Friday, November 8, 2013

Hobo Handbook: Memoirs of a Homeless Poet in New York (Excerpt #39)


By Daniel Canada c.2010



 THE FLY. He's chic!

He's fashionably correct! He's cut out straight from the 70's Blaxploitation movies! 

You can see the presence of “The Fly," if you were unfortunate enough to have to hit one of them soup lines in New York City's mid-town areas. I see him all the time and, I tell you, he's one hell of a character.
A cerulean French artist tam is placed askance upon his head. He's got Elton John size shades and he walks like Super fly did way back in the days. He's cool, man, and if you can't dig him, then you need to get with the program, because you're obviously the one that's been sleeping in a cave, Daddy O.
No, but seriously. “The Fly” is a little bit more than meets the eye. I observed that he seemed to have some kind of mysterious past. Something he must be hiding from the rest of us, because he didn't quite conduct himself like the common, run-of-the-mill homeless and "Skeksys."

But just what could it be?

And then I found out! 

Well, one day I happened to be standing on one of my usual evening soup lines, hiding my face behind the back of my hand from anyone who might’ve passed by and might’ve known me from the by-gone era, when I was gainfully employed and teetering on the precipice of the top of the world.

And there was “The Fly!”

He was doing his usual thing, talking to a few of the cliques he was accustomed to hanging around. All of a sudden, two, impeccably dressed, Wall Street business men came up to him with looks of astonishment pasted on their faces.
"Is that really you? I can't believe this. I have all of your albums, man!" The first guy says, then looks over at his friend with unalloyed disbelief.
"Yeah, man. I have a collection of your albums too, and have been digging you for a long time," the other one says reverently, all the while gawking at “The Fly” as if he was standing before the presence of Siddhartha Gautama.
The two look at each other and then back over to “The Fly.”
"Man, what are you doing out here? Is everything alright?" The expressions on their faces are sincere and genuinely confused.
"Well, you know...I just fell on some hard times, is all. Got caught out with some habits of mine, but I'll be alright." “The Fly” confesses, trying to make like it ain't all that big of a deal.

A few hushed conversations ensue, the two men reach in their wallets to offer him a couple of bucks that looks like twenty-spots. “The Fly” vehemently refuses the cash, assuring them that he's A-OK and just going through a little phase, and will be back on his feet soon, doing his jazz music thing again. The two fans walk off with respectful salutations.
So, that's it. The Fly’s a famous jazz musician! 
And apparently he's one of note. I kind of thought he looked familiar. Thought I saw him blowing a horn next to Max Roach, or Coltrane, or something, upon the stage in Avery Fisher Hall in on one of those vintage PBS tributaries to the arts. 

Problem is, I saw “The Fly” about a week or so later and he was looking pretty run down. He'd been "on a mission" with booze and drugs and had the appearance of a man who was truly down and out. He looked as if he was on the ropes and Mike Tyson had caught him with one too many gratuitous shots.
“The Fly” never left the streets. At least he was still out there the last time I saw him. Battling the demon of substance abuse can be a Bitch. And not a few talented musicians and artists got caught out on the streets, because they couldn't slay the dragon of "get high" in their life. 
If you happened to be pummeled by the "slings and arrows" of outrageous misfortune and the monkey on your back gets to be a bit too much, and starts acting a little out of pocket, a little "get high" can help to alleviate the pressure. However, one has to take great pains to make sure they don't get pulled under by the current of sex, drugs, and, in The Fly's case, Jazz (which, incidentally originally stood for "Just Ass"). I think you know where I’m going with this.

You want to get high, get high.

You want to get your drink on, go ahead and get your drink on.

Nevertheless, save a few shekels for a rainy day, as I've been saying throughout the entire memoir, so you don't wind up like “The Fly.”

If not you might find yourself going from playing Carnegie Hall to playing for a handful of tossed and niggardly coins on the platform of the subway’s Number Six Train.
And that would be a low down, dirty, crying, stinking, shame.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hobo Handbook: Memoirs of a Homeless Poet in New York (Excerpt #38)


By Daniel Canada c.2010


TIGER LADY is not like Tony the Tiger from your favorite frosted flakes commercial. She's more like Tanya the Tiger from hell, visiting you at your local Starbucks coffee dive.

You got to see this lady! 

She wears skin-tight tiger design pants. I can only imagine how she actually got them on. “Tiger Lady” likes to struts her stuff. Well, it's not like she couldn't use a few pounds. What is more, her mug does leaves a lot to be desired. Nevertheless, that doesn't discourage her from prancing about in her skin-tight, tiger design, pants to the morning soup lines, at the Franciscan Friars. 
She always skips the line of tired, hungry, and grumpy "Skeksies," who've been irascibly waiting all morning long to cop a bag of breakfast. She's got it like that. Or as least she thinks she does. You'll see her strutting up to the front of the line, with a super-sized cup of Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks coffee in hand, greeting "Skeksys" aloud as she passes by, like a politician hankering for votes before election night.

Tiger Lady's a riot!
When she talks, she's always loud and boisterous. I figure when you look like “Tiger Lady,” you better be loud, if you want to get noticed. Otherwise, nobody's going to take the extra effort to make you out, baby. But Tiger Lady's got the attention market cornered. 

She's a pro. 

However, like Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, she turns into an outright bitch after midnight. Maybe it's the moon. Maybe its hormones raging. I don't know, but if you happen to come across “Tiger Lady” sitting in the Penn Station Starbucks after nightfall, stay the hell away from her! She'll verbally rip you from rim to limb, boy-O, if you catch her sight the wrong way. She also doesn't have a problem using ethnically incorrect verbiage.

Yeah, “Tiger Lady” will rant and rave, frothing at the mouth until she tires herself out, and have to pause to recharge her over drained mental batteries. 

Whew! What a much needed break for all of us.

Strange thing about this story is she didn't exactly start out that way. When I first ran into “Tiger Lady” she was the nicest, sweetest, pleasantly greeting, tight-pants, wearing, wanna be-Hoochey-Mama, in town; which was quite likeable, to be honest. 
The shit time in the streets can do to person is phenomenal.

One thing I failed to mention is that “Tiger Lady” doesn't get much sleep. All the time invested in Starbucks and Dunkin donuts, draining down hazardous levels of caffeine, and at the morning soup lines, doesn't leave much time for precious sleep. 

No wonder she's a basket case.

Furthermore this goes for a lot of homeless people. Who might see the likes of them roaming the width a breath of the city way after darkness has descended upon the town, as if they were Ponce De Leon, on a quest to find the fountain of youth in some abandoned alleyway.

You see, on the street sleep is golden. Like with food, without it you're not going to make it very far. I've provided ideas about what you can do in regards to sleep, and it behooves you to utilize it, if you're out here.

Drinking coffee's fine, but make sure you cop some zee's along the way, anyway you can, or you might find yourself actually being able to understand the gobble-de-gook Tiger Lady's spewing in her daily rantings. 
And that won't be a good thing, my precious.

(To be continued...)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Hobo Handbook: Memoirs of a Homeless Poet in New York (Excerpt #37)


By Daniel Canada c.2010

(Excerpt #37)



BUZZARD is a complete conundrum. Ever see a nature show on television, and the camera pans slowly toward a buzzard, in the wild? You see the buzzard, perched precariously upon a tree branch, starring off at nothing, his neck doing that funny buzzard thing every so often. That's “Buzzard!”

O.k., his neck doesn't do that funny buzzard thing, but “Buzzard” sits around, perched on a park bench, starring off into nowhere and nothing. All day long.


It takes one a long time to master the Zen art of motionlessness and nothingness. This, the art of motionlessness and nothingness, to be sure, is quite an accomplishment, if you consider it. “Buzzard” is a master of the two.

You see what you can accomplish, if you only had the extra time on your hands?

If you frequent the right parks during the day, you can see “Buzzard” practicing his skill, sitting motionlessly and doing nothing at all, starring off into the vastness of the void forever.

I don't know, but perhaps he's had a prefrontal lobotomy already, and there's simply nothing there to work with, or even to bother contemplating. This fickle reasoning would've been the doom of me, if I didn't happen to stumble upon “Buzzard,” one day and catch him mob deep, reading several highly technical books.

This is how it went down.

I needed to get out of the cold one day and perhaps catch up on the latest publications available in the Seventeenth Street Barnes and Nobles. As I arrived upstairs, the busy milling throngs of shoppers parted to reveal the lone figure of “Buzzard.” There he was, sitting quietly at a table, with a scary looking stack of technical books in front of him. “Buzzard” could care a less about the world swarming around him. He was in his secret element.

So, Buzzard's a techy!


But, but, wait! There's more!

I also have to confess that I do spend a good deal of time in Starbucks, draining down dangerous levels of caffeine and plotting the takeover of the world, myself. Nevertheless, there I was entering into another Starbucks on Astor Place, in the Lower East-side. And Lo! And behold! There's “Buzzard,” sitting attentively at the table with several electronic gadgets before him.

There were Ipods and android cell phones, Blackberries, tablets and the like. A web of power cords crisscrossed the table in front of him, plugged into the power sockets, provided for customers with laptops or electronic equipment. Of course, once again, “Buzzard” didn't see me. He was busy doing his thing, safely ensconced in electronic heaven.

It was then that I had a terrible epiphany.

“Buzzard” wasn't an idiot after all. To the contrary, he might even be a silent genius. You can never tell what's going on inside the head of a quiet genius. For all I know, “Buzzard” could've been quietly working on the solution to the Grand Unification Theory, the holy grail of theoretical physics, or working on the solution to global warming, re-mapping the entire DNA, or unraveling the Kennedy murders.

How can you tell?

All those motionless hour spent starring off into nowhere, could have been Buzzard's way of falling deep into that brilliant mind of his, reaching far-off inside for the elusive answers to these perplexing, but important questions.

You got M.I.T. brains? Go to M.I.T.

Do something construction with your life, for God's sake! You might be the next Stephen Hawkings, or Gandhi, for all that matters. The world needs more of these types. However, if you have a serious drug problem and just lost your natural mind, after taking that last great hit off the crack pipe, public assistance isn't worth a dam, but they do offer a comprehensive Medicaid program. And guess what? They have competent doctors who can help you along with recovery from severe substance abuse, as well.

If I catch you homeless and out in the streets, sitting idly on a bench or milk crate, starring off into space, you better whip out some electronic equipment and make like you're “Buzzard.”

If not, well, not only are you just wasting your life, but I also will refuse to write a piece about you, in my memoirs.

How's that for size?

(To be continued...)

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...)