Jim Morrell has become a local celebrity in his own right—which he credits to a recent column by a certain CN&R editor. I sat with him on his favorite downtown bench for a short period of time, where he was greeted with a “Hey Jim!” and sometimes even a handful of change. “Lotta love, lotta love,” he would say with a smile on his face. Morrell is a genuinely nice guy with a lot of stories to tell, too many to fit in this space. He said he makes about $15 a day, enough for food and tobacco, and that he even has people bring him an occasional lunch. “I just sit here and be me, man,” he said. “I don’t do anything special. People say ‘Hi’ to me, and I say ‘Hi’ back and, you know? Be polite and you have no problems in this world.”
What made you choose this location?
What made me decide here? I’ve sat down at the park down here a few times, and the cops like to come in and make you move. And then you’ve got the kids down there with all the drug activity and having a few beers and they want to get rowdy. I’m 44 years old. I don’t need that kind of stuff. So, I was walking around and sat down here and didn’t get bothered that day. I don’t get bothered here.
What do you do at night? Where do you sleep?
Ummm … I’m not going to say where I sleep. But it’s safe. It’s dry and I don’t have any problems there. [Pauses.] It’s at a legal firm up the street. There’s a couple of judges. And one of the ladies brings me cookies and coffee sometimes at night. If you can put two and two together from that, you know exactly where I stay, but I’m not gonna tell you where I stay. That’s a good hint.
What do you do to entertain yourself?
Well, I went out to the [Thursday Night] Market last night and cruised around, ran into a lotta nice people. They gave me samples. I had a roast beef sandwich. You know … just walked through, I was just cruisin'. Sometimes on Saturday mornings I go to the other Farmers’ Market over here. On Sundays I go to the Orchard Church. Sometimes I help set up chairs or some tables or, you know, whatever Pastor Jim might need. Other than that, I just stay out of the parks and stay away from all the riff-raff.
What’s your favorite restaurant in Chico?
Ummm. Actually there’s a couple of them. The Madison Bear is pretty cool. Then right up here on the other side of the bank, they have a smoke shop, and if you go downstairs you have a Chinese restaurant. And this bagel shop is pretty cool, too.