Homeless man creates world of toys and dreams

EAST LOS ANGELES "I collected these toys on the street," /*Bamboo Charlie*/ says. "It was about 1992 and I decided, what am I going to do with all these toys? I've become a toy collector like people collect stamps."

Eighteen years ago, the down-and-out homeless man found a magical place where bamboo grows wild.

With the owner's permission, Bamboo Charlie built a home, had graffiti artists paint the walls and filled it with irreverent collections of toys and signs.

"Here's my /*Tiger Woods*/ exhibit," he says, pointing to a collection of dolls and cell phones. "It's 21 women."

When he's not maintaining his museum, Bamboo Charlie is in the home he built in 1992 out of plywood. It's got a bed, electricity, a stereo system, a TV and even a stove where he cooked his /*Thanksgiving*/ turkey last year.

Bamboo Charlie makes $70 a month collecting bottles and cans. That pays for his propane tanks and some food. The rest of the food, he grows himself.

"Grapes, apples, peaches, nectarines," he says. "I grow some of the sweetest grapes for a homeless person."

The former crane operator says he hasn't seen his adult children in years, but that's okay. He'll go back to his real life when he's ready.

Until then, Bamboo Charlie will keep surviving, with a little bit of charity and a lot of imagination.

"If you build it, they will come," he says.

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