Sunday, January 24, 2016

A bar is not a home

A man walks into a bar.....

Rewind:  a man drops his wife and daughter at a bar to get a table for lunch while he parks the car.

Rewind:  a man drops his wife and daughter at a bar to get a table for lunch while he parks the car.  As he walks around the side of the building to the front door, he sees peripherally on his right two men walking to cross the street toward him.  He hurries a little to get inside before they get too close. He can tell from the way that they are dressed that they don't have much and he doesn't feel like getting hustled.  He just wants to eat with his family.  But too late.

"Excuse me, sir," one of them calls.  "I don't mean no disrespect, but we are homeless and we want to get something to eat.  Could you please help us out?"

The man feels around in his back pocket and comes up with about 80 cents in change.  "This is all I have," he says, which is surprisingly true.

"No," says one of the two men.  "We want something to eat.  In there. Like a three cheese pizza or something.  Can you help us out?"

We are at the door and I hold the door for them and we go in, toward the bar.  I pass my family and stop to tell them that I'm going to get these guys something to eat.  My wife nods and hands me a menu.  I walk to the bar where they are seated, and when the bartender comes over, I say, "These guys want a three-cheese pizza."

"Not me," says one.  "I want a hamburger."
"I want a cheeseburger," says the other.  "And a order of fries."
"Me, too," says the other, as the bartender writes it down.  American cheese.  Both well done.
With a slight sarcasm only I can hear, I say, "How about something to drink with that?"
"To go."

I pay the tab and hang out with them for awhile.  One of them is named Harvey.  The other guy does not tell me his name; in a low voice, he pulls out an invoice for a hotel they have been kicked out of.  He clearly wants me to pay it, but I can't quote hear the details and my generosity does not extend that far.  I shake their hands and go to my table to order lunch, but I am never out, waiting until they get their food, because I have brought them in here.

Before lunch, we had been at a gallery where my wife is buying gifts for a party,  the gallery sells only the artwork of the homeless.  The owners host homeless people for classes, giving them cameras or canvases to produce work, much of it quite good.  I don't know what the arrangement is between artists and gallery, but most f the works are quite nexpensive.

The homeless are all around us.  They wait at exit ramps and gas stations and near restaurants where there is a chance they might get a meal.  They are too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer and they seek places that will give them some comfort.  Every interaction, every transaction is fraught with peril when you are homeless.  The man entering the restaurant wants to get inside before you can get to him.  The people waiting at the light turn away.  If you get an inch, you have to try to take a mile for your own survival.  It is no life to have, but the only one you have and few that you encounter know how you got there, or want to know.  Because they have homes and nothing has happened to take those from them.

1 comment:

Kath said...

This is great. Totally captured the ambivalence I feel in these types of situations. On the one hand I comprehend how hard that kind of existence is, but I don't want to engage with that comprehension all the time.