If you read my story “My Week at the Blue Angel,” you may recall Steve and his dog Dot. Steve, who was staying in room 133, was a Vietnam vet with a litany of health problems and a predilection for crack. He was also one of the nicest and funniest people I’ve met.
I got a call Sunday morning from a Colorado number. It was Steve’s brother Ken, whom I’ve never met, informing me that Steve died a few weeks ago in a Las Vegas hospital. Though this was not a surprise—Steve had been in and out of as many hospitals as weekly motels—it was saddening. He and I had managed to stay in touch over the years and I’ll always remember him as a kind and welcoming presence in a place (the Blue Angel) that could be cold and intimidating.
Here’s an excerpt from a conversation Steve and I had at the motel:
“What does she (the Blue Angel sculpture) mean to you?”
“She’s sort of like a helping hand. I look up and know that God’s put her there for a reason: to watch over the people here, who are wayward, who are like ships in a storm. They dock in the harbor to get out of the weather and then they’re off again. This place is like a port in a storm. Sometimes you stay overnight. Sometimes you stay a long, long time.”
“How long are you going to stay?”
“Long enough to get healthy and then I’m moving on. I want to get out of this town. I don’t really like it here.”
“When you leave, what will you remember about the Blue Angel?”
“It was a stepping stone in the direction I wanted to go in, but I won’t miss it. The only thing I’ll miss is the angel.
“But God will have one watching over me wherever I go.”