So I'm a bum, I wasn't always a bum. It wasn't something that I aspired to, it just sort of happened. As Mark Twain said, "A fella who don't get off to a good start in life just ain't got no show."
Or as Groucho Marx would counter, "I've worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty." Five years ago, I lived in a three hundred thousand dollar house in a nice suburb. I was the president of the homeowners association for three terms. But when my business failed, my marriage failed with it. My wife threw me out with six dollars in my pocket and a quarter of a tank of gas in my truck.
This same scenario is being played out all over the country, when money walks out the door love flies out the window. I sold my truck for money to live on, I didn't expect to be here this long, too long. I planned to spend the money and when it was gone to end it all. I've had enough of relationships, I've had enough of being hurt. I am certain that millions of women feel the same way about men. That's ironic, isn't it?
Men and women who just can't get it together and prefer the cold comfort of loneliness to the dread fear of entanglement. You can only tolerate being bit so many times before you stop reaching your hand over the fence.
But back to the bum aspect of this, I once worked over twenty years straight without missing a paycheck. I thought that I was ahead of the curve and smarter than the average bear. I had a career where my head contained useful information. I was good with customers and thought my career was safe from technology and outsourcing. Obviously, I was wrong about that. The products that I was selling ceased to exist and my head full of information became obsolete.
The manufacturers now all sell direct, eliminating an entire step in the distribution chain. So I was going to spend that money and then end it all, then I got this E-mail from a perfect stranger thanking me for the things that I write. It meant a lot to me, it still means a lot to me. I get the occasional small writing jobs but for the most part your thanks are all that keeps me going. That's inaccurate, your troubles are all that keep me going. As long as I'm writing for someone else I don't think about myself so much.
Mainstream publishing avoids me like the plague, they don't want to hear about bums let alone hire one. I might get to thinking that they're right about me and then I remember the day I got E-mails from two women at the end of their ropes, and it gave me pause. These women were educated and dedicated members of a society that had kicked them out. I could relate to their pain for I'd been kicked out too. I am powerless to help them except by writing about them.
So if you ever ask yourself, why does he go on and on about homelessness, that's why. That is why I'm on Obama's case on a daily basis, I was kicked off of the Democratic Underground, not for saying that Barack Obama was the new Herbert Hoover but for proving it.
According to society, even though I started working at age eleven I'm a bum and so are millions upon millions of you. Unemployed and underemployed, and in my travels I've met a lot of you bums who are just like me. Some of you used to be salesman with your worn computer bags. I met a school teacher crying into her phone trying to get a copy of her last paycheck, so she could apply for welfare, college educated bums.
I've heard women on the phone at the library trying to find section eight housing for their children. These are all nice people, I talk with them and they all seem so friendly and normal, and if you didn't know any better you would never guess that they were all bums like me. Then there is this sweet old lady, she uses a baby buggy to carry her groceries and to pick up aluminum cans along the road. Who ever would have thunk it? A sweet grandmother who is a bum!
Being a bum does have some distinct advantages, you learn what's important and what is not. I needed a pan to cook in, a tin pie plate is a $1.50 but if you buy one for $1.75 with the Graham cracker pie crust in it you can buy it with food stamps. Never let it be said that us bums aren't thrifty! I bet Bill Gates doesn't know to do that.
Being a bum is also hard work, I start at seven in the morning and right now it's near one in the morning. I guess I'm a bum, but I'm not a lazy bum. I have a lot to do and the work is never done. There is just too much injustice for one man, it is never hard to find a subject, only to choose which subject. Wal-Mart cutting worker pay or record bank profits. I have my critics as well, and I'm glad. Malcolm X said, "If you have no critics you'll likely have no success."
I guess the hardest part about being a bum is the loneliness, be honest, when was the last time you invited a bum over to the house? See? I gotcha there, we live in the shadows and avoid the bright lights. We don't go out unless we have to, because we must keep looking over our shoulder. To the average cop, bums and criminals all look alike. You learn the best way to avoid trouble is to avoid the night.
We try to pretend that we aren't bums, we hold our heads up despite our clothes or our shoes. Then when we see ourselves in the mirror we understand that we haven't fooled anybody, that they were merely being polite to us. We hold our heads up even still, we cannot let them go down or we might not be able to ever lift them back up again.
I think one of the gravest misconceptions about being a bum is that we have problems or are defective in some way. I'm sure they're some who are, but I don't see them hanging with my crowd of bums. Its funny, its intuitive, we bums can identify each other on sight. We know they are unemployed without even asking. The conversation always turns to, "and that's how I lost my job," The warehouse shut down, the company was sold or a general lay off.
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