Though those portrayals are partially accurate, so much depends on which street kids you talk to, how long you talk to them, whether they're speaking from the jail cell or in front of their crowd and whether you have the time or the energy to get beyond the image.

Two versions of the typical day for a street kid in Montrose, not every one of them guilty of every vice encountered on the HIPY steps:

James: "Sleeping, drinking, acting stupid, nothing much."

Eve: "Gets up, goes to HIPY, takes a shower, grabs some groceries, goes out to the corner and hustles. Or runs and finds the first person with a big, fat wallet to knock in the head."

Eve, 21, is a heavyset, down-to-earth woman who's been in the Montrose on and off for eight years. Her parents live with her 3-year-old child in a trailer an hour or so away from the Montrose, in a rural area Eve describes by saying, "When you're in a small town like that all there is to do is feed the ducks and fuck."

A small-time pimp and occasional prostitute, Eve runs around Montrose with a daily planner that contains the names, numbers and sexual interests of johns and how much they're willing to pay. "I give the difficult ones to other people, and they do it," Eve says, amused and slightly shocked by what people will do and still give her a 20 percent cut. The word pimp, however, seems too strong, too venerable a label to apply to her.

She'll talk to a reporter openly about it, enjoying and exaggerating the action, the intrigue, the role, as if she's a child playing pimp in her back yard or an adult trying to imitate her TV-culled images of high-powered business. Jody and Sarah are two girls being pimped by Eve.

Jody, 18, is six-months pregnant by a 15-year-old ex-boyfriend and says she prostitutes to earn money for her child as well as for her own contact lenses and braces. She calls herself a good girl and is happy to have Eve and Sarah, whom she's together with, take care of her. She'll occasionally giggle and brush her hair while talking about survival.

Sarah is 16 years old and recently miscarried. She says she turned her first trick at 13 ("Drugs and sex was my life at that age - - had to have my weed, had to have my sex") and was the class slut in high school. Now she's settled into the role of I-am-what-I-am town whore, making a point of describing herself in such graphic language and with such depravity-laden stories, it seems a willful, deliberate attempt to take more control of her life, to do more damage than her reputation and circumstances ever could.

I saw Sarah on the street one night shortly after her miscarriage, very high. Eve calls her a freak, saying she saw her in a club one night, high, three or four men with their hands all over her body. Sarah smiles it off. A few days later, she comes up to me on the steps of HIPY, asking, "Would you be offended if I sat between your legs?"

 

 

 

Boy Scout," a 21-year-old piercing artist, showed up in Montrose just days out of a Texas prison where he served 10 months for possession of Beavis and Butt-head blotter acid. An intelligent boy with a quasi-Marxist peace-punk ideology, he says, "The last thing in the world I want to be is cool," furiously inking and piercing his body in an attempt to get the mainstream to recoil. He came to the Montrose looking for squats, 'zines, alternative bands and anybody with a mohawk, and he is disappointed because he found only a money-money-gettin'-paid hustler scene.

And there are Jason and 'Shaggy," brothers who've shuttled between living in a trailer park, with their grandmother and with their father in a tent.

Jason is a slightly built, softvoiced 20-ear-old who has come to Montrose with Magic: The Gathering cards and a tape deck. One night I walked with him and Boy Scout to a field near HIPY, where they curled up under a blanket, playing a Sisters of Mercy tape, flicking a lighter in the dark to look for something, "It gets old, not having anything," says Jason, who's planning to put in job applications.

"Sometimes I just look to the future, and sometimes it's just like 'Is this it? Is this all there is?'" he says, genuinely pained, with none of the contrivance of feeding the right and poignant line to the straight world.

 

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