My bag was gone when I came around to enter the truck. After a few seconds of sanity check, I ran down the slope to Gay. And saw a troop of five homeless a block ahead, one of whom was swinging my bag.
The gentleman who had purloined it did indeed give it back. But only after scornfully informing me that my leaving it there for those few seconds had made it fair game. He had also—and pretty swiftly—dumped the book I’d brought with me into the trash outside Harold’s Deli. A little unnerved and a lot appalled by the lack of street respect for Shirley Hazzard’s work, I got the hell out.
We all tend to draw conclusions based on our own experiences. Call it bias, call it accumulated empirical evidence, call it Fred; it’s what we do. Then we try to rethink, based on what we learn from other, presumably better-versed, sources. I know that some homeless are severely damaged people, requiring care for which funding is scant. I know, too, that many more homeless are drunks, lazy, usually not menacing, but not awfully far removed from what we used to call “bums.” But the vital sorting out is never, it seems, done. And the exhortations of caring souls to put an end to the giving out of spare change is about as remedial as a newspaper over the head in a monsoon.
Refusals to give money will not effect a dropping off in the solicitations of it. They will most likely generate scarier requests.
I fear I am hawkish about this, and as intolerant of misguided compassion as I am of half-assed, “don’t enable” solutions. An alcoholic homeless person should be given a chance to clean up. Once. The hungry should be fed. But not endlessly. And if no determination of each homeless person’s willingness to work, washing dishes or taking out trash or heading a city department, is made, it is all a spectacular waste of time and money. The most extraordinary thing to me about this dilemma in Knoxville is that a low salary can still permit decent living there, a state of affairs very different from larger cities with less of a homeless crisis.
I want to return to Knoxville next year. I love the damn place. But I will use the word “bum” as I choose, too, and I will use the word “incompetent” with regard to agencies that do not approach the problem with a hard-ass, one-shot, here’s-your-chance, detox-or-get-lost, attitude.
First of all, not everyone thinks the “war on (certain) drugs” is a good idea. Second, some people think all consensual acts among adults should be legal in a truly free society. Third, I for one am more concerned with getting rapists and murderers off the streets than prosecuting non-violent drug “offenders.”
And finally, as far as I’m concerned, the true “offenders” are the ones wasting our tax dollars busting pot dealers. As one of many who have lost family in the drug war, I cannot sit by in silent assent to the myth that everyone supports this nation’s current drug policies.
The View from Page 10
I would really like to see a frank discussion of the Reagan-era Psychiatric De-institutionalization that I think really inaugurated modern homelessness and the cruel street deaths that it caused. I spent years recognizing local homeless as ex-Lakeshore patients I used to know. In the end, sadly, I suspect pneumonia was often the actual solution that Ronnie’s era wrought.
In conjunction with Frank Cagle’s discussion in his article, I think this is the type of spirited discussion that used to sell newspapers back before many folks seemed to become content to have their opinions predetermined by party affiliation and reinforced by media material pre-tuned to pander. I like the idea that the truth might not be black or white and that our thought processes might do well to be stretched even by such a mundane topic.
Next was Jack [Neeley]’s column on Rev. Mull and the Panama Canal Treaty. Jack never fails to astonish me at finding nuggets of unexpected content in a story that just tickle me in a wondrous and oddly warm way. On the night of the treaty signing, I was an erstwhile freelancer writing at the Panama Canal Yacht Club after nearly drowning off the Mexican coast a few weeks prior. I was drinking Bloody Marys waiting on the Ganja Boy to come around and trying to figure out how this story fit into the Whittle editorial directives I had been given: “Write anything you want, but don’t mention Politics, Sex, Drugs, Race, or Religion and write the way a Japanese Panasonic executive thinks a 12-year-old American likes to read.”
I am not sure what the Mull/ NYT angle would have added to my doomed mix, but Jack’s article took me on a 30-year trip back to a simpler time in the tropics with a surprising Knoxville connection. Two more reasons that I stick to the local papers Metro Pulse and the New York Times , MP ’s older brother. I think you guys are going to both make it.
I’ll read the rest later. Good edition so far.
Terrorists, $20 a Carload
As the girth of our nation increases, the aisle space in public places such as the theater seems to get smaller. Add in the beer sales during the concert and the additional trips to the restrooms—because of said beer sales—and you wind up standing most of the concert to allow people to pass you on the way out, and then spill beer on you on their way back in.
In restoring the theater its original look and feel, is there no way to bring back class among its patrons? What happened to the idea of closing concessions after the performance starts, closing the doors during the concert, and only allowing people back into the theater at appointed times between songs? Is it really necessary to drink multiple warm beers out of cheesy plastic cups in such a palace setting? And don’t even get me started on the guy in the ten-gallon hat in front of us that kept spitting tobacco into his empty beer cup!!!!
I will not be happy, but will be willing to pay a higher ticket price in order to make up for lack of revenue in closing the concession stand.
Guidelines for Incoming Mail