Author’s note: Editor-in-chief Vincent has let me take over the site for the week. Today is the third of a four part exclusive look at “real life superhero” Phoenix Jones, The Guardian of Seattle. For part 1, click here. For part 2, click here.
The last evening I was out with Phoenix Jones I was really out with the man behind the mask. This time, I’m putting on a bulletproof vest and following Phoenix on patrol, along with a small group of his Rain City Superhero team. Last time we were out, I ended up wearing his pants. This time, I’m wearing one of his vests. I think it’s a step up.
Phoenix actually offers to pick me up which is helpful since we don’t even start until midnight, typical for a patrol. I’m in Lake City which is pretty far to the north within Seattle, but Phoenix explains that the team of superheroes he’s assembled, the Rain City Superhero Movement (RCSM), has learned through experience to carpool. The person furthest north will pick up the other heroes and head downtown to the Belltown or Capitol Hill section of Seattle, to the south. Along the way, we pick up el Caballero, who Phoenix lets me know has actually been knighted in the Knights Templar.
El Caballero, or “Cabbie,” has recently redesigned his uniform a bit. Instead of wearing a large purple coat, he wears purple camo pants and shirt beneath a decorated bulletproof vest bearing a cross and a mustache. He’s held onto his signature luchadore mask. When he first began, he also wore a sombrero, but after an angry man with “Mexican Pride” tattoos on his arms almost got into a fistfight, he decided it was more trouble than it’s worth. “Could you run in it?” I ask. Cabbie fights a smile and trails off a “Well…” and Phoenix laughs. A lot of what the RCSM does has been learned through trial and error.
For instance, Phoenix told me that when he first started out he went out solo and his tactics seem closer to what you’d see in a movie than what they do now, walking the streets to offer public assistance. One of the first times Phoenix went out, he hid under a large bridge waiting for some biker gangs to show up that were dealing drugs. He set up a trip wire that knocked one rider off his bike and fired a paintball gun full of marbles at the men. He then tossed a smoke bomb and went in to tie them up but everyone was getting up by then and he had to run away.
Other lessons? After he got shot at the first time, Phoenix started wearing a bulletproof vest. After getting stabbed the first time, he added stab plating. The pepper spray he carries? It’s tagged with a bright orange dye so that anyone can see if and where he’s used it. Phoenix used to drive a yellow convertible that he put a phoenix logo on. It regularly got vandalized. Now he drives a red beater whose engine grumbles. It’s not the same car he used the previous evening when we hung out outside of costume. This car is not only inconspicuous, he literally wouldn’t be able to tell if it got more scratches or nicks on it.
We park in the underground garage the Belltown Business Association has given Phoenix to help him and begin getting suited up. They give me a bulletproof vest and make sure it covers my heart. They aren’t playing around and by the end of the night, I will be very glad to have had the protection, just in case. Phoenix’s original costume was the ski mask, black clothes and a fedora, but once he started learning how to do his job better, the gear improved. Over his clothes and armor, he wears a superhero chest piece and cowl which he had custom made at Xtreme Design FX. I ask Phoenix if I can feel the cowl, and it’s a solid latex which would prevent choking. Can he hear through it? He says he’s gotten used to it and I test it later by talking softly and he does hear me. He also shows me a small tear. He says that if someone ever tried to grab it and twist it around on his face, it would basically rip away.
We meet some other RCSM folks: Westlake Drake, who wears a skull mask and carries an extending baton; Mr. Pink, who has a full-face ski mask and red goggles; Knight Savior, a probationary member wearing a black homemade ski mask. Phoenix assigns responsibilities to everyone so that if they encounter trouble, everyone has their own duty to perform and there’s less confusion.
Phoenix will be “first.” Whenever they encounter a situation, he will be the first to engage or de-escalate a fight, mugging, robbery or disturbance. el Caballero will be his “second” whose job it is is to back him up if he gets in a fight, but primarily watch his back so that no one sneaks up on him. Westlake Drake will be “third.” Mr. Pink and Knight Savior each need to achieve particular tasks in order to be full members. Phoenix explains it in the video below. Mr. Pink is on 911, so he has to always know what streets we’re on and make note of vehicle makes and models, license plates, what people look like and be ready to relay that to the authorities. Knight Savior is given the main GoPro camera and will record anything we come across tonight. It can be used as evidence in the event of an arrest. Knight Savior is also on medic duty. I am the backup 911 and cameraman in case the others are incapacitated.
Belltown is a great area during the day, full of tourists shopping. But it’s very quiet tonight. It isn’t the weekend so the bars are less rowdy. Nevertheless, we almost immediately see a group of people at the end of the block milling about. Phoenix and the RCSM recognize them. “These are drug dealers. We’ve seen them before. We’ll just keep walking up to them and see what happens,” Phoenix tells me. Once we begin getting close, the group of dealers and customers dissipates, scattering in every direction. No one runs, but it’s also obvious that no one wants extra attention. One large man stays where he is and looks unfriendly but doesn’t say anything. The people walking away, about 5 or 6 men, are all wiry and dressed poorly. These aren’t college kids or people in their 20s so I make an assumption to myself that they are on meth or crack.
Because of the hour, the majority of the people we encounter are either drunk or high, homeless, or both. It’s obvious that the RCSM has no desire to bother these people and in fact, Phoenix has friendly conversations with several bouncers and homeless people through the evening. He tells me he wants everyone to think of him as a friendly face so that if they hear about any crime, they’ll think to tell him. Phoenix is also stopped for about half a dozen photos throughout the night by people on the street. During one of the first photos, some twenty-somethings in a Honda CR-V shout at the RCSM and speed off once their light turns green. We end up seeing them again half an hour later.
Tomorrow: Running! Fighting! The police show up! Phoenix is gathering winter clothes for the Seattle homeless.