I've had this stooped old alcoholic once before. He did a header in the Safeway parking lot—falling down drunk at 6 pm on a Tuesday. There's a bouncer thankfully helping him out of the bar on this night. "Take me to where them racehorses is," he grumbles in a low and guttural voice.

"Portland Meadows?" I ask him. It's 11 pm; the track is long closed.

"I'm going to the house across the street from the racetrack," he snarls. "I only got seven dollars." That's about how much the trip will cost anyway, so I tell him it's not a problem.

He insists on giving me directions each step of the way, his breath stale and foul in the seat next to me. "I been at the hospital," he says. In the interest of making conversation, I ask him which one.

He mumbles something about Emanuel being closed, that he was at the hospital up on that hill.

"OHSU?" I ask.

"The one up on the hill," he says.

"The V.A.?"

"Thing's on a hill, I don't ask questions," he snaps, and he clearly feels that I should adopt the same policy.

We pull into his dimly lit driveway, and when I grasp his hand to help him out of the cab, the callouses scratch my fingers. An overweight woman smoking a cigarette emerges from the dark and wordlessly ushers my charge toward a tool shed. I observe my new policy, get in the car, and drive off.