Thursday, November 28, 2002

The Bigger the Houseboat, the Better

I hate the thought of staying in a shelter. In fact in all my time being homeless I never once stayed in one.

Gym locker rooms, libraries, marches, square dances, mosh pits, sports stadiums, crowded buses, crowded sidewalks, packed subways, shelters, they're all the same. Places where there are too many people.

If I wanted to sleep six inches on each side from two strangers, I would be a lot friendlier than I am. People who don't know me think I'm shy, because I don't talk much around them. What they don't know is that I'm just keeping quiet to avoid encouraging them to talk to me. Why would I want total strangers to talk at me?

I'd rather sleep in a patch of nettles or poison ivy or on rocks than have to talk sports with some Biff on the next mat.

But today the subject of shelters forces itself on me. I just can't ignore the fact that New York city officials just visited the Bahamas to check out the possibility of buying one or more cruise ships, TO USE AS HOMELESS SHELTERS.

It seems a New York State Supreme Court Justice over there is actually threatening to jail city officials if they can't shelter homeless families within 24 for hours after they apply. So immediately they got the idea to buy one-way tickets to the Bahamas.

No, that's not true. First they tried other things, like putting the families in gyms and defunct hotels and even jail. Some of these ideas worked. Others drew criticism. You had your NIMBYs. You had your whining homeless advocates complaining that housing people in jails is callous and cruel. City governments hate criticism. So hey, let's check out putting them on cruise ships, they thought. Then they thought, oh, there are defunct cruise ships in the Bahamas, let's go look at them. So they did.

Now they actually have some homeless advocates ripping them for this idea. No, I don't know why.

I've got to break ranks here. I think sheltering homeless families on defunct cruise ships is a terrific idea. I would especially like to see it done here in Seattle. I would even consider becoming homeless again if I were sure of getting a suite for myself and Anitra "On Whose Kitchen Floor I Have Sometimes Slept" Freeman, whom I would pass off as family for the purpose.

Think about it. People love houseboats. Houseboats are an integral part of Seattle's tradition. Why should just Tom Hanks get to live on a houseboat? Why shouldn't homeless people live on houseboats, too? OK, so you can't have a separate houseboat for every homeless person or family. So you do the next best thing. You spend a measly $20 million (that's around what the cheaper of the ships in the Bahamas would cost) for a cruise ship. You spend another few million to rip out stuff you won't let the homeless have, like the bar and the disco and the pool. Then you've still got a hell of a houseboat! I would be proud to live on one of these.

The ships examined hold thousands of people. Of course some space would have to be reserved for the crew and the all important activities director. Even without the bar people are going to need activities. It would be cruel to deny people shuffleboard under the circumstances.

Even when you add in janitorial and other maintenance I'll bet the whole thing could be done for a mere thirty million down plus a few million a year. Where can you find a housing bargain for that? And no NIMBYs except at the end closest to shore!

Maybe we could snag some old surplus battleships or submarines to use for shelters, too. The Navy just uses the old ones for target practice anyway. I bet Seattle could get a bunch for no more than what we would spend for one lousy skyscraper. And they already have beds in them. Imagine the savings that represents.

All in all, a sound, realistic, proposal. Let's get started!

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Boys Will Be Boys

Let's talk about raining death upon our enemies!

I first realized that I had enemies when I was about 3 years old and some 4-year-olds stopped me on the sidewalk and threatened to beat me up. I began to carry a big stick around with me to fend off vicious 4 year olds. But for some reason at that time the idea of raining death upon them did not even cross my mind.

Then I started hearing Bible stories that ended with the Lord smiting here and there. Still, the idea of personally raining death was slow in forming. In second grade I remember wanting lightning to strike both Helen (a girl who couldn't stop kicking me because she loved me too much) and my teacher (who wouldn't let me kick Helen back because she was a girl.) Preferably at the same time. But I saw the whole lightning striking thing as belonging to the Act of God category, not something that I might control on my own.

Perhaps I was behind in my development, in need of a Piaget breakthrough. Or maybe I didn't have enough positive death-raining models to emulate. My parents never let me read Conan the Barbarian books. There was nuclear war, but that was all so abstract and hazy, with talk about so many millions dead at a time, when what you really want is to smite selectively. You just want to take out your stupid neighbor, your stupid relatives, your stupid principal, stuff like that, not all of Wisconsin.

I would be interested in hearing other people's experience in this regard. In my own case, it was during 5th grade that I first remember fantasizing about smiting my enemies one-at-a-time. When my English homework was due and I didn't have it, what better solution than to turn into a wild man-killing wolf-dog beast and snap Miss Larson's neck and drink briefly of her hot blood before hurtling away to leave the rest of her to the worms and to seek fresher game at gym class?

Unfortunately I was unable to master the whole boy-wolf-boy transition.

My next idea was to become invisible for short periods of time, just long enough to garrote each target, presumably with an invisible garrote. This also did not pan out. Not that I would have garroted anybody actually, we're still talking fantasy here, but I would have liked having the option, thank you.

Then, sometime around age thirteen I started to get more realistic. I dreamed of death rays fired from remote controlled robot planes. On the day of the big English test a small plane could be seen circling Asa Mercer Middle School if only the guilty knew where to look. But they wouldn't look up – the plane would be inaudible at that altitude, and there would be nothing to alert the doomed teacher to its presence in the sky above. A mile away a boy genius sitting at a console in his basement would be operating the plane's controls. A miniature TV camera on the plane equipped with a powerful telescopic lens would relay target images to the boy who would wait for just the right moment to push the button that would instantly fry the unsuspecting English teacher. Hah! So much for Silas Marner.

The neat thing about death rays is that they don't require bullets. If they did, then someone who was smarter than you could invent a ray gun that would shoot the bullets. But you can't shoot rays with rays. Everyone knows that.

If any of you think that ray guns shooting bullets are unrealistic, you haven't heard of the Mobile Tactical High-Energy Laser MTHEL (I think we should pronounce that like "missile" with a lisp.) The other day the MTHEL successfully took out two artillery shells on-the-fly. OK, it's too big to be a personal death ray, but they're working on shrinking it.

Meanwhile, all of you must have heard about the alleged terrorists who were assassinated by a Hellfire missile shot from a remote controlled robot plane.

Are you putting all this together? Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Are you thinking that our national security is in the hands of men who think like adolescent boys?