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Posted on Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 5:59 a.m.

Talk of the town: A short history of Gemini Dream

By James Dickson

Gemini Dream.JPG

Ann Arbor panhandler Gemini Dream is honest about his intentions.

James Dickson |

You've probably seen his familiar face downtown, sometimes in coffee shops, other times holding up homemade signs with messages like - "Need a buck. Why lie? I want to get high on pot" - and asking passersby if they can spare some change.

He may have even asked you.

You may have witnessed him hassling those who come to the corner of North University Avenue and South State Street on Saturday afternoons to condemn our souls for the sin of failing to march and chant alongside them.

"It is better to give than to receive!" he yells. "Give to your neighborhood dope man!"

"Fight the power of Satan!" he says, co-opting the language of the protestors to raise some cash to feed his pot habit.

But there's a lot more to the man than his antics. If every man has a story, every panhandler can tell you how his took a wrong turn. So too with Gemini Dream, who borrowed his moniker from the Moody Blues song by the same name.

Gemini wouldn't agree to provide his real name to for fear that his Social Security case worker will decide that a man healthy enough to panhandle is healthy enough to work for a living. But he did sit down to explain why he calls the streets home, how he got here, and how Ann Arbor has treated him since he arrived in Treetown five years ago.

A few wrong turns

For the bulk of Gemini's adult life, he says he's been gainfully employed. From 1982 to 1999, Gemini worked for BDS Corporation in Virginia, a service owned by his father that contracted with airlines to return lost luggage to its rightful owners in Virginia and neighboring states.

Gemini says he spent most of his time in the office in the early years, sporting a short haircut and wearing neat trousers, a white shirt and a tie to work every day. But when a driver left the company, Gemini saw his opening to liberate himself from the office and his father's watchful eye. That freedom was well worth the pay cut, he says.

"My dad found fault with everything - he was very quick to judge and to criticize," Gemini says. "We hadn't seen eye-to-eye since I was 13. So the first chance I got to get out of that office, I took it."

Gemini got married and became a father in 1976, at the age of 18. He and his wife had two children before separating in 1982 and divorcing in 1984, he says.

Shortly after his separation - in the rebound stage, Gemini admits - he met his second wife. They were married from 1984 to 1991. Another marriage in April 1998 lasted for little more than a year before Gemini and his third wife parted ways.

In 1992, Gemini was nailed with the first of three drunken driving charges - all within a year. By 1993, Virginia had placed him on "habitual offender" status and suspended his license, he says.

His driving days a thing of the past, Gemini says he returned to office work, serving as a dispatcher for the company. He stayed in that role until his father died in 1999, and the company imploded.

Gemini says he then worked a series of dead-end temp jobs while his mother paid his rent. That arrangement ended in early 2002, when Gemini received a letter from his mother notifying him that he'd be cut off on April 1. She died from complications related to her diabetes in 2004.

By the time his mother's payments ended, Gemini says he'd had already applied for Social Security disability insurance for manic-depression, but needed something to tide him over.

"I knew I had to do something for money, so I started panhandling," Gemini says. 

The more people he asked for money, the more comfortable he got with asking people for money. Even when the disability insurance came through, he kept asking.

Two towns to call home

Gemini Dream was born in 1958 near Cambridge, England, the youngest of six siblings. He says his family left England to live with friends in Philadelphia in early 1964 before moving to Richmond, Va., on Feb. 3, 1964.

Despite staying in Richmond for 40 years and a day - he left town Feb. 4, 2004 - Gemini doesn't call it home. He reserves that title for the towns where he says people have treated him best over the years: Gainesville, Fla., and Ann Arbor.

Florida had long been a fascination. When Gemini was locked up for 280 days in Richmond in 2002 - he says for his role in an anti-Iraq War protest - he made a point of asking a fellow inmate how he liked Florida.

He got positive reviews and hitchhiked his way to the Sunshine State. He says he made it as far south as Key West before encountering a hippy community that sung the praises of Ann Arbor and how tolerant the community was for drifters and street people - the guys who've taken a wrong turn or two in life.

That spring he made his maiden voyage to Treetown. He says he fell in love immediately.

"Most of the smaller towns I've been to are very uneducated; it's the exact opposite here," Gemini says, citing the University of Michigan and the the thousands of talented people it brings to town each year.

Since leaving Richmond, Gemini has split time between Gainesville and Ann Arbor, opting for Florida when it's cold in Michigan and Ann Arbor when it's too hot in Gainesville.

Of course, life in Ann Arbor isn't always easy. Gemini's frankness about how he spends the proceeds of his panhandling makes him something of a magnet for law enforcement.

"Most of the cops in Ann Arbor are cool. They'll see me out with my signs and give me the 'thumbs up', or they'll figure I'm not worth a bed in the county jail," Gemini says. "But there seems to be a few guys who never got past the bully phase of high school."

Gemini was panhandling in Nickels Arcade in August 2008 when he says he was approached by an officer who cited him for panhandling and gave him a November court date.

Gemini never showed. "I had a bus ticket [to Gainesville], so I said 'screw this' and left town," in October, he says.

But leaving made matters worse. By the time he returned to Ann Arbor last summer, there was a warrant out for his arrest.

The warrant was discovered when Gemini got into another run-in with local police. After being released on his own recognizance, he was sentenced to six months of reporting to probation for skipping the 2008 court date.

Gemini says he thought about skipping town again, but knew that would've meant the end of his travels to Ann Arbor. That's why he's still in town, wrapping up things with his probation officer. 

On Wednesday, Nov. 4, Gemini plans to board a bus headed for Hawthorne, Calif., to visit his daughter. After that, it's back to Gainesville until temperatures rise too far.

By next spring, Gemini says he'll return to Ann Arbor, enjoying coffee at Amer's Cafe, a quesadilla at Tios or panhandling on a downtown street corner. He wouldn't have it any other way.

James David Dickson reports on human interest stories for Please contact him at, or



Thu, Nov 12, 2009 : 11:40 a.m.

at least hes honest

Mumbambu, Esq.

Fri, Nov 6, 2009 : 1:05 p.m.

He thinks, therefore he is.

Mumbambu, Esq.

Thu, Nov 5, 2009 : 9:22 a.m.

With the school millage failing, perhaps we have more Gemini's to look forward to...but I doubt it.

Elisha Rumsey

Wed, Nov 4, 2009 : 5:31 p.m.

Sure ain't much charity among readers, I see. Donors on the sidewalk are far more generous, and Gemini receives a sufficiency of "bucks" to meet his daily needs: he helps the local economy by spending those dollars in downtown cafes and coffee shoppes. Gemini's sign is meant to be disarming in its choice of words. He doesn't really want money for drugs, but for food -- but has discovered that the word "pot" gets attention -- and frequently a laugh, as well. People sometimes offer him their restaurant leftovers, but he politely declines anything with meat in it, as he has long been a strict vegan. Although he must needs sleep outdoors, on the ground (and in the sanctuary of churchyards -- think of that!) he is very clean -- he showers (and sometimes twice) at the Shelter every day. In the evening, people who wander State Street in pairs and groups love to photograph him with his sign (he charges a mere dollar for posing). A scholar of Eastern philosophy and religions, he reads books on those subjects, and is probably more intelligently literate that half of the commenters on this blog. Last summer, a merry fellow offered him fifteen dollars for his "folk art" sign, an offer Gemini too quickly accepted but later regretted, as next day it took him several hours to fashion a replacement.


Wed, Nov 4, 2009 : 8:27 a.m.

Great give them a place to stay, give the free breakfast every morning, give them money for dope, give them a place to go and detox for a few days here and there, give them free medical and psychiatric care, and then give them a chance to tell there sad pathetic stories of how they have made such a mess of their miserable life. I could care less about this bum and his problems, leave, don't come back. We should be finding way to make A2 less bum friendly, in the end we would be much better off.

Inspector 57

Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 11:26 p.m.

I would never give a buck to a man whose sign reveals such a complete lack of punctuation skills.


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 8:40 p.m.

I'm having more fun reading all your comments that I did reading the actual article. BTW I agree that Mister Dream is a mooch and should get out of Dodge - go back to Gainesville and stay there.


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 7:52 p.m.

What does it say about the state of things that his picture was taken in front of what used to be Shaman Drum?


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 5:18 p.m.

Darwin was right about his theory, we have people evolving with no backbone. Get on your meds and try and get a job, sell snake oil, do something, don't just sit around like that all day. I bet the granddaughter is going to be real proud about grandpa when she gets oold enough to figure it out.


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 5:04 p.m.

Remember, Good Flock of Ann Arbor, Jesus was a panhandler. We should all open our hearts and try to understand both sides of this truly interesting soul. Yeah, right! Are you kidding me? Where do you live? How do you live? Do you herd cats? Why is it that we should sympathize with this criminal? What is the difference between this guy and any thief? Nothing! They should both be dealt with according to the laws they are breaking. It would be nice to see the AAPD take such a sympathetic look into this case.


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 4:44 p.m.

I am fairly sure that angry feelings of hard earned taxpayer money going to someone who is CLEARLY working a system, not to the betterment of themselves or society, is not envy but disgust.


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 4:19 p.m.

Mostly angry, decidely discontent people out there; doesn't seem as if Gemini's miserable existence deserves the righteous comments posted below which really come across as very twisted declarations of envy.

Maggie Ladd

Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 2:52 p.m.

Ann Arbor is not only a great place to panhandle, its a great place to recover if you suffer from substance abuse problems or mental health issues. Several years ago Mayor Hieftje initiated a taskforce on Panhandling which, amongst other things, concluded that this was less of a homelessness issue and more likely a substance abuse/mental health issue. The Taskforce attempted to create a win, win, win situation by identifying ways to help individuals get treatment, help businesses deal with panhandling issues and inform the community on where best to channel their giving. This led to a campaign called Loose Change for Real Change which attempted to divert public giving from panhandlers to an Outreach Program which linked those in need of help to a number of programs already in place in our community, such as Dawn Farm Detox and PORT (Project OutReach Team). Thank you for drawing attention to the panhandling issue in downtown. Perhaps we should re-open the dialogue started by the Panhandling taskforce. In the meantime, give your money wisely.


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 12:44 p.m.

Of all the newsworthy, law-abiding, interesting and eccentric citizens to profile in Ann Arbor, why pick a public nuisance like this guy? I want to read something relevant and uplifting.


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 12:25 p.m.

I couldn't help but smile when I finished reading this - not because of the guy in the story - but the ability of Mr. Dickson to get a homeless person to tell his story & be able to report a story like this. It takes a talented journalist to find, take interest in, and report on the things in everyday life that no one finds interesting or pays attention to and bring it into light from a different perspective. Job well done!

Sling Blade

Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 11:23 a.m.

Get a job Hippie!


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 11:16 a.m.

Is this a new feature at Bum of the week?


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 11:07 a.m.

Many of the comments on this post are horrifying, calling for gulags and starvation. How can you speak/think in such ways?

Atticus F.

Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 10:54 a.m.

First of all, a disability can mean a mental disability as well as a physical disability. Second of all, all citizens pay into the SS system in case they can't work due to a disability(mental or physical). Also some people on SS are able to work limited jobs, on a part time basis...but would never be able to hold the full time job needed to support one's self(due to there disabilty). If one of your children, or my children were born with a disability, I would take comfort in the fact that they would be taken care of, because of what I'VE paid into the system. And to the person who said "If you do not work, you do not eat!", you should be ashamed of your ignorance to say that about a disabled man...I hope you dont consider yourself to be a Christian.


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 10:26 a.m.

Broken marriages, fatherless children, living off of his sick elderly mother, life on the wrong side of the law - how romantic. So admirable and inspirational, of course he wouldn't have it any other way.


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 9:51 a.m.

Wow, what an inspiring biographical sketch,! I hope my kids can grow up to be as much of a criminal and drug addict and Social Security con man as Gemini! (All of which is somehow atoned for because he "is honest about his intentions"??)


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 9:47 a.m.

Everyone loves a homeless begger.... Please pan handle enough money and go away try Amsterdam


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 9:45 a.m.

I give the reporter credit. He is reporting reality good or bad. This sheds alot of light and hopefully people supporting this clown will now think twice!


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 9:37 a.m.

Mr. Dickson: Thank you glorifying the bohemian lifestyle of a panhandler. You did a great service to society. You also reinforced my conviction to not give panhandlers money, with extremely rare exception.


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 9:32 a.m.

"He says he made it as far south as Key West before encountering a hippy community that sung the praises of Ann Arbor and how tolerant the community was for drifters and street people - the guys who've taken a wrong turn or two in life." So true. I've long been away of Ann Arbor's reputation for a great place to be homeless. It's mostly the out of town students that are to blame too, as they're the predominant demographic that gives their money, unquestionably, to whatever bum asks for it. Heck, I learned quite quickly about "spangeing" when I started school at Community. Even the local high school kids know that they can go down to campus, stand around saying "spare any change?" and get lunch money in half an hour easy. I'm no more disgusted and disappointed in this guy and anyone else who scams the system we all pay into. I am MORE disappointed in the people that continue to support these scam artists by giving them money. Yes YOU...the idiot students that think you're bettering the world by giving your money to a "down and out" individual. Go donate blood if you want to better the world. I remember one guy who asked me for money for food in front of Burger King on Liberty (yeah...that long ago) and I offered him my bag of food I just picked up and he looked at me with this "what the hell am I supposed to do with this?" look. I mean he acted out right disgusted that I offered him food and asked me again for money for food. And don't even get me started on Scrappy....aka LaMark....but he's in prison right now so we haven't had to deal with him for a bit.


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 9:25 a.m.

waste of time


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 9:09 a.m.

Why not write about grown-ups? This guy is a crook with a juvenile mind. Not wonder he uses a drugie`s fake name. You need to grow up Gemini and stop being so mentally lazy!


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 8:56 a.m.

Let's expand the shelter and pay more taxes so we can feel good about ourselves. I am so glad the bums in Florida like us better than any town.


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 8:54 a.m.

And you wonder why the Ann Arbor News went belly up. Happy stories about scammers - I feel great; probably will open up my wallet to the guy tonight.


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 8:51 a.m.

If you do not work, you do not eat! How about that for a concept? This man needs to lose his benefits and be forced to work or starve! If he is healthy enough to stand on the street and beg, travel across country, stand up in protests,etc, then he is healthy enough to work! If I had the money honestly I would have him investigated and report him myself. It's people like this that take from the people in this country that truly do need help.


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 8:43 a.m.

It is very upsetting that an able bodied person carries on this way- grow up, man. I, too, am manic depressive but I am bale to hold down a job, support a family, and still despise the establishment. In these times when so many people are feeling the pain of not being employed or underemployed, it is in very bad taste that this type of story is allowed to make it to the light of day. I understand that there are many twists and turns in life and not all of them are pleasant, but grow a spine and get to work- or at a minimum, get out of my state. PS- James Dickson should have run this by an editor first.


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 8:21 a.m.

Is this really a "human interest story"? "Hassling" people minding their own business, scamming the SS system, criminal behavior (since you don't know his real name, I'm guessing he has a rap sheet a mile long). Surely, there are many, many folks out there that are contributing to society that you could write about. Geez...only in A2......


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 8:02 a.m.

Wolverine3660- bravo, I too have had to work through cancer treatments and this guy just wastes a system that should help those who really need it.


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 7:33 a.m.

I now have a real reason to fight global warming... To keep "Gemini Dream" out of Ann Arbor


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 7:30 a.m.

This article makes me really angry. I have no sympathy for a guy like this, who chooses to mooch of Social Security payments, whereas, there are people like me who have had to work through our cancer treatments,and others who have had to work through other serious non-medical crises in their lives. This guy needs to get his Social Security payments cut off. I hope someone from the Social Security Administration is reading this,and putting this guys picture to a name. James, I am sad that you chose to glorify the actions of a fraud.

Tom Teague

Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 7:13 a.m.

This is a striking statement from the original post of this article: "Gemini won't allow to print his real name..." A little reporting would quickly dig up Mr. Dream's real name since he has a criminal history that's a matter of public record. I'm sure one of those public servants that Mr. D refers to as a 'bully' would be happy to connect the dots between court record and the man on the street holding a sign. Then, being a news organization that isn't restricted by law from 'printing' facts, could identify him. I believe what the reporter meant was that Mr. Dream agreed to speak to on the condition that he not be identified. Otherwise, readers are left with the impression that newsmakers can direct to not use their names.


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 7:09 a.m.

Pardon both my pop psychology and the use of a cliche, but perhaps Gemini smokes pot in an attempt to self-medicate. After reading a few paragraphs of this story, I guessed that there was a good chance that he was bipolar, otherwise known as having manic-depression. Reading further, I learned that he had indeed been diagnosed with this condition. Let me add that the consensus seems to be that bipolar illness is genetically based. All the talk therapy in the world won't cure it. Drugs can help, but often cause myriad side effects. There but for the grace of god...


Tue, Nov 3, 2009 : 6:46 a.m.

i'm so proud of some people's ability to scam social security and make a mockery of it, and is highlighting this???!!! let's focus on real news, and inspirational stories, as good role models for our children.