Feeling their pain 

I want to put in a word for those tender hearts who got in mind to feign dispossession – to slouch out onto the street for a couple of days, sleeping under bridges and depending on the kindness of strangers for their supper — as a way of sending a message to homeless people that we homed people know their pain and sympathize. Their demonstration was cut short, rather scandalously, as you know. When the going got tough, these faux streetpeople got going – right back to the house. The mercury dipped that first night and they scattered, returned to their several cozy hearths. Cold can do that to a body, draining sentimentality and resolve as it does batteries. It was more than these homelessness deplorers had bargained for. Humiliating themselves for a noble cause was one thing – donning rags and bumming quarters – but hypothermia? Didn’t frostbite oftentimes require subsequent appendage amputation to head off gangrene? And for what, really? A conscience massage? To bolster a bunch of Freddy the Freeloaders’ self-esteem? They did well to bail so quickly, I thought. Here’s wisdom from an old veteran of the public pityfest, whose geezer heart used to bleed with unrivaled profusion and dependability at the drop of an unfortunate’s hat: It doesn’t dignify a proposition that’s a bad idea to start with to carry it on through to a conclusion. Fly from it as soon as the donkey starts to bray. Nobody’s going to laugh who wasn’t already tittering. Nobody’s going to think less of you, least of all him you were wanting to feel sorry for. Wising up wasn’t easy in this instance. You couldn’t put yourself in the homeless dude’s place because he had no place, but you could ask yourself what he would do if he could put himself in your place. Would he pick your toasty four-poster over mossy riverbank for his next repose? And another tray of them nachos and the all-new episode of “Numbers” or “Monk” over another night of rat howdys and tossed ends of pizza crust? Is the bear a Catholic? Does the pope go in the woods? It would’ve been pure wormwood for Bro. Homeless that someone with as beautiful a domestic situation as yours was hunkered down there in the glint and glare and sour chill of another night at the underpass, and claiming it was for his benefit. Sure it was, he would’ve told you by way of Matthew 8:20. Sure it was. Listen, these homeless dudes know, and you know, and I know, and Sen. Jim Holt knows, and Fifty Cent knows, and Dame Edna Everage knows, and Vice President Cheney and his harridan wife and his gay daughter know, and everybody else knows that being broke sucks. Being cold sucks. Being adrift sucks. It sucks to be all the time in need of a belt, a hit, a sandwich, a ride, a break, or a purpose in life, and lack the means to obtain it. B.o. so bad that you gross your own self out sucks. Being nowhere, going nowhere, getting nowhere, for no reason, must really suck. But empty gestures of pretend solidarity suck too. Guilt trips that play out at 36 degrees F. suck. And absquatulating as quietly and quickly as you can is about all you can do to get over it. Was there a better way of going about this, of essaying to draw attention to the homelesses’ plight? Maybe. I do know this: you can give the homeless dude a fish, and he’ll be hungry again tomorrow, but teach him to fish and he might never be hungry again. That’s assuming of course that he doesn’t choose Grandma’s well, the municipal water tank, the bus-station commode as his fishing hole. It also assumes he’ll be willing to learn the angler’s artful patience. Not many of the homeless dudes I’ve encountered seem of a proper disposition to take up fishing. Certainly not bass fishing. Also, it’s a safe bet that his knapsack is not going to contain any tackle. You’ll have to bring the tackle. And bait. In the same spirit, you might teach the homeless dude to hunt. Take him along on your next trip to your deer camp or duck club. Here again, you’ll not only have to instruct him but also supply him with both firearm and ammo, and you’ll just have to hope he doesn’t use them to get the drop on you, thence to wolf your ragout and bolt. Even in the utopia of the deer woods, a tramp always wants to move on. On occasion I’ve tried to share personal hygiene, grooming and fashion tips with these characters. But I’ve found them categorically deaf to good advice. They only want hard currency. One time as I was coming out of Wal-Mart with a new-bought bag of toiletries, a gone-to-the-dogs former classmate hit me up in the parking lot, and I fished a stick of underarm deodorant out of the bag and handed it over. A subtle hint, I thought. And apropos. But this guy was beyond nuance. Before I could show him the first thing about proper application technique, he had the cap off and ate the stuff in one bite like an ice-cream cone.


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • A real mayor

    Baker Kurrus is trying to brand himself as an agent for change as mayor of Little Rock, but labors under a handicap.
    • Nov 22, 2018
  • Arkansas Medicaid rule described as 'disastrous'

    Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell today rips Gov. Asa Hutchinson's scheme to require computerized reporting of work to qualify for Medicaid as 'disastrous" and illustrates with some personal examples.
    • Nov 20, 2018
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning reported at Clark County Jail

    KARK reports that the Clark County sheriff has been forced to find alternative facilities for 47 county jail inmates following carbon monoxide poisoning last week in the Arkadelphia jail.
    • Nov 20, 2018
  • More »

More by Bob Lancaster

  • Banned in 2018

    Here's some arcana reeking of 2017 that I'm banning from consideration, attention, even out-loud mention in 2018. I'm unfriending all this 2017-reminding shit. It's dead to me in 2018.
    • Jan 11, 2018
  • Wretched rez

    I had some New Year's Rez(olutions) for 2016 but that ship sailed so I'm renaming them my Spring Rez or my All-Occasion Whatevers and sending them along.
    • May 26, 2016
  • Nod to Bob

    A look back at the weird and wonderful world of Bob Lancaster.
    • Mar 21, 2013
  • More »

Latest in Bob Lancaster

  • Lancaster retires

    Bob Lancaster, one of the Arkansas Times longest and most valued contributors, retired from writing his column last week. We’ll miss his his contributions mightily. Look out, in the weeks to come, for a look back at some of his greatest hits. In the meantime, here's a good place to start.

    • Feb 21, 2013
  • On black history

    If you're going to devote an entire month to appreciating the history of a color, it might as well be the color black.
    • Feb 14, 2013
  • Making it through

    Made it through another January, thank the Lord.
    • Feb 6, 2013
  • More »

Most Viewed

  • Moms Demand, get results

    For too long, Arkansas lawmakers have been beholden to the gun lobby, and gun-violence prevention policies that are proven to save lives have been ignored. The Arkansas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America is working to change that.
  • Clean air news

    Amid the biblical fires, droughts, floods, hurricanes and rising seas that beset the heating Earth, the old blue orb occasionally absorbs some good news that suggests it may still harbor some hope for a sustainable future.
  • A real mayor

    Baker Kurrus is trying to brand himself as an agent for change as mayor of Little Rock, but labors under a handicap.
  • 2018: Complicated

    The last two election cycles redefined Arkansas politics. In 2014, the three distinguishing elements of Arkansas's politics — provincialism, personalism and populism — with roots back to the McMath era of the middle of the 20th century, died simultaneously as a Tom Cotton-style Republicanism roared into dominance in the state.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Embarrassed

    • Au contraire, Monsieur Lyons, Operation Iraqi Freedom was a fantastic success if you understand the…

    • on November 21, 2018
  • Re: On to 2020

    • My heart is with yours, Autumn. Joyce Elliott is my choice to run against Cotton…

    • on November 20, 2018
  • Re: On to 2020

    • I think Joyce Elliot would be an excellent candidate to run against Cotton in 2020…

    • on November 20, 2018

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation