Homeless man hopes to put incident behind him
John Cordas sits in the common area of Pitkin County Jail. He’s dressed in standard-issue orange pants, sneakers and white cotton sweatshirt. The sweatshirt is one size too large – his sleeves fall back when he gestures, revealing a white hospital wristband.Cordas, a homeless man, was profiled two weeks ago in The Aspen Times. At the time of the article, he was panhandling around town. Shortly after the article’s publication, a longtime friend of Cordas from New Jersey read the article and paid for Cordas to stay in a hotel in Aspen for three days over Christmas.But on Christmas Eve day, Cordas showed up at the hotel drunk and allegedly became disruptive. He was arrested on an outstanding warrant and taken to jail. Having consumed a potentially lethal amount of alcohol, he was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital. He was released and has spent the last five days in jail.Yesterday, he sat down to talk with The Aspen Times.How did this happen?
After the first story in the paper, people were coming up to me on the street and giving me 50 dollars a pop. So I split and went to spend a week in a cheap hostel in Glenwood. It was so cold the week before Christmas I needed a roof over my head. On Christmas Eve, this guy came up to me and showed me that other article saying I had a room in Aspen for three days over Christmas. My old friend came through for me, booked me a place to stay. But this is Christmas Eve. I’d already had about half a pint [of liquor] in me. So I drank on my way up here and when I got here they wouldn’t let me in the door. They said I smelled of alcohol. But the room was all paid for. So when they wouldn’t let me in I just lost it and starting shouting at people. That’s when they called the police. Meanwhile, I had an outstanding warrant for a failure to appear. So they arrested me. You were taken to the hospital. How sick were you?I was fine. I blew a 3.3. That’s about par for me. So I wasn’t in danger. But they said I’d have to go cold turkey in prison. Alcohol is contraband. And you can’t just go cold turkey like that. So I told them I needed to detox. The hospital gave me Valium pills, just so I don’t go into convulsions. It calms your nerves. I’m down to three a day now.So you are an alcoholic?Oh yeah, a terrible one. Since 1993, since my parents died back to back and I stepped down from the ministry I’ve been staring at the bottom of a bottle. I’ve been sober now for five days. That’s the longest it’s been in a while. I’m all detoxed now I hope.
What is jail like?Compared to sleeping between Dumpsters? This place is the Hilton. You get all the food you want – cereal, cold cuts, all the coffee you can drink. They even serve hot meals. I had myself a pretty good gyro the other day. I have my own room and as many blankets as I need. They understand that you need blankets when you are detoxing because you get hot and cold sweats.What’s next for you?Well, I have a court date on Wednesday and hopefully they’ll let me out because I’ve already been in prison five days. Then it’s square one. I’ve only got 29 bucks. So I’ll go get myself a senior citizen coffee for 54 cents from McDonald’s and try not to go to Carl’s Pharmacy and buy a bottle. Staying sober is the key. I can act sober when I’m drinking but people smell it on your breath. Now I’m detoxed I can talk to people and ask for jobs. No more “glug, glug, glug” in the alley.
You’re going to look for work?Oh yeah, I’ll be chasing stuff down. If I’m working and I have money in my pocket and a place to stay, people will leave me alone. I’ll shovel snow. I’ll work maintenance. I can do just about anything. I used to own my own business. And it’s easier to stay sober when you’re working. You can’t drink all day. Maybe someone will come up to me on the street corner and offer me a caretaker position. Who knows? There’s a lot of opportunity in this town.Some people might be skeptical that you’ll just start drinking again. What do you say to that?When there’s no hope left, that’s when you drink.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org