Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ah, College Memories...

Gawker did a thing on the top 50 eccentrics in NYC and I feel compelled to tell you about my own experience. There's a small difference, I believe many of the people on the NYC list actually do this because they make money. Most of my experiences are with people who are just straight up homeless and smelly.

Having grown up in the burbs, my homeless experiences were fairly limited until I went to college. My first encounter didn't go so well. A guy outside the 7-11 told me he was trying to get together $.50 for a hot dog. I was smart enough not to give him the money, but I thought I would go buy him the hot dog. Needless to say he kept asking people for $.50 for a hot dog. Something tells me he wasn't really trying to get a hot dog. Later we learned he was a fixture of that particular 7-11 and on any given day he was begging for change to actually pay one bill or another. So people would ask him, "so what are you working on today?" and he would reply, "cable". And such is life. This guy was fairly uninteresting in comparison.

"Will Work for Food" Lady
I haven't seen her in a long time but in the mid to late nineties she stood every day near 30th Street Station. She was a thin, middle aged, white lady with ratty blonde-ish hair. She always looked overly dirty and disheveled and had a small cardboard sign that said "Homeless & Hungry, Will Work for Food". She didn't say anything, she just stood there with the most painful look on her face you have ever experienced and watched cars drive by her.

At the time I was in college and a friend of mine worked in some sort of bakery/restaurant and she would bring home all the left over bagels at the end of the day. As she was driving by the WW4F Lady she thought she would give her the bag of bagels. She stopped, rolled down the window and offered her the bag. At this point WW4F Lady responded with something like, "I don't want your f*ing bagels, I want money bitch".

I knew those new fancy sneakers she always wore were some kind of clue...

Look Left Bob
Or as some people knew him, "Lefty". He wandered the streets in West Philly, mostly Lancaster Avenue in the 30's. He was called Lefty because his neck was permanently cemented in a left looking position. Who knows why but he was always looking left. He was a generally happy guy, always smiling and never really a problem...unless you were walking behind him. Apparently Bob didn't buy new pants and he also didn't own any underwear. If you were unlucky enough to be walking behind him you got an up close and personal view of Bob's Boys swinging around in all their glory.

Scary Homeless Kids with Animals
At some point very dirty looking teenagers with dogs would show up around campus begging for money. This was clearly a new angle - appeal to the animal lovers. There were stories of these grungy kids beating people up and taking their money. There were also stories of their dogs being trained to attack people. Who knows how much of that is true but I tended to avoid the scary people with the Rottweiler - you never can tell how hungry that dog is...

The Angry White Bum
I love it when you have what I like to call "The Homeless Trifecta" and this guy had it. To meet the criteria you have to be Homeless, Crazy and..this is the important part...have some sort of shtick. Something that was uniquely yours that everyone could look forward to and expect. The name sort of says it all but it's important to note that he didn't start off angry, he just immediately escalated from zero to crazy in about .4 seconds.

Basically all his interactions went something like this...
Example 1: Me, standing on campus smoking a cigarette.
AWB: Hey Honey, can I get a cigarette?
Me: I'm sorry, I bummed this from someone else (this could be a true or untrue statement)
AWB: F-You bitch!

Example 2: Me, standing on the porch of a house drinking a beer.
AWB: Hey Honey, can I have some of that beer you're drinking?
Me: Umm, sorry, I'm drinking this beer.
AWB: F-You bitch!

This was his standard reaction to all people & all situations. This is why he also got the nickname "The F-You Bum". Anyway so years passed and post college some of my girlfriends and I went on an ill fated trip to NYC. 50 ft. from the Holland Tunnel we broke down and eventually ended up taking the train back to Philly. As we sat in the McDonalds lamenting our lame weekend I saw none other than The Angry White Bum approaching our table. These were not college friends which would explain why they were tremendously confused by the following exchange...

Example 3: AWB approaches table with a limp and a cane (new additions to his usual ensemble)
AWB: Hey ladies, can you spare some change so I can get something to eat.
Me: Hey, the cane is a nice touch. I seem to recall you didn't have that before.
AWB: F-You bitch!

You can imagine my friends were a little disturbed as the McDonald's personnel removed the AWB from the premises.

A few years after that I heard one of the fraternities on campus shot him with an air rifle, penetrating his chest and missing his heart by a few centimeters. The funny part of that whole story is that the fraternity got kicked off campus and the AWB is still around. Should have just given him a beer and a smoke, would have been easier...

People complain about the pan handlers in the city, I think they add a certain flavor. I mean where else can you see the same one legged guy begging for change in all seasons every single day of the year? Next time you run into the "I'm going to my HIV meeting" guy or the "I just got out of the hospital and my car got towed" guy, appreciate the creativity and determination it takes to deliver that same tired story over and over again.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Pleasant & Unpleasant

For the last few months of my life I have become acutely aware of what is pleasant and what is unpleasant. I think we've told most of our friends and family that we're expecting (and more specifically I'm expecting because after all this is about me and I'm the poor schmo who has to go through this decidedly unpleasant experience). So if I haven't told you, don't feel unloved, it's really just because I am no longer functioning like a normal human being.

I digress.

So my absence as of late has been because I am physically unable to stay awake past 7PM. I also feel like poop on a stick. These two things in combination do not get the creative juices flowing. Something had to give. Actually many things, but we'll get to that in a moment.

So anyway, here are a few observations.

Unpleasant: After returning from vacation I went to put on a suit to go to work and discovered that my hips had spread. Something I didn't notice until nothing fit. I tried on every damn suit in the closet until I finally tried the fattest suit I own and found it barely fit. I looked decidedly inappropriate.

Pleasant: Due to suit situation above, I was forced into the maternity store early. I had two choices, buy bigger clothes or buy maternity. As much as I really hate the idea of maternity it seemed far more practical (and economical). Many, many maternity clothes make you look like a frickin cupcake, but on the upside they are the most comfortable things I have ever put on. Stretchy waistbands, flowy tops, I never knew it could be so good. No wonder those old ladies wear expandable "slacks".

Unpleasant: The constant feeling that I'm going to upchuck. I almost think that if I did puke I might feel better, but I just don't think it's in the cards. The only thing that keeps me somewhat non-nauseated is constantly eating. Sounds good right? Not really because I only feel good for about 10 minutes and then it's back to puke-town.

Pleasant: No matter how much I eat those stretchy pants will still fit.

Unpleasant: People at work think you're gaining weight. You're not positive that's what they're thinking because it's not like they're going to come out and tell you but you're relatively certain the way they do a double take when they see you coming. Although it could be a reaction to my change in dress. I'm not exactly the bohemian peasant top type of gal.

Pleasant: My hair seems thicker although that could be a figment of my imagination or my desire to derive some positive benefit from this whole experience.

Unpleasant: All the waiting at the doctor's office, consent forms, reading about things that might happen, figuring out how to fit a 3rd person into 1100 square feet, the weird smell that I smell when I walk into my house (what the hell is that??), the fact that I can't eat fish (both because of mercury and because it now makes me want to puke) and finally the fact that my house is a mess and my husband doesn't notice.

Pleasant: I have now justified, to myself, the need for a cleaning lady and I have started calling around to find one. Joy of all joy I will never mop another floor or clean a tub.

I think I'll end on a high note here. And in the event you were wondering, I am not part of the Gloucester County pregnancy pact. I just want to clear that up right now.

Friday, June 6, 2008

I'm thinking I need a tracksuit and a side ponytail...

While in London on vacation I learned two new words that I would like to share with everyone.

The first is quite nice - chav. As far as I can tell, the closest descriptor we have on the other side of the pond is wigger. Not nice, but it seems to fit. The only possible discrepancy is the fondness for Burberry plaid that the chavs seem to have. Apparently they are so offensive that Burberry stopped making certain items with the plaid that they favored. When you are so nasty that a major label stops producing something just so you can't drag down their good name, that say influence...and not in a good way.

Then there's slag. This is apparently a unisex insult as well as a noun and a verb. You can be a slag (closest American translation is roughly skank - which I would like to add is one of my personal favorites - it says so much in five letters) or you can slag someone off (which is to insult them but not in a serious way).

Examples of both were plentiful in my friend's neighborhood in southeast London. She compared it to South Philly, her husband compared it to the NorthEast. The prevalence of tracksuits and bad hair made it a toss up in my opinion.

A few other points of note should you wish to visit London soon: You really do get black boogers unless you stay off the Tube. The Tube is massively uncomfortable in any amount of heat or humidity. The bus is nasty and forces you to touch things that people have touched before (probably with unwashed poo dirt hands).

So take some wipes and a few good packs of tissues if you want to check out the chavs and slags.