Wednesday, September 1, 1999

Cheesed Five-O

Well here we are again trying to make sense out of a world spinning into new-millenium madness, riding the grand ever-surprising baby boom crest on its way to that big Jimi Hendrix theme park in the sky that Paul Allen can only approximate here on Earth, in spite of all his riches.

That’s right. I hit the big Five-O this summer. I’m bummed. And that’s not a word I use lightly.

You want to know why I’m bummed? You want to know what’s really got me cheesed? Whatever that means? No? Well I’ll tell you then.

The library has got me down. The new librarian has a Vision of a homeless-free library. It seems that the homeless folks using the library are bad for the donation business, according to the new management, who just discovered that pretty people sell.

Now I could rant and rail about how unjust this is. I could point out that homeless people are citizens too, and have as much right to use the library as anyone else. I could note the absurdity of people saying all the time that homeless folks should apply themselves to improve themselves and their situations, and then try to discourage them from one of the best ways to do so.

But I won’t do that this time. Because what I’m bummed about is that I know that when they say they want to get rid of the homeless people, what they really mean is, they want to get rid of the people who look homeless, and that’s this old codger.

All those years of being homeless in the past have taken their toll.

We’ve already established the fact that the Seattle police cannot tell the difference between me, an old, currently housed, eccentric, impoverished nerd with a jones for old math books, from an actual homeless threat to the otherwise thriving, viable, Seattle downtown boom economy.

So what will happen to me when the Library Police start making their sweeps through the library rounding up the “transients” for deposit at the proposed Seattle Library Drop-in Center? What will happen to me is I’ll be swept into that bin with all the other housed and unhoused poor people who don’t look pretty enough to attract donations.

So maybe you’re thinking, how bad could that be? A nice newly built clean dry indoor day shelter, isn’t that what all you poor people want? A nice clean dry place to get in out of the rain, be with your own kind, maybe get to watch some TV, drink some coffee?

NO! If I wanted that I’d go to a damn day shelter! I want to be able to use the library!

OK, I didn’t want to be that recalcitrant without actually checking out a drop-in center. Maybe they’re great places. Maybe they have better math books than the Seattle Library. Sure, that’s possible, the Seattle Library sucks, almost anybody could have better math books than the Seattle Library.

So I looked around for an appropriate drop-in center to sample, and naturally picked the one closest to home. I checked out the Lazarus Center. Close and so appropriate, because it’s restricted to old geezers just like me. The age of eligibility is exactly Five-O.

Getting myself through the entrance was the hard part. I am, as I have tried repeatedly to convey here, depressed about being fifty. However, I am not depressed about being dead. Lazarus was dead. I am not dead. I do not feel the need to be revived from a state of dead-dom. I am not a Lazarus. I feel very strongly about that.

But I worked through those feelings, and achieved a level of resignation that permitted me to enter the place. Once inside I was pleasantly surprised. It was clean, dry, and out of the rain, of course.

There were not one but two TVs set to different channels. There were laundry facilities, coffee, a smoking room, a couple of computers that some guys were playing games on. I was surrounded by people who looked just like me.

And there was a “library” consisting of what looked like about a hundred Reader’s Digest Condensed Books.

Can’t anyone out there feel my pain?