot feeding a grey stray cat one afternoon. Her name was Momma Gray, and boy did Ken love that cat. I would see Ken so frequently that I finally invited him in for lunch motivated every bit as much by the curiosity as the hospitality. He always politely declined. My mother, who works with us, really took a liking to Ken. After a few months, Ken became a regular. If we missed seeing Ken, we would be worried something happened to him. Alas, our worries would subside when we would see him the next day. The only creature who showed more affection than my mother to ole Ken, was Momma Gray. Momma Gray had many food suitors, but that cat would curl up around Ken’s legs and purr her way into his heart every time I saw them together. Ken loved her, and she loved him, or his turkey.
Soon, I learned that Ken lived just down the street from my office at The Budget Inn Motel on Government Street. I knew then that Ken must be on a fixed income, and at times I worried for his safety. The Budget Inn Motel has been the source of many a moment of high drama in the neighborhood. Just ask the Mobile Police Department and/or Mobile Fire Rescue who have responded to the facility before. Just two months before this, SWAT team members were called to this Budget Inn after a man made threat to local law enforcement and called WPMI NBC 15 promising to “shoot someone to get on TV.”
In April 2016, a white male chased 2 females through the front gate of my office. The females were screaming and the male was yelling that the females had robbed him. Shortly thereafter, the male fell on the sidewalk in front of my office and began seizing. We rushed over to help him, but not before one of the females yelled, “be careful, he’s got HIV!”
It was quite an afternoon, as we called 911 and waited for police and emergency responders. While waiting, I noticed a 12 pack of Icehouse beer overturned near the front porch of my office. I guess those must have been too important for them to leave behind at the Budget Inn where they all were staying.