Stories from the Street

The homeless are rearranging the furniture on my street today. The furniture of the more recent homeless. The corporate wolves are hungry. The locals talk of morality and myth, like modern shamans corrupted by the franchise state.

Someone called the police… I guess they thought it was their duty.

“Can’t have a couch in the middle of the street.” ” Something must be done.” Said a man with a fauxhawk in an Affliction t-shirt.

The LAPD (I once heard someone call them “the army of the rich”) came wearing blue rubber gloves. They took the homeless…”somewhere else.” That seemed to satisfy the mob. It upsets and frightens them to see the people of the streets. Like it might be contagious.

There once was a game called Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, where we would align famous people or ourselves to Kevin Bacon’s fame. (Just for the record, I am 2 degrees from Kevin Bacon.) We may want to consider Six Degrees of the Homeless.

It’s really easy to pretend that the homeless are not connected to us in any way. Like they couldn’t possibly be our mother, brother, sister, etc.. We fear the homeless and we call them lazy or crazy (I’ve heard that about myself, by the way). But what we really fear is that we will become one of them, and everyone will shun us and call the police on us, like we do to them. Maybe if we took better care of each other, we wouldn’t be so afraid of ending up at the bottom, and maybe spend less time clawing our way to the top. Maybe, with a little compassion, the bottom could be as nice as the top.

The gas war is over. Gas won.

In the gas crisis of the 1970s, people were outraged that gas cost over one dollar a gallon. They waited in long lines to get gas, sometimes running out of gas in the process.

My grandfather used to have a key chain that said, “The gas war is over. Gas won.”

In protest, my grandfather bought an electric lawn mower. I have a vague recollection of that lawn mower. It had a really long extension cord. My grandfather drove over the cord and cut it in half. My memories of that orange and green electric lawn mower include an extension cord spliced back together with black electrical tape.

Schoolyard Justice

The gardeners were blow-drying the lawn in front of my apartment complex. I closed the shades and changed my clothes. As I pulled up my Levi’s, I looked up and saw the eye of the gardener with the loud tools looking through the crack in my blinds. While I was shocked, I was somehow also indifferent.

Susie was quite young when she got the reputation in that midwestern schoolyard. It’s the kind of thing you can’t live down in thoseĀ  towns. She would forever be “the girl that…”. Until the day she disappeared to start a new life in Los Angeles… a leader of a rock-and-roll band, a yoga teacher, or something equally obtuse, like running for office.

The elementary schoolyards of the midwest were fierce. Jockeying for acceptance, solitude or power. Lions roamed the basketball courts without nets and broken swing sets.

The parking lot was full of children. Children of the just-below-middle-class. Joey had a new box of crayons. He ran through the crowd yelling, “I have new crayons!” and laughing. I had crayons, but they were not new. They were community crayons kept in an empty cigar box. We shared them. The black crayon was only a small stump. The children of the schoolyard/parking lot eyeballed Joey with his new crayons and his pride, running faster and yelling louder, “Haha! I have new crayons!” holding them high above his head.

Alan stuck a foot out and Joey took flight. But nothing like his new crayons, that spread out like shrapnel across the crowd of the crayonless. Joey grunted something as his knees met the asphalt. The crayons fell around his crumpled body. At once, as if there was an unspoken command, all of the children of that midwestern playground/parking lot began jumping in the air, stamping Joey’s new crayons into oblivion. Mary Sue Snarky was jumping so high I could see her white underwear as her Catholic school-girl’s dress lifted on her descent, patent leather shoes crushing Joey’s rich-boy pride into the crumbs of adult ambition.