Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I started the following a little before some fresh hell headed the way of the NOLA blogpocheh. The famiglia is making their usual hay with the news about the Walking Id's no-shows at the city polls (otherwise known as not voting in defiance of "you know, fire hoses and all that.") and the racism cards being dealt out in the game known as Big Limit Garbage Contracts-Hold 'Em.

I busted my tuchus to walk on over to City Hall and get my absentee vote sorted out a couple of days before I took the train from purgatory to DC. It wasn't that hard, really. My tuchus is still there. The Walking Id wouldn't have had to worry about that. He would have had to worry about something else entirely, however:

So, if anybody sees a house on the gray brick road whose color resembles that of the blue oceans on your average world map, well, that's my doing. The color ought to fade over time. Dan, the Illini alum, wants to have the front doors painted orange to show his team spirit. And, either my sense of smell was permanently altered by the application of the primer coat on the house, or the exterior coat simply doesn't stink as badly, but the smell doesn't bother me much now. I guess I'll have to test out my taste buds on some fine dining next month when my birthday comes along....

I headed over to Loyola Avenue to get some stuff from the main library and to register to vote absentee (largely because of this election, though I'm happy to see some folks responding to the dilemma I talked about in my last post). It was there that I got an eyeful and a noseful of the tent city of the homeless that has sprung up in the park across the street from City Hall. Other bloggers have commented on the import of this quite well, but it was my first time seeing it up close.

People are camped out under the trees in domed tents. They are also hanging out under the eaves of the buildings adjoining the plaza. Some 32-gallon city garbage cans at the edge of the plaza are overflowing with garbage. Certain areas of the plaza stink of urine. I saw some people sleeping inside their tents, some in the pavilion at the center of the plaza cursing pretty loudly and talking of all sorts of things to pass the time. The pavilion sports some signs - a big one saying "Homeless Pride" and smaller ones saying that just because the people there are homeless, it doesn't mean they are jobless. I thought of the many homeless in NYC who have jobs, but no wage that allows them to have a roof over their heads - unless it's the roof of a subway tunnel. Or a shelter that turns you out early in the morning. Or even a car.

I looked over at the building on the lake side of the plaza, where I'd once gone to obtain a marriage license. People in various states of mess and distress sat on sleeping bags. Some slept. A few talked to each other and kept an eye out for the piles of stuff that were unmanned. I walked past another stinking corner and made my way across the street to City Hall, where things were positively sterile. Hermetically sealed, compared to.

How in hell can people not want to do something about this? How can the Walking Id, hizzoner Da Mayor Nagin, walk past these folks and blithely talk about extracting more money from people who have homes in which to live for "unspecified projects" that most likely do not include finding places to live for the homeless in Duncan Plaza that are not made of polyester?

It certainly gave me food for thought as I passed my absentee voting application to the registrar. It had me wondering why the heck I was complaining about the paint fumes wafting through my house, when most of the folks in the plaza would be happy to have a house, period.

This kind of stuff is only the most obvious at Duncan Plaza. Where it is less obvious is in places like my neighborhood park, where no tents are set up, but the folks are sleeping in their cars parked right on the nearby streets, or right on the grass under the trees during the day. They are washing clothes in the fountain that was just repaired a year ago and talking to each other on the benches as well as to the folks who bring their dogs around to the park on a daily basis. Look carefully around your neighborhoods, folks, and these people will no longer be invisible.

Ladies and gents, I am no closer to solving the problems of the homeless in this city, short of donating my house to a number of them and putting me and my own out on the street, which would simply be a matter of addition and subtraction and not a lasting solution. I do know that pols who persist in their near-comedic ineffectuality and waste their time creating mountains of garbage that they assail with empty charges of prejudice in the hopes that the trash will go away or at least disguise itself are gonna end up on that same trash heap eventually. I just want it to be happening sooner rather than later, as do all of us.

Especially these people who are sleeping in tents or in their cars, or out on the cold ground. Thanksgiving just came and went, and all we can talk about is garbage contracts gone bad and our mayor's exercising his right not to vote better than he is doing his job.

It's all getting too easy people. I'm just sayin'...

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