This Blog is Stolen Property

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sign of the Times

Having lived most of my life in cities with very large homeless populations, I find myself not precisely hardened to the problem, but more detached than I should be. I don't like this detachment--I think it's a symptom of the ethical anaesthesia that lets us live useless or damaging lives.

But this post isn't about self-flagellation.

It's about signs. One of the side effects of my daily callousness toward the homeless problem is my connoisseurship of panhandling signage. These fall into certain categories:

The heartrending:

Social services has my kids


Vietnam veteran--HIV+

Ok, this last one would be more devasting if its owner weren't in his late thirties/early forties and therefore unlikely to be a Vietnam vet. Maybe he's a veteran of too many Full Metal Jacket viewings.*

The sadly humorous:

Will work for hugs. Money ok, too.


Won't lie. Need beer.

The ironic meta-sign:

Sad Story

Well, one thinks they've seen every possible category of sign, but today I saw a new one that's left me a little stymied. It didn't belong to a traditional panhandler, but to a busker, which is weird enough in itself. The buskers are almost invariably sign-free and careful to distinguish themselves from street people. Busking around here is considered a honorable profession--advocates for the noise-polluting institution like to point out that Tracy Chapman and Mary Lou Lord both got their start busking here.**

But today I saw this busker with a sign. She certainly didn't look homeless--she was rather fashionably, if somewhat trashily, dressed in a low cut top and thigh-high boots. She had elaborately dressed hair and well-manicured (if somewhat trahsy) fingernails. She was singing a torch song, something about being done wrong. And by an upturned hat she had a sign that read (I'm not kidding):

Please help. Need to get prescription for antibiotics filled.

I just don't know what to make of this. Apart from the weirdness of this woman's in-between-ness, half busker and half well-dressed panhandler, the specificity of her sign just threw me. Antibiotics? Isn't that a lot of information?

I sort of felt like telling her that all I could see when I looked at her sign was:

Got the Clap. Need the Cure.

But then, I'm not a very nice person.

There's no point to this story.

*When I was a bartender, I heard lots of stories about Vietnam. I'm sure that at least half of those guys were never there. There was one cusotmer who would try to convince me that he was a Vietnam vet, despite his being in his clearly thirties (this was about ten years ago). I even carded him once, just to make sure. He was born in 1963. So unless he was VERY precocious, I'm sure he never fought Charlie on the delta. Just sayin'. You'd think these guys could at least update it to the Gulf War. Or maybe Granada--that would at least be original.

**I know that I've bitched about the buskers before, and I know how miserably curmudgeonly it sounds. I swear that I never hated street musicians until I moved to the busking capital of the free world. On any given day when the weather's decent, there are 5-10 of them in a three block radius and many of them are amplified (ugh) so that their sonic real estate overlaps. This ceases to be music and it just noise pollution. Also, I am a curmudgeon.


Do you have one of those friends? The kind who is just freakishly smart, that you're half in wonder and half alarmed? The kind who makes you sort of amazed that you're even in the same species as them?

Well, I went to lunch with TWO such folks today. I came to the realization that I am their Ralph Wiggam.

"My cat's name is 'Mittens.' His breath smells like cat food." That's about what I can contribute. Seriously, by the end of lunch, I was pulling my hand into the sleeve of my sweater and splaying the fingers and saying: "I made a starfish with my sweater."

I feel blessed to have such friends. But also a little mystified.

Monday, June 11, 2007

A Day in the Life of the World's Laziest Man

I'm working from home this week, which is nice, but not always productive of work.

This morning, I was getting some leftover tabouleh out of the refrigerator for breakfast. And I don't know how it happened, but the bowl slipped out of my hands. Everything was in slo-mo: I could see the bowl falling and the tabouleh flying in excruciating detail. I heard myself yelling "nnnnnnnooooooooooooo!."

And then everything went back to normal time and I had about a quart and a half of salad everywhere. All over inside the refrigerator. Down in the vents of the refrigerator. All over the floor, the countertop, the cupboards. All over me--bits of tomato and cucumber and bulgher in my hair and on my glasses. Everything smelt of garlic and mint.

So I spent the morning cleaning up. I actually had to bust out the old screwdriver and take the refrigerator apart in order to get it all up. There's still a faint sheen of olive oil on the cupboards and I don't think I'll ever get the garlic smell off me. I'm half tempted to go the mikvah down the block and see if they can help.

I have given up on work. I still haven't had any breakfast. I am going to the movies.