Thursday, April 19, 2001

Hope Is The Thing With A Roof

Imagine what it would have been like if Emily Dickinson had ever been homeless. I think we can say this much for sure: it would have been a drag on her career. Ha, ha, just kidding. No, seriously, her whole image would have been blown! She was so far from being homeless, she was the Anti-Homeless* Poet. Any ideas she might have had on the subject would have been purely theoretical.

Emily Dickinson said, "There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away." Likewise, there is no frigate like a pair of old dirty gym socks to haul our breath to China to be sold into slavery. Another exceptional frigate is the homeless frigate. Where does the homeless frigate take us? Could we get there some other way? What's with the hardtack and salted limes? Shuffleboard, anyone?

Maybe since the book frigate takes us on a world cruise, the homeless frigate does the opposite, it takes us to a house in the middle of Amherst.

Come to think of it, Emily was pretty theoretical on most subjects, wasn't she? Emily Dickinson called hope the thing with feathers. If Emily had your hope, what kind of thing would it be? My hope is the thing with pizza stains down its front. Maybe your hope has chocolate all over its face.

According to Emily, a word starts to live when you say it. That means Emily D. was an early exponent of meme theory. She must have known that the only way to kill words outright is to delete them from all memory files. It's like killing blackberries. The only practical way to kill them in your own back yard is to crowd them out with something worse. Go ahead, try it. Kill the word "is". Good luck.

"A wounded deer leaps the highest." How would Emily have known? What was she, some kind of sadist, wandering through the forest poking various animals in the butt? Maybe the wolverine jumps higher, huh? Always the theorist.

Then again, maybe she was torturing more than just animals. She also said, "I like a look of agony, /Because I know it's true; /Men do not sham convulsion, /Nor simulate a throe." Could this be insight born of experiment?

"Where thou art, that is home." All afternoon my roof leaked. It had a hole in it as big as the sky. No, wait, that was the sky. Doh.

Poverty is the Gust

by Copyright Dr. Wes Browning

Sing to the tune of the Gilligan's Island Theme

Poverty is the blowing Gust

That flattens us to the dirt

And drags us down an ugly ditch,

While ripping up our shirt;

It leaves us there, but lookit how

We build ourselves a yurt,

We're a little worn and slightly torn

We add up all the hurt.

Speaking of hurt, I notice from the news reports that the Liberty Bell was seriously injured by a homeless man the other day.

Let me get this straight. A piece of crap bell that was given to us by the English in 1752 and never worked is so important to us that if anyone should dent it they get locked up?

Frank Eidmann, director of special projects for the Independence National Historic Park had this to say: "Anyone who attacks a national symbol is disturbed. What he was disturbed about, we don't know."

Gosh, I don't know, Frank, let me think could it be because he is homeless, Frank, could that be the problem??!!

The man could get five years for, among other things, "damaging an archaeological resource" (I'm not making this up.)

The Liberty Bell is not an archaeological resource. It's a piece of junk, which was used by the Abolitionists to symbolize this country's failure to live up to its promise of freedom for all. That is how it got its name, that is the only reason it has been preserved.

All this man did was remind us of that fact.

* In the sense of physics, not sentiment. So if she every encountered a homeless version of herself the two would have annihilated each other & obliterated Massachusetts.

Thursday, April 5, 2001

Bread and Putter

While we at Real Change are celebrating the first birthday of the current avatar of Tent City, we are also trying hard to understand why some people don't appreciate it as much as we do, so that we can be on the cutting edge of persuasion, as we change their minds, and so make the street papers in other cities jealous, and steal their women.

I mean, getting to the persuading part, the bottom line is, there aren't enough shelter beds, and affordable housing hasn't happened. Living together in tents is just the safest alternative to sleeping in doorways. Ya'll don't want people sleeping in doorways, right?

I know this is hard for some of you, so let me run that at you again. Raise your hands, everyone who wants the homeless who don't get into shelters to sleep in their own front doorway. Hmmm, I thought so. Next, hands from those of you who want them sleeping in your neighbor's doorway. Better. Now lets see hands for people who wants them to sleep isolated from each other in public parks. OK, not bad. Now how many hands do we have for them sleeping in tents somewhere together?

Hello? You in the back! It's the last alternative! You have to raise your hand sometime, because these people are going to sleep somewhere! You don't get to just sit on your hands like the problem will go away. People need to sleep!

Speaking of human needs, just before I sat down to write this masterpiece I noticed I was puttering. A lot of you will say I am still puttering even now as I type, especially those of you who know what the word means.

to putter, v, to busy or occupy oneself in a leisurely, casual, or ineffective manner.

Yes, I was puttering. And I noticed! And it occurred to me that I rarely notice when I have been puttering, I normally just putter about obliviously, but that in reality I must spend two-thirds of my waking life puttering, and have always done so, even when I was gainfully employed. Although of course we generally called it something else then.

We called it paper clip stuffing, or arranging our files, or fulfilling personal directives, or sorting priorities.

Suddenly I had an epiphany! I became aware, as I had never been aware before, of the extent to which puttering is a human need. I now realize that puttering is a need right up there with food and shelter and safety and moist towelettes. No, seriously, I realized that the need "to putter", in your Maslow hierarchy of needs, must precede all the noble sounding ones, like the need "to art" or the need "to science", or the need "to make lame jokes", or even the need "to mention moist towelettes repeatedly." Moist towelettes.

It explains so much. It explains for instance, why I am so fond of things that explain things. It explains why most men can't grow a beard, they trim it to death. It explains couch surfing. It explains cubicle art.

You know what I'm talking about. Cubicle art is the greatest contemporary American folk art form. Not Cubist Art. Cubicle art. You have a cubicle at work. You decorate it with stuff. That's it. All you get is the one cubicle. It's similar to hanging fuzzy dice in your car, only now it's a cubicle, not a car.

Or it could be a car, too. People still express their puttering need through their cars, even though cubicles have become the more popular medium. And what's the most popular medium of all?

The home, of course.

I have a dream. I dream of the day when every man, woman and child of this great nation of ours has at least a cubicle, or the equivalent, to putter in. I dream of the day when that puttering will be recognized, not only as leisurely casual and ineffective, but as the very stuff of life.

I dream of a day when people will be valued not for the size of their homes, or whether they have one or not, but for the puttering that they can do, when given the chance.

Moist towelettes!