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2 December 2015

Bearded Bruce, a hulk of a man, was sitting on the sidewalk, panning for change.

“Dennis, come down here. I want to give you a hug. Don’t make me stand up. I’m a bit drunk today.”

“Bruce, I haven’t seen you for ages.”

“Loretta said she met you a while back, so I’ve been hoping to see you. This isn’t my regular spot. It’s the first of December today, isn’t it? I get excited about Christmas approaching. I’m going to stop drinking so I can save money for a big Christmas meal. Tonight I put up my tree, the little one foot tree that Weasel brought over last year. I miss him and Blackie too.

“How’ve you been?”

“I’ve been fine, Bruce, no complaints. Loretta mentioned that she’d been staying with you.”

“Yeah, for a few days, for a few months, whenever she can get her legal troubles settled. They asked her if she had a place to stay and she offered my name. I was accepted. She takes care of me. She’s a beautiful woman, but she can be a fierce bitch.'”

I said, “She mentioned that she’d been drinking and had gotten into a few fights.”

“Well that pretty well sums it up. She’s staying with me until her court date when she finds out what’s going to happen. I was surprised that I’d been approved to be her guardian, but they checked me out and since I’ve been in my own place for three years they figured that I was stable. That’s why I’m a bit drunk today; I’m celebrating three years with a home. I’ve paid my rent on time. That’s another first for me.

“They cut me off Welfare, so I have to pan twice as long to get enough money to eat.”

“Why did they cut you off?”

“I wouldn’t go along with the silly things that they wanted me to do. For one thing, they won’t accept that panhandling is a job. If I was a hooker, I wouldn’t have a problem. That’s considered acceptable work.”

I said, “Have you thought of listing yourself as a hooker, but earn your living as a panhandler?”

“Believe me, I’ve given that a lot of thought, but it’s just not me.”

“The world is a crazy place,” I said.

“Yes, it was Socrates that said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

“I’m glad to hear that Loretta has a place to stay.”

“Now, don’t you go looking at her through rose colored glasses, like you did towards Joy. She’s a beautiful woman, but an alcoholic, who has some serious charges against her and she can be a real bitch.”

I said, “I can appreciate that. I haven’t seen that side of her, but alcohol can turn the nicest people mean.

“Did you hear that Rick moved to his home town? I really admired him.”

Bruce asked, “What did you admire?”

“That he made and distributed sandwiches to other homeless people.”

“Yes, that’s admirable. Did you also hear that he did two years in prison for stabbing a guy in the lung.”

I said, “I hadn’t heard that, but I know that he broke his hand while trying to strangle somebody.”

Bruce asked, “Would you like to share a joint?”

I said, “Sure.”

“Do you have any cigarette papers?”

“No.”

“Well, I’ve got the pot, but no papers.

“In that case would you like a drink?” He pulled out a flask of vodka.

I looked around, saw that the coast was clear and said, “Sure.” I took a swig. It tasted good. I handed it back and Bruce took a swig.”

As people passed on the sidewalk Bruce would yell, “Hey, hey, can you help a fellow out. Have a good evening. God bless you.”

A while later he asked me if I wanted another drink, “I said sure.” I took a swig and handed it back to him. I said, “I could very easily become an alcoholic.”

Bruce said, “You already are.”

That jolted me a bit, but I said, “My father, brother and nephew were alcoholics. My niece was addicted to cocaine and her husband was on heroin. It probably runs in the family.”

Bruce said, “I heard that you’ve written a book. Is that right?”

“Yes I have. It’s about when I first met Joy about five years ago. I donate the proceeds of book sales to the Innercity Missions, Outreach Support Program. I also continue to help street people on my own.”

“That’s great. I like those Outreach people. Writing about what people say to you is one thing, but to understand this life you have to live it. I don’t mean for a week, but at least a month. I suggest from January 14 to February 14. Bring a warm sleeping bag, three pair of heavy socks and anything else you can fit in one backpack. You can’t rely on any money you have in savings accounts or credit cards. I’ll help you find a place, I’ll show you how to panhandle and I’ll be across the street, if you have any problems. That’s what I did with Loretta and now she’s independent. That means a lot.”

“I appreciate that, Bruce. I’m not ready to do that this year, but I agree that the only way to understand this way of life is to live it. On the street is real; it’s immediate. Either you make enough money for food or you don’t.”

“What is real? Wasn’t it Plato that asked that same question?

For Plato, in order for something to be real, it had to be permanent and unchanging. Reality and perfection for Plato were closely related.

“Have you managed to find any jobs as a chef. I know you have the qualifications.”

“Yeah, I worked as a chef for twenty-three years then I let alcohol and crack get the better of me. To tell you the truth, I don’t want to work. I enjoy what I’m doing. When the sun is shining, this is the best job in the world.”

Buy my book for $0.99 — proceeds feed the homeless:
Gotta Find a Home; Conversations with Street People
http://buff.ly/1wyjiKS

 

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