“Don’t tell me this town ain’t got no heart”

Kyle McDonald

Every town has its own unique characters and Kent is no exception to this statement. Working downtown throughout the past two years has allowed me to take notice of some of these particularly interesting folks.

My new favorite Kent character is quite an attention grabber. Dubbed by my roommates as “the Gypsy Hobo,” I first learned of this man from my roommate, Corbin, who spent his birthday night drinking with Gypsy behind an abandoned gas station and discussing the Bible; after which, Corbin put him up on the couch on our porch. I had never seen or heard of Gypsy prior to this, but since this occasion, I can count on encountering—or at least seeing him—almost every day.

Perhaps you’ve seen him; he dons a large, camouflage backpack with his white beard, walking cane and bandanna. There’s a good chance he’ll either offer you his autograph or ask for 50 cents. A townie friend and Ray’s Place co-worker of mine claims he sees Gypsy every summer.

A smoke-break encounter with Gypsy confirmed this. Between repeatedly singing the line, “Don’t tell me this town ain’t got no heart, you just gotta poke around,” from the Grateful Dead song “Shakedown Street,” Gypsy explained to me that he resides in Florida, but migrates to Kent each year during hurricane season to avoid the bad weather – a noble pilgrimage in my eyes.

Within the span of our five-minute discussion, I learned from Gypsy that California girls don’t compare to Kent girls, Four Loko is the best bang-for-your-buck, caffeinated malt-beverage and an officer somewhere along his travels gave him a $300 panhandling ticket after being forced by his wife, earlier that day, to give Gypsy $20.

Throughout the weekend at the Heritage Festival, I received the privilege of witnessing Gypsy’s hip-shaking skills during the Tropidelic show. With an audience nearing 15 people, Gypsy plopped down in the front row, pulled a Four Loko from that large backpack of his and began to groove, all while noticeably glancing around to keep his eyes peeled for any authority figure that might ruin his fun.

What I like most about Gypsy is his freewheeling spirit. Most peddlers cut right to the chase and ask you for a smoke or a couple of bucks, but anytime I encounter this fellow, he shares a story that would make Jack Kerouac jealous. He’s entertained me to the point where I would give him any donation within reason – a favor I don’t typically partake in.

Kyle McDonald is a senior magazine journalism major and columnist for the Summer Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].