Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hobo Handbook: Memoirs of a Homeless Poet in New York (Excerpt #36)

By Daniel Canada c.2010


CHRIS TUCKER is a strange motherfucker. You can hear his high-pitched voice rising over the crowded den of "Skeksies," at the Bowery Mission church almost every dog-gone day. He likes to hang out at this haunt for some reason that's his own. Of course, you can guess the reason I call Chris Tucker, "Chris Tucker" is because he not only looks like the actor, Chris Tucker, but even sounds like him when he's speaking.

Can you believe that?

He's a natural comedian and doesn't even know it. And I’m not going to let him on to the secret either. That way I won't have to lose him to the greedy clutches of the producers and directors of Hollywood.

Yeah right.

“Chris Tucker” likes to walk around with a huge, wooden, hand-carved staff in his hand, like a displaced Moses, looking for the lost tribes of "Skeksies." Perhaps he wants to deliver us to the "Promised Land" of an SRO. I don't even want to try to figure out what's the deal with that damn staff and why he really carries it around.

“Chris Tucker” also likes to keep his afro large, and 70s looking.

The brother likes to keep it real.

During the fall and winter months he could be seen donning a long, full-length, leather coat like Shaft, a recipient of the Coat Drive for the homeless, held every winter throughout New York City. I have to admit, for a homeless guy he does have class.

Sometimes at the Bowery Mission he gets caught up in the holy spirit of his own origin, and started arguing with himself and moralizing out loud about the philosophies of life, and the injustices of society. He always has a slight chip on his shoulders, and easily gives way to venting vituperations at the soup kitchen. 

You see, in the soup kitchen you're stuck, because you’re hungry and have to go there to get some grub. You can't exactly afford to leave, simply because someone next to you suddenly has an epiphany and wants to share it with everyone. 

There's no escape, my friend.

One day I was leaving Starbucks on Astor Place and accidently ran into "Chris Tucker." He was standing at the entrance of the Number Six subway station, and greeting the crowds of commuters with the most boisterous pronouncements of judgment and condemnation heard since Abraham Lincoln castigated the White Southerners for the institution of slavery. Funny thing was he didn't have his usual “Chris Tucker” voice this time around.


What startled me was that he sounded more like Mr. T. Perhaps his “Chris Tucker” voice had gotten tired, or maybe it was being reserved only for the company of the homeless and “Skeks" at the Bowery Mission church.

I’ll never know.

“Chris Tucker” could probably land a decent gig as a performer, if he ever thought of pursuing it as a career. He could either fill in for the real Chris Tucker on a movie set, if he'd only cut his enormous afro. Somehow I don’t think he’s ever going to pursue an acting career or anything worth writing about, other than what I have already taken the pains to apply my pen to.

So, listen up folks!

If you have enough guts to stand in front of a rush-hour crowd of tired commuters and show your ass, chances are you have enough gonads, or mammary glands, to go out and audition for a big gig on the real stage or big screen. Some people just don't know what they have, and that's a crying shame. Fifteen minutes of fame, or infamy, in front of a rush-hour mob, who more than likely really don't give a hoot in hell what you have to say, is not the path to The Emerald City, Tin Man.

What is more, it is certainly not the road to becoming a well-known and nationally celebrated motivational speaker.

It might be the fastest route to landing you in the psyche ward at Bellevue Hospital.

Or Creedmoor.

Or worst.

(To be continued...)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Hobo Handbook: Memoirs of a Homeless Poet in New York (Excerpt #35)


 By Daniel Canada c.2010



EDDIE GRIFFIN’S name actually came about by mistake. I was trying to name him after the lead singer for the Temptations, David Ruffin, but forgot David Ruffin's name, so I named him “Eddie Griffin” instead.

Yeah, that's how way off the mark I was. And you’re probably saying, so what’s this got to do with the price of tea in Tibet?

You’re absolutely right. 
The point is I had to come up with a name for this character, who happened to always popped up on any given soup line I frequented. He ain't no way as handsome as the former lead singer of The Temptation, neither can he sing a lick.  It's just that his voice is rough and a bit scraggly, like David Ruffin's.

That's all.

I know I’m stretching it.
Look here! I have to give these "Skeks" names, so sometimes I toss a moniker at them that might require a little explanation. Anyway, “Eddie Griffin” loves to diddly-bop around with a faded and not so clean dude-rag on his dome. He kind of has a menacing, bad-assed, look pasted on his face all the time. Perhaps it helped him get through a few tough jail stretches. Other than that “Eddie Griffin” is a complete loser. He's always getting into somebody else's business, with feigned authority, like he's in charge, or someone died and made him boss.

Eddie Griffin's always trying to get over on somebody as well.

The brother's incorrigible.

Sometimes I go for a refreshing while without seeing him, so I figure he might've been doing a quick jail bid for some new violation of his parole.


But for certainty, after a while Eddie Griffin's back like a rash, skipping in front of soup kitchen lines like he's "Skek" royalty, cutting deals with other "Skeksies" for a couple of dollars and generally bullying a few of the timid homeless folks.
You see, Eddie Griffin's an older guy. He's about in his late fifties, or so. He ain't no spring chicken, or rooster for that matter. But Eddie Griffin's got to cut his piece of the pie out for himself on the street. And he has. When he comes around all the "Skeks" that are shamming know him right away, and make their way over to him to pay respect. Maybe I need to start learning and give old Eddie his props, before I find out the hard way.

I mean, I would hate for him to take away my sandwich and coffee for not discerning what time it really is.
O.k. So I’m going to hurry up and get this part over with, if it's alright with you.  My father always said, if you see a big, bad, mother fucker, there's always another bigger and badder mother fucker than he, who’s got the right antidote for him. Eddie Griffin's an old mother fucker, who doesn't realize his time out in the street is close to being over and done.

It's time to start thinking of a retirement, plan, Eddie, and since you never worked a decent job a day in your life, or have a 401K plan safely tucked away, there ain't no retirement plan out here for you, beside the one six feet under the ground, chump.

Moral of the story. If you come out in the street, just because you're trying to pull one over on the world-and fortunately, that doesn't apply to the majority of homeless people-you're going to run into the resilient wall of a rude awakening one day, when you discover that you’re too damn old to extract yourself out of this mess.
If you got a hustle, put a few pennies away for the rainy day, partner. 

There are no story book retirement plans out here on the streets. No pension plan or Roth IRAs going to fall into your lap. Open your third-eye and see yourself out of this confusion. Make some kind of plan, like linking up with a decent shelter system-which is hard to find-or get some public assistance (which also is very unreliable), and work your way to landing a SRO or small apartment.

That failing-which wouldn't be surprising-GET A FRIGGIN JOB! Or use your hustle money to procure a roof over your head, no matter how small or modest it might be. That way when it gets cold and the arthritis starts setting in, along with the gout, and the diabetes-you can see where I’m going with this, can’t you?-your tired, old, worn out and rusty, ass won't have to worry, at the last minute, what the hell you're going to do.
Hurry “Eddie Griffin!” It's time to gets to stepping.

The hourglass is trickling thin.

(To be continued...)

Friday, October 25, 2013

Hobo Handbook: Memoirs of a Homeless Poet in New York (Excerpt #34)


By Daniel Canada c.2010



ENTREPRENEUR There isn't anything wrong with trying to make a buck or two, when you're out here on your ass. Some homeless people turn to stealing. Those who have a little more ethics simply panhandle. Some hustle, while others turn to more nefarious means to obtain those dead presidents. Entrepreneur’s one of those hustlers who just doesn't quit and never misses a trick, when it comes to trying to make a few greenbacks.

Check this out.

It's the day before Veteran's Day, 2007. And I'm standing on the soup line, listening to the ratings of “Entrepreneur.” He's telling everybody about how much cash he's going to rake in, selling a bunch of miniature hand-held flags in which he obtained for free, at the upcoming parade.

"Don't you all see the dollar signs, in my eyes?" he asked anyone who would listen, as he bats his eyes repeatedly, imitating a cash register ringing up its till.

“Uh…No. I don't get it, dude,” is our reply, as we shuffle along on line.

“Entrepreneur” likes to babble on and on about various money-making schemes, hatched from the nebulous regions of his fertile mind.

No, I’m not hating on the brother!

It's just that sometimes it gets to be a bit much. He just never relinquishes talking! 

As a follow-up on Entrepreneur’s grand design to make a killing at the Veteran's Day Parade; due to the current state of war in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time, the powers-to-be decided to scrap the yearly Veteran's Day Parade, which was usually held before the screaming throngs of tens of thousands of New Yorkers, down Fifth Avenue. Instead, they held little mini-parades, scattered discreetly across the five boroughs. 

For me that was not a problem. I proceeded to do what I normally do on any giving day. Nothing in particular. As for “Entrepreneur,” well, needless to say, the "Skek" was devastated. Not surprisingly, he was the most quiet one on the soup line the next day.

On the downside, sometimes “Entrepreneur” can be seen noiselessly, standing by himself, engaged in a vigorous and unheard conversation in his head. I mean, even though you can see his head moving animatedly as if he was heavily engaged in dialogue, his mouth remains completely shut. He's trying to get some whimsical words out, and to tell us more about those remarkable, money-making, ideas swimming around in his mind. But somehow he can't seem to cut the mustard, and get the words out.

Needless to say, I wasn’t complaining. 

In short, I think he took his meds that day. Whatever medication he's on was too powerful to bother fighting against. Frankly, I don't know if I like him better when he takes his meds or when he's off them. 

The moral of this story is, if you got hot ideas in your head, just do it! Talking to a bunch of homeless person, or “Skeksies," hanging out on a chow line, about it ain’t going to accomplish a goddamned thing.  

Except earn you the reputation of being a bullshit talking, hate to see you walking, mother…

Well, I’m sure you know the rest.

(To be continued...)

Hobo Handbook: Memoirs of a Homeless Poet in New York (Excerpt #33)


By Daniel Canada c.2010



INSPECTOR GADGET Duh duh duh duh duh duh...Well, you know how the rest of the tune goes. Yeah, I’m talking about the tune to the 90’s cartoon "Inspector Gadget." If you'll recall the trench coat Inspector Gadget wore, you'll have a pretty close idea of what the homeless guy I call “Inspector Gadget” looks like. “Inspector Gadget” has developed the particular predilection of storing his personal items in the confines of his trench coat. So much so, that his trench coat is exceedingly bloated to ridiculous proportions. There are pockets protruding out of his sides like mini-shopping bags on all sides. 

It's truly a sight to see, I tell you.

“Inspector Gadget” doesn't like to be around people and crowds too tough. And, unfortunately, the feeling is mutual. Call it agoraphobia or lack of self-esteem, masked in too much bravado, “Inspector Gadget” has it. Somehow he comes off as if he feels he’s above everyone and it all, and brags out loud about how important his father is, that his father is some kind of important diplomat, or something. 

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Like Brad Pitt in the movie "The Twelve Monkeys?" Huh?

Look, it's hard enough trying to get by, from day-to-day, out here in the concrete jungle. Don't complicate your life, like “Inspector Gadget,” by clasping on needlessly to numerous possessions. Remember, you don't own a goddamn thing out here, save your ass, buddy. So travel lightly, and carry as little as is needed. It's very easy to fall into the snare of stuffing your pockets and carry-along-bags with a bunch of needless accessories, like poor ole "Inspector Gadget."  

And if your father’s a rich and important figure, call him and have him send you a few bucks. No! Believe it or not, the reason I mention this, is because I actually ran into some homeless individuals who come from wealthy families, whose parents have quite a lot of money, in whom they call once and a while to have a few shekels sent to them via Money Gram, and what not.

They had a big fall out with their family and decided to kick it hardcore to the curb and come out here into the tangled wilderness of the streets with the rest of us humps. If you fit this bill, straighten your shit out with your overbearing relatives and get the hell of the street ASAP.

Otherwise, heed this piece of advice: While you're out here, keep a light heart about yourself. Take life one day at a time, like an aspirin.

It'll go a long ways.
(To be continued...)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Hobo Handbook: Memoirs of a Homeless Poet in New York (Excerpt #32)

By Daniel Canada c.2010


COAT AND THE COAT SISTERS It's summer time! It’s August! The heat wave is on with a vengeance, and the temperature's skyrocketed above 100 degrees! And guess what? There's homeless people walking around in full-length, wool, winter coats, some of them two coat's deep. This incredible scene may be mistaken for the filming of a movie with extras, but it's not. 

If you happen to run across this scenario, chances are you've seen “Coat” or “The Coat Sisters,” if not, some other certifiable lunatic of their ilk. It's rather obvious why I gave them such names, but you just got to see this for yourself. During the summer of 2008, at the peak of the season, when it was sweltering hot, I happened to stop by a crowd of tourist and passersby, who were being entertained by one of the many live performers you’ll encounter along the New York City streets.

That's when I spotted "Coat."

By the way, "Coat" is a male. There he was, checking out the scene, with his over-sized, wool, coat partially opened, fanning himself with a magazine! Was he trying to air out his body or what? What puzzled the Be Jesus out of me is why can't he just take his doggone coat off, if he's so damned hot?   

I can only shake my head.

As it turns out, I had a psychologist girlfriend, who was trying to convince me that schizophrenic people reach a point where they can no longer feel changes in temperature. So, they'll walk around in the dead of winter with very little clothing on, or in desert heat with...well, a coat or two wrapped around their bodies. 

Perhaps my psychologist ex-girlfriend was right and I’m just in denial. I just have the dickens of a time wrapping my brain around the theory. Don't know why, maybe because at the time I was homeless and didn't want to wind up being like “Coat?”


Then there are the “Coat Sisters.” Two older, black women, who are seemingly joined at the hip. They can be readily seen in Bryant Park, every day in fact, sitting down, quietly shooting the breeze together. They’re probably rambling about what used to be the latest hot gossip in their former neighborhood, before they got turned out into the streets.

Like, “Honey child, did you hear who Sadie’s ex-boyfriend was found sleeping in the bed with last summer?” Or they could be discussing stock market quotes and the latest savvy guidelines on which derivatives to purchase.

I’ll never know.

Point of the matter is, they are completely harmless and always mind their own. It's just the abundant coats that get to me. What I'm trying to fathom is how they could just sit there, seemingly as comfortable as two cockroaches in a bowl of cheerios, oblivious to all that oppressive summer heat.

And with two layers of heavy wool coats!

In the middle of August. 

Without complaining!

Yeah. My psychologist ex-girlfriend was right after all, and I am simply in denial.

If you've over stayed your welcome in the streets and you begin to lose touch with the changes in climate, that's a good indication that you might be falling into your head. Call it schizophrenia or whatever you want to, you too will be wearing two or three coats very soon. Yep friends, it can get that bad.

So wise up forthwith, and keep a constant vigil on your clothing. Perhaps, one day wearing several coats at a time might become the new Prada, and you’ll be in the vanguard of fashion.

You think?
(To be continued...)