Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Theme Thursday: One Man's Trash, or, The Return of the Bums of New York
As I watch, New York City is turning back to its former glory. Graffiti, crime, rats, panhandlers, and crazy bums. Lots and lots of crazy bums. I haven't seen so many bums since the '80s. Where were they during these last 20 years? I guess maybe city services had enough staffing and funding to medicate them and get them sheltered. Just long enough so that the annoying ex-urb yuppies (notice my use of a retro-'80s word!) could move here, jack up the rental and real estate prices, pretend that Brooklyn was the suburbs...
At this juncture, re-enter the Bums of New York. They're bearded, they're paranoid schizophrenic, they love to menace their imaginary enemies and sometimes, just sometimes, they'll push you into the subway tracks. It seems bizarre to me, but the yuppies are too politically correct even to admit that they notice the sudden proliferation of bums, let alone to call the cops on them when they loiter around children's playgrounds carrying on a formal duel with themselves.
And right here I'm going to admit to you: I like the bums. They really have a special sort of charisma in their eccentricities. And like fingerprints, no two are alike. I like to think of myself as a bit of a Bum Connoisseur. I treasure the little details that go into their delusional, shambling existences. Take the bum who confronted me and my sister the other day. He shouted garbled imprecations, then flung a handful of something at us. He managed a really spectacular throw, and the objects caught the sunlight high above our heads before they came to rest, scattered, at our feet. I looked. They were red and yellow Chiclets. Was he giving us a gift in the only way he knew how? Maybe. Was he a performance artist fallen on hard times? Could be that too. Who knows the motives of bums, but really, they intrigue me.
More important, they have a foul odor that's somehow more honest than the smell of new money. Ironically, their appearance might be the harbinger, Oh how I'm hoping, of a place once again for the middle class in this city. Perhaps eventually all the transplants will have enough of the screamed obscenities, the visible cases of lice, and the psychotic menacing, will get to a point where they can no longer deny the grit of the city, and will pack up their annoying lifestyles and move back to whence they came.
All this ranting gets me to the topic of Theme Thursday: suitcase.
Pictured above is the scene outside my livingroom window this afternoon: a bum had taken up temporary residence in the playground across the street, having parked his "suitcase" in the middle of the street. Said suitcase was actually more of a towering mound of burstingly full garbage bags, stacked on his stolen shopping cart in a brilliant feat of engineering. What was in those garbage bags? Beats hell out of me. But this suitcase stood a majestic seven feet tall.
Now that's a suitcase.