Dylan 34


Dylan was born at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Denver, and has lived in Colorado all his life, except for a stint in the Army. His family moved to Fort Collins when he was two, and later to Lakewood, where he graduated from Green Mountain High School in 2001. His graduation ceremony was at Red Rocks.

He took classes at Front Range and Aims community colleges for a couple of years, then joined the Army and became a medic, serving overseas. He saved money while in the service and, with the help of his father, bought a HUD home through the Veterans Association.

“You can get quite a bit of savings together (in the military), especially when you have nothing to spend your money on because you’re sitting in the middle of a little Podunk village in the middle of God knows where and all you’re buying is toiletries, because that’s all you need. That and your MP-3 player. I amassed quite a bit of savings, so my dad and I split the cost of a HUD home. I spent a couple months fixing it up because my son was on the way.”

He took EMS training and began to study various aspects of medical research, particularly relating to stem cells, after finding out his mother was stricken with MS. Things started to go downhill from there, as his family struggled with the debilitating aspects of the disease. “I couldn’t have asked for better parents.”  He helped care for his mother during the eight years that she fought the disease, but the wheels came off when his father died suddenly and tragically, under circumstances that almost defy belief.

According to a Loveland Reporter-Herald story, George DeGrazio – a retired art teacher who had a strong following as a graphic artist and musician – left his house at 10:30 am on January 9, 2012, to run some errands and buy a birthday present for his wife, who was being cared for at their home in Loveland. The home care provider became concerned that afternoon when George failed to answer a phone call. Dylan contacted the Loveland police. He was worried, because his father had type 2 diabetes and was on several medications for a heart condition. The next days unfolded slowly.

George’s car was finally located in Fort Collins early in the morning on January 11th by a Fort Collins police officer. It was in a shopping center parking lot that served many businesses at Timberline Road, just South of Harmony. A Fort Collins police detective took a picture of George to 15 businesses within the shopping complex, including the Cinemark theatre where he asked managers to view surveillance footage and credit card receipts. An assistant manager explained that the video cameras only watched the register, and that receipts were sent to the corporate office each day. The detective continued the search for several days, tracing George’s phone, his bank records and talking with Dylan. Nothing was discovered. The detective made the rounds again with the local businesses and returned to the Cinemark theatre, because George was known to be a movie buff. Staff at Cinemark told the detective that they had checked for George in all the theatres but had found nothing. This became a very perplexing missing person case for the department, and a nightmare for family and friends. This is where things start to become difficult to believe.

Cleaning staff had noticed that a door to a family bathroom was locked, but didn’t investigate further because they said they “didn’t have a key.” They were alerted by customers during the week that there was a “foul smell” coming from the bathroom. Again, they did nothing because they didn’t have a key. A theatre employee tried opening the door on Thursday and again on Friday, but wasn’t able to. Again, no one had a key. George had been missing since Monday.

Finally, that Saturday, after being alerted once again by customers of the foul smell coming from the bathroom, a Cinemark employee pried the door open. There was George’s body. It had begun to decompose. An autopsy revealed that he had died of a heart attack. The story became known to the media. And the theatre company was strangely silent, not even offering condolences. Dylan couldn’t believe what was happening. In an interview with 9News, Dylan ripped Cinemark for not reaching out. “Come on! You just had a human being pass in your facility, in your business establishment – and you can’t even stretch your hand out to apologize to the family affected by it? That’s poor ethics.”

The following Tuesday, Cinemark issued a statement to the Associated Press saying they were “deeply troubled” by the event and had placed five employees on leave while the investigation was taking place. The AP asked Dylan what he thought of their remarks. “I’m disgusted, just so disgusted,” was all he could say. He focused on caring for his mother. And fighting the demons within.

In 2013, Dylan had to sell the house to help pay for nursing home care. When his mother passed away, he took it very hard. He escaped into self-medication, something he had dabbled with when things were better.

“I was a pothead at eighteen, and then a raver kid from 1998 and ’99. I’ve been in the scene for quite some time.” But then, while on a trip to the mountains to spread his mother’s ashes, a friend introduced him to the cocaine scene, and things began to deteriorate at an accelerated pace. His wife eventually left when his addiction became too much, and she took their son with her. He owns up to his mistake. “I broke her heart. I did her bad, and I feel bad for it. She didn’t deserve what I did to her.” He grows uncharacteristically quiet, but doesn’t elaborate.

He struggled with recovery and eventually remarried and had a daughter, but things continued to decline when he added meth to his list of escape mechanisms. “I remember the date clearly (when he first smoked meth). I prefer marijuana, from a self-medicating aspect.” But drugs became the monkey on his back. He attended group therapy with Narcotics Anonymous and other programs, but the addiction stuck. He still uses, but within his own standards. “I don’t steal from people to get my drugs. I don’t hurt people. I don’t lie and cheat. If you’re going to deal with an addiction, you might as well not be a scuzzbag.”

Trouble occurred when Dylan found out his wife was cheating on him, and he went to jail on a domestic violence charge. His wife and daughter moved to Berthoud, so he can work on his personal life but still be near. Dylan remains in Loveland. “I’m stuck on the streets.” At 34 years old, Dylan has lived a life few of us could imagine. When he talks, it’s evident that he is trying to contain an intellect that is uncommon for most people living on the streets of Loveland, in the experience of these interviews.

“My mind is built around science and how people work and chemistry and so on. It’s a little strange, almost like that idiot-savantism. I can look at a biology textbook and flip through it and understand it and memorize it. But it sucks because I had that stupid felony (previously mentioned but not elaborated upon), and now no one will hire me because of pre-conceived notions. My mind is going to waste because no one will touch me!” He slams his hand on the table and goes into a listing of diseases that could be cured by stem cells, but he rattles them off at such a staccato pace that the recording device used during these interviews cannot provide enough clarity for an accurate rendering. He seems to know what he’s talking about nonetheless.  He says, almost apologetically, “I almost made it into MENSA (which, according to Wiki and other sources, is the largest and oldest high IQ society, open to people worldwide who score at the 98th percentile of a standardized, supervised IQ test.) If I had two more points…I’d probably be a college professor.”

When asked what he thinks would be most beneficial to help the homeless in Loveland, he speaks with equal enthusiasm and speed. “You’ve got to get people back to work.” Any ideas how to do that? “There are plenty of construction workers out there (in the homeless community). I guarantee there’s enough people who have experience in their lives that they can cover anything in the construction industry. We could get ten people together with varying backgrounds and varying degrees of knowledge and experience. If 137 (the local day/emergency shelter) and HNS (the local agency which helps low-income families and individuals deal with basic needs in crisis situations) could put a labor pool together…” and here Dylan rips off projects that could be tackled throughout the city and where short-term housing for workers could be established (in vacant apartment units and hotels in the downtown area).

When asked if he thinks the City of Loveland would be open to that, particularly in light of all the development projects currently taking place downtown, Dylan’s enthusiasm diminishes. “The city doesn’t want to deal with the homeless. They don’t even want to talk with us.”

Asked what his plans for the future are, Dylan looks down and lists some of his personal issues, including being bi-polar and suffering from PTSD, ADD and AHD, but brightens at a question about his daughter, who is two years old. “She’s so smart it’s scary. She can run a tablet (computer). She can start a movie, adjust the volume and scroll. She’s amazing!”

At the conclusion of the interview, Dylan thanks the photographer and me and makes his exit. We look at each other with bewildered expressions on our faces, as though having just witnessed something rare, such as an albino rhinoceros. I can’t help but think of the Depression era movie To Kill a Mockingbird, when the small-town, widowed Southern lawyer Atticus Finch (played by Gregory Peck) explains to his young daughter Scout (also the narrator of the story) that, “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb around in his skin and walk around in it.”