You can call him “O.B. Boston James” or “Boston James” but most people simply know him as “Boston.” The 48-year-old casually sits on the loading dock of the Apple Tree supermarket in Ocean Beach. On the wall above him—written in red paint—it says “No Loitering.” The message doesn’t really apply to him.
“I’m one of the old-school guys,” he explains. “I’ve been around here a long time. There aren’t a lot of people in Ocean Beach who don’t know who Boston is.”
Boston—who’s lived in San Diego since 1982—says he’s the first homeless person in America with his own website (www.bostonjames.com), which he occasionally updates using a computer at the local VFW hall.
Back in 2000, Boston was working—“$15 an hour,” he notes wistfully—for a company installing a jet-fuel supply line at Lindbergh Field. When the project was finished, he went out to celebrate. He was crossing Pacific Highway near the E-Z 8 Motel in Old Town when he was hit by a car.
“It took me out of life and put me down in the earth,” Boston says.
He suffered massive injuries—including a severely broken right leg—that left him in the hospital for 187 days. Boston says it took him three years to learn to walk again and credits his orthopedic surgeon, Dr. William Tontz, for aiding his recovery.
“That man’s got a heart of gold,” Boston says. “After I got released from the hospital, he’d come down to the beach about twice a week just to check up on me.”
After the accident—with no job, no money and no home—Boston gravitated to the coast. He mostly sticks to a core group of friends, including a grizzled Vietnam veteran named Patrick—“my road dog, my homeboy,” Boston says—who patiently waits nearby.
As Boston talks, in a deep New England baritone that turns “boulevard” into “bowl-uh-vawd,” a tall can of Mickey’s is visible inside his jean jacket. He has been through several rehab programs, but none ever took. He makes a point of showing off his new/used Vans, given to him by a friend.
“The group of old-school guys we have here… we’re like a family,” Boston says. “We always look out for each other. If one of our brothers is hungry and we have some food, we’ll all share it.”
Boston says he and Patrick rarely go hungry. They’re well-known in the neighborhood and earn money and food doing odd jobs. He has a long-time girlfriend, Susan, who’s currently serving time in “no penis Las Colinas”—the all-women Las Colinas Detention Facility in Santee. He asks me to deliver a message to her:
“To my lady, I miss you dearly. I’m sorry I haven’t had the money to come visit you. I’ll see you when you get out. Love, James.”
Write to firstname.lastname@example.org .