As sunlight pokes through a massive front of cumulus clouds, a weathered middle-aged man with a scraggly beard crosses the intersection of Qualcomm Way and Camino del Rio North in Mission Valley.
“How do you spell your name?” he's asked.
“I only want to go by the name Corey.”
“Yep, that's what everybody knows me by. C-O-R-E-Y. But that is my real name.”
Corey says he's well-known in this neighborhood because he's lived in the area for almost 22 years. Born in Vermont on Sept. 15, 1963 (“the same day Dan Marino was born,” he correctly notes), Corey left home at 16 to move to Florida, largely due to a conflicted relationship with his mother. After 22 years on the East Coast, he decided to travel to San Diego, and he seems fond of it. “The people are really nice around here,” he says.
Corey has observed the growth of Mission Valley along Interstate 8. “I watched all the trees grow from when they were [small],” he says, “and now some of them are 40 feet tall.”
Brushes with the law and intermittent drug problems notwithstanding, he managed to hold down a telemarketing job in the mid-'90s. However, after violating parole, he found himself back on the streets. Since then, he's been camping out along the San Diego River basin.
A truly likable guy, he mentions his appreciation for bands like AC/DC and Blue Oyster Cult (he has tattoos of both), and he talks about missing his girlfriend, who's locked up on a trafficking charge.
Looking back on how he arrived at his current state, he says, “The drinking thing's a bitch, dude. I was able to get away from meth, I was able to get away from cocaine, I never did heroin—but alcohol, that's a hard one, man. I never thought it would get to this point, either. I really didn't. I used to look at people and go, ‘That will never happen to me like that.'”