|I remember something that a homeless person told me while I was transiting in the DC Metro System. This particular man claimed to be one of the original Temptations. I had a hard time believing him, seeing as how he was playing the invisible saxophone when I met him.
He told me, "I ain't homeless 'cause I can't get no job. I'm homeless 'cause I don't want no job."
This made me wonder if this is the case for most dispossessed persons? Because I suffer from a curious nature and I won't settle until my appetite is satiated, I knew I had to talk to the homeless themselves.
Finding a bum in Hawaii is about as easy as a Thai whore. Going to the closest highway underpass or bus stop usually provides at least one homeless person.
I walked around by the Honolulu Airport and right away I saw my first victim. He was an older man, but it was hard to tell how old he was. If you guestimate the age of homeless with my aging system (which was drawn by the same system used to date trees) he was about 60 judging by the dirt rings on his face and neck.
You never can be too sure what the mental stability of any given homeless person might be, so being sensitive about my questions was a priority. I figured I'd ease in to the interrogation with a topic to break the ice. I didnít want to piss him off and lose the chance at some good quotes.
"And why are you homeless?" I asked the destitute man who was eating a granola bar.
"My wife divorced me and things went downhill from there."
"Why did she divorce you? Was it because of the drinking?"
"No. She divorced me because my portfolio wasn't good enough."
"Well than how come you smell like whiskey?"
"I wasn't a wino then like I am now. I did have a job as a cab driver, but I lost my license for an aggravated DUI."
An aggravated DUI? What the hell? Was he beating the shit out of his Jack Daniel's bottle and drinking it at the same time?
"How long ago was that?" I inquired.
"I've kind of lost track of time. You know, being impoverished and all, I don't exactly have the luxury of having a watch. Unless you want to give me yours?"
I looked down at my watch. It was a cheap Velcro analog watch I got from a friend's friend. She works at one of those companies that print customized logos and such on office supplies. Stuff like notepads, pens, mouse pads, cheap digital watches, etc. She gave it too me for free. It wasn't hard to part with the watch.
"Sure, you can have it. Just don't pawn it in for booze." I'm such a jerk. I still don't understand why I haven't gotten my ass beat by some mentally deficient psycho-bum. I say some pretty stupid stuff sometimes.
"Trade this in for booze?" he said facetiously while fitting the watch around his wrist. "I couldn't get a wet cork for this piece of shit. But thanks."
Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth.
"You're welcome. It was nice talking to you. Oh, by the way, what's your name?"
"People call me Spanky," said Spanky.
"Nice to meet you Spanky. My nameís McClain. Hey, what time is it?" I lightheartedly asked him. He smiled and winked at me while holding the watch in the air. That was a nice feeling. Too bad he only had one tooth or it would have been a bit nicer.
Spanky was quite possibly the most coherent homeless man I have ever conversed with. And I have talked to a lot of bums. But despite his intelligence he was still smelly. The bits of his granola bar that fell in his beard were driving me nuts. I wanted to grab a vacuum cleaner and suck the grime out of his ZZ Top-esque beard.
I continued down the highway underpass to see if there were any other bums I could talk with. I saw the remnants of their residence, but no one was home. I knew of another place that harbors the homeless - a bus stop not too far from my house.
When I arrived at the bus stop I started talking to this mid-aged homeless man drinking Snapple. He rambled on about John Coltrane being a robot and things of the sort.
There seem to be two common occurrences in my rendezvous with these people - theyíre eating or drinking something and they all seem to be obsessed with music.
This particular man was the embodiment of everything "bum." Unkempt facial hair, excessive clothing (all of which are raggedy) and the ever-important shopping cart.
Well, to make a short story long, we start talking and he says that in the "coming millennium... everyone will die. He'd say something to the effect of "There ain't gonna' be no mo' free thought! Artificial intelligence in robots. Doo da de!" To which I reply with some smart-ass retort.
"That's true. The government is using Whoopie Goldberg as a cyborg to read our minds through the television." This incessant conversation continued for a few minutes. All the people around my new buddy and me seemed to be waiting for the bus and were quite interested and amused at our dialogue.
Let me make one thing clear: he was a happy homeless man. If that's at all possible. I know it sounds stupid, but he was. He was smiling all the time and he never once asked me for a thing. Matter of fact, when I offered to buy him Subway he declined.
So I'm completely placating this man and all the wacky ideas that discharge from his mouth. He was really a nutcase. I'd say something funny and a few people around me would chuckle. Then he'd say something about the millenium and fallout shelters, then I'd say something funny. So on and so forth.
I then made a comment about the biblical repercussions of Armageddon and something about Satan arising from The Vatican. After I said it there were about 20 seconds of silence. With the situation I was in, that's actually a long time. I wasn't sure if I had said something to piss him off. It was really awkward. The homeless man wasnít going anywhere. He just stood in front of me, swaying from right to left. I was ready for him to snap. I could cut the tension with a knife, so I decided to make another snarky observation and hope to mitigate some of the ill feeling.
Just then he went to take a sip from his Snapple. Don't ask me why a homeless person is drinking Snapple. He was really hounding that shit, too. Big, long gulps. Right in the middle of his drinking I shouted "THERE WON'T BE ANY SNAPPLE IN THE NEW MILLENIUM!"
As the slow motion kicked in, the homeless man keeled forward and Snapple shot out from his mouth like it was a water hose. He was spitting it everywhere. On the people, on himself, on me. Once his mouth was empty he fell to the ground and started laughing hysterically.
Here you have this homeless man in the fetal position rolling around in the dirt. Bubbles of juice were seeping out of his mouth and a juice-snot bubble combination from his nose - making him look rabid. And to top it of his laugh sounded like a maniacal shriek.
The bus pulled up and people fought each other to get on first. They were scared, and I was too shocked and amused to even move. The bus driver yelled, "Is he okay?" and I just stood there laughing. I even think I pointed at the homeless man a couple times in the course of my mirth.
I couldn't think of what to do, and this man wasn't going to stop anytime soon. He just kept rolling and kept laughing. Then a bus filled with Japanese tourists came by and I swear to God I heard the driver say over the system, "And here we have some punk kid watching a crack-addict spaz for a hit." But then again, I donít speak Japanese (anymore), so it could have been anything.
I was a bit worried at this point. I wasnít sure if he was having a fit or that if he was honestly laughing hysterically. I bid him a quick farewell and briskly walked away. I walked directly toward a music store about 30 yards from the bus stop. I figured that Iíd go in and feign interest in something musical until this whole charade calmed down. I sensed some bad karma coming on so it was time to get lost.
But about five steps before I reached the entrance, one of the employees locked the door and dropped the OPEN sign to CLOSED. What the hell was going on?
Did they see what I did and now mistake me for some sort of loon? What is this about? Did the employee see something to cause him to close the door? Maybe he saw the homeless man mere paces behind me with a broken Snapple bottle ready to disembowel me. But I canít look! Now Iím trapped out here with this crazy homeless man who just might attack me with fits of spontaneous rage! I need to seek shelter immediately. Iím in over my head!
"Dear god, Iíll never patronize another homeless person as long as I live! Just get me out of this alive! I swear to you, oh holy God, just donít let this crazy man attack me," I was pleading.
I didnít even bother to look back and check the status of the enraged bum. Enraged, excited, whatever. For all I know he wants to kill me by now. Itís time to book out of here! I darted into the store around the corner. As soon as I was inside I knew I was in a safe haven. I tried to catch my breath and I looked up in to the store. "Subway!" I thought. "Now Iím okay. Everything is okay."
"Hey man, is that guy with you?" the hoagie girl asked me.
"What guy?" What guy?
"That guy behind you with the Snapple bottle."
My legs went numb. I slowly turned my head and saw him... standing... behind... me.
"Aaaahhh! GET AWAY FROM ME YOU FREAK! AHHH! HELP!" I screamed like a little bitch.
"Uh... I was just wondering if you was gonnaí buy me a sammich," the homeless man said.
Oh yeah, I did offer to buy him a sandwich, didnít I?
"Yeah, sure. No problem," I said, cool as ever.
I told him to get whatever looked good, but that weíre not going for broke here. He ordered a meatball sub with all the fixins, because come on, heís homeless and all those toppings are free. He stocked up.
I ended up sitting down and having a nice long conversation with the man about all sorts of things; Our new Commander-In-Chief, foreign exchange policies, how smut magazines have progressed since the infancy of Larry Flint. We even talked about the grody people that ride the bus.
As the meal drew to a close, I realized a couple things about the homeless crowd. Most of the stigmas are completely false. They arenít all drunks. They arenít all mentally deficient. But most importantly, they donít all want handouts. Or maybe they do?
On that point Iím still unclear. Iím just glad Iím not dead right now.
p.s.: Here's a pic of My brother Mason with the "bus stop bum"
(sorry that the photo quality isn't too good)
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