I used to refer to my Friday evening series of posts/columns at Docudharma as Friday Philosophy. I still post there on Friday nights, but usually write about world events than philosophical concerns..
The following piece was first published there September 26, 2008. It was sparked by a comment I made at Cheers and Jeers on Sep 25.
Since it is also somewhat autobiographical in nature, I am including it here.
Here I was, all prepared to watch Barack Obama debate an empty chair this evening. But now news emerges that John McCain will indeed show up for the debate.
Not that the chair will seem to be significantly less empty to me, mind you.
I mean, what's the deal? Why is it that Republicans have made a habit of insulting my intelligence with the candidates they have nominated since...since...oh, wow....that's a toughie.
I mean, they actually selected someone who did worse in college* than W this time? How can that be? And this guy picks a box-of-rocks for his vice-presidential running mate?
[*Granted Annapolis has an honor system, which probably means that unlike W, McCain had to do his own papers, but still...]
John McCain is my definition of an empty suit of the worst kind, someone devoid of humanitarian principles or a conscience.
Well, by showing up, he's screwing me over again
I've decided to suspend paying my bills...
...until this fiscal crisis is resolved. I've also decided to suspend taking John McCain seriously. I mean, I thought the present Commander-in-Thief was as much of a dork as I could imagine, but McCain has the usefulness as a bent paper straw and all the attraction of of a cup of coffee with a cigarette floating in it.
So now I'm going to have to pay those bills, it appears.
Once upon a time, I had no bills. That happens when one is homeless. Except we didn't call it "homeless" back then. We were Street People. We lived in the bushy parts of parks. Picking a good set of bushes is a bit of an art, but it is teachable...and learnable. The bad part of parks is being exposed, to other people as well as to the elements. When it is raining or snowing, it sucks.
And sometimes it is way too cold, so cold that even the alternative of sleeping in the hidden nooks under an overpass, in a cardboard box stuffed with newspapers doesn't provide enough insulation. Turning tricks just to get into a warm place for awhile becomes a definite possibility.
In the Haight, if we had a buck or more left from panhandling, we used to maybe go to the House of Donuts on Stanyan and Frederick to spend the night. Their doughnuts were outstanding and the jukebox was fabulous. I understand that it's been closed for quite some time. Ah, well.
But there is another option. Or there used to be. One could find a 24/7 restaurant, usually near the Greyhound station, where one could sit for an entire night, if one was nimble, for nothing...or almost nothing. It's good to have a bit of Spare Chaynge in order to buy something if someone comes to kick you out. If you can put that off until around 3 am, you can nurse that doughnut until sunrise.
On a really bad night, we'd head for Fosters down on Market. One could get coffee fairly cheap. But one could nurse a teabag for hours. And if nobody was watching, you could make ketchup soup. But even the video above doesn't really get to the art of it. Yes, it has the main ingredients: as many plastic ketchup squeeze tubes as you can find and hot water. But it assumes you have house to cook in and a range on which to cook. For us, that was rarely the case. We brewed our soup in Fosters. Water hot enough to make tea is hot enough to make ketchup soup. Usually. And Fosters' hot water was free. And mostly untended.
Granted ketchup soup tastes horrible. The plastic containers lend a definitely pro-plastic flavor to the ketchup. I suggest adding some sugar, some salt, and some pepper...and whatever else you can get your hands on. Except maybe pickle relish. I'm not so hot on that.
Of course, if there are ketchup bottles on the table and you can scarf some without getting asked to leave by some restaurant employee or other, that will improve the taste.
Remember also that thanks to President Reagan, ketchup * is * a vegetable. I knew there had to be a reason that we never made mustard soup.
I suggest that it would be forward looking to determine where the next Haight-Ashbury should be...and the next East Village. Where shall we congregate if times get rock hard?
And I suggest people try to limber up. I know we are older now and it takes some flexibility to fit 20 or more people in one room of a crash pad.
All I know is that it would be better for me to live on the street than to put money in the pockets of the predators.
Standing in front
of the fish and chips
sometimes we were given
spare chips instead
and sometimes a prize
a piece of fish
was a large fragment
of a cigarette
enough to smoke
or add to a stash
And sometimes people
would lay some dope
in our hands
some weed perhaps
acid or stp
a little something
to help forget
I played chess
and could stay warm
if I won
--Robyn Elaine Serven
--September 26, 2008