I am enjoying the new job and the downtown Denver scene. Within a block of the office there are five coffee shops, four sandwich joints, a Chipotle, a flower vendor, a blind bum that likes to sing Isley Brothers tunes and the always lively 16th Street Mall. The mall is usually teaming with business executives connected to their ear piece cell phones like Lobot, statuesque women in six inch heels walking with mean swaggers, homeless panhandlers and disheveled, mentally ill crazies that yell and carry signs. The latter are by far the most entertaining. Yesterday a wild-eyed maniac sporting a wig that looked like a dumpster diving reward was walking down the mall with a sign that read “GESUS LOVES U.” He nearly got ran over by a shuttle bus as he was thrusting said sign into the faces of a nice looking gentleman and his two younger daughters who were participating in Bring Your Child To Work Day. This morning as I was looping around the building to the parking garage, a filthy homeless drug addict was flashing a two-way sign on the corner which read “HILLARY IS FIDEL” on one side and “JFK SHOT MARILYN” on the other. It was comforting to learn that even homeless drug addicts hate Hillary.
Today while meeting with a client at the downtown Tattered Cover, an unsavory character with crack pipe burns about his hands stopped me while exiting the store and asked for spare change in exchange for reciting one of his poems. I am opposed to giving street urchins any form of compensation (it is not in my nature to enable) so I agreed to the transaction with the caveat that if I did not like his poem he would receive no payment. He agreed, pulled out his mangled spiral notebook and began reciting prose. The poem was surprisingly good, rife with inflections of loss, pain, happiness, despair and hope. I gave him 47 cents, told him to stay off the rock and to keep working the poetry angle. He said thanks and then told me he had to catch a bus that was taking him to a drug test. After his drug test I am sure he was meeting up somewhere with his nymphomaniac girlfriend that has ‘Fuck My Whore Ass’ and ‘Fuck My Whore Pussy’ tattooed on her hips.
It would suck to be homeless in Denver right now. It’s goddamn cold. I do not give panhandlers anything for two reasons:
- I never carry cash or change. I am all about the cashless society written about in the book of Revelation.
- I prefer not to enable addiction. I am not saying all panhandlers are addicts, but a good number of them are and I would rather not be chipping in on a bottle of Thunderbird (unless they’re splitting it with me).
It is not to say that I am unsympathetic to the plight of downtrodden. Our society casts aside those that are mentally ill, unemployed and otherwise down on their luck. I look at the homeless and see tragedy. I am quick to remind myself that if I chose some different paths in life, I might be on that street corner self-medicating and begging for relief, too (whether it be in the form of cheap wine or a half-eaten meatball sandwich that someone tossed in the trash).
I do not ignore beggars like most people do. I acknowledge them, tell them no and go on about my business. I have had some funny exchanges with panhandlers over the years and here are but a few:
Beggar: Spare change, sir?
Beggar: C’mon, man.
Beggar: Do you not have any or do you not want to give me any?
Me: Pick one.
Beggar: I need a dollar, man. Give me a dollar.
Me: I do not have a dollar.
Beggar: …looks the future wife up and down… With a lady like that I can see why.
Beggar: …leans over railing of an outdoor cafe and points to my garnish… Hey man, are you gonna eat that?
Beggar: You are gonna eat that green stuff?
Me: Yes. It cleanses the palette.
Beggar: It also gets rid of cotton mouth.