Lately, that's Dylan who's been saying, "The sun is beginning to shine on me... but it's not like the sun. . . that used to be. . . " Well, there, isn't that right? For one thing, the Union Gospel Mission is in the way.
The good news is I'm newly housed. The bad news is that that's the backside (not round enough to my taste) of the Mission out my window. Or, if I really crane my neck, I can gaze upon the building that was tallest west of the Mississippi back when Smith-Corona meant something besides "what, you don't use computers?" Back when cotton was King and papyrus ruled Middle-Earth.
So one minute you're poor and homeless, next minute you're just as poor as ever, but you're peeling it out for rent in the Old Quarter. The Altstadt. You're living in the perpetual Pioneer Day Festival. Because you desperately needed a change in your life and even this is an improvement. Even if it means starving. There's going to be that much less money per month for food. Are you hearing the poetry? Do I sound ungrateful? Lean in closer. . .
Opus Take a Number, and Sit Down and Wait!
or, No, Not You! The Poem.
Want to know what's great?
Being homeless a while!
Then you get a section eight!*
It makes you smile. . .
There's nothing better!
Oh, yeah. . . it takes a year -
You pray for good weather,
Drink lots of beer. . .
and stay out of sight,
cause cops got the power
to harass you all night
at any hour
because you exist.
It's the LAW!
[*: Section 8 = Government subsidised housing.]
Let me now prosaically explain all that for the poetically impaired. Yes, you can get subsidized housing, but, depending on your circumstances, you may have to wait anywhere from six months to eighteen for it. Meanwhile you can have no housing at all to speak of, or you will lose your eligibilty. And during the time that you have no housing to speak of, the police will take exception to every breath you take.
Speaking of police harassment: so I was going out the Speakeasy Cafe the other day, after checking my e-mail (you know how I have to check my e-mail everyday, because I get so much...) Well, I decided to take the back (alley) exit, in order to evade my many beloved but occasionally inconvenient fans.
That was my first mistake.
My second mistake was looking homeless. Until recently I have cultivated the look of a graduate student. But I just couldn't pass up the offer of a free army-brown jacket with detachable lining. It isn't really an army jacket but at ten feet you'd think it was, so now I look like a Vietnam period Vet, and those Vets are all homeless, right?
My third mistake was suddenly realising that there was a splinter in my shoe. Right out the door, still in the alley. I should not have done that. That realisation in itself may have been an actual illegal criminal act. I took off my shoe as a result of that realisation, fished out the splinter and tossed it aside.
Suddenly, I was surrounded by two bicycling police-women (I am not making any of this up) asking me questions like "Did you just find a rock in your shoe?" and "Yeah, right, are you sure it wasn't a needle?" and "You know, we find that a lot of drug addicts keep their fixes in their shoes and take them out in alleys. You weren't doing that, were you?" said one of them, facetiously.
"No" I said.
"Is that so?" they said, not believing me. Like it mattered whether they believed me or not. I had committed no crime. I had not even been seen doing anything suspicious. Taking something out of one's shoe isn't, in reality, a suspicious act, unless the one doing the suspecting is an SPD officer who doesn't know anymore what's suspicious and what isn't.
Normally the police would not explain their own bizarre behavior. But these women must have been new. After they finished searching me, and after finding no drug paraphenalia on me (because I don't do drugs) they acted embarrassed and apologetic. One of them said "you know, we have to do this, because the businesses around here have been complaining so much, you know. . . "
I said nothing. I looked at her badge and knew from past experience not to respond. A response gets you a kick in the ribs, and you're black and blue for weeks. (Are you reading this, Norm Stamper? Let me know. Please. I get very little feedback. Thanks.)
She read my silence as disapproval. I said "I don't care what the businesses complain about, I don't do drugs, so why do I have to be detained and searched?"
She then asked me if I was homeless, and when I admitted that I was, she said, "well, see? That's the problem, isn't it?"
You, who are reading this . . . you are next.
© Dr. Wes Browning: firstname.lastname@example.org Second Ave., Seattle, WA 98121 (206) 441-3247
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The Great Speckled Bird Columns on Homelessness