Tuesday, July 19, 2005

At Home With the Homeless

Monday, July 18, and Still in Santa Barbara.

We strolled around the waterfront and the very pretty downtown area today. Santa Barbara appears to be a very affluent area, judging by the homes and stores we saw. We found it interesting that there were so many derelicts around, in such an evidently rich and prosperous area. Derelicts are ‘homeless people,’ to the politically correct among you. We saw at least 25 of them in downtown Santa Barbara and along the beachfront. Most were male and in their forties or older. None were in any way threatening. They appeared to be merely marching to the sound of their own drums and seemed quite content. I don’t imagine that any of them really want a job or to deal with the humdrum responsibilities of a ‘normal’ life, whatever that means.

I find these people interesting. They neither disgust me nor evoke pity from me. Some have made life choices which pretty much put them in their present circumstance. Some have a mental illness, often schizophrenia, which makes it difficult for them to co-exist with others. I will occasionally give money to someone who is panhandling, but rarely if I think he or she is an alcoholic or a drug addict. If I encounter someone with some imagination and a degree of honesty, I will drop a coin or even a dollar or two into whatever container they have available for that purpose.

Many of the derelicts we saw today weren’t asking for money. They were sitting on benches or on curbs, sunning themselves, sometimes chatting with whatever demons reside in their troubled minds. They are likely as happy as they can be under their circumstances. I suspect that many of them pity the rest of us as we live our frenetic and sometimes frustrating lives.

One younger fellow, sitting on a bench in front of some of the trendy stores along State Street, had a fairly large hand-lettered sign that said: “Family killed by Ninjas. Need money for karate lessons.” Cute. He might have had a brilliant future in advertising. It reminded me of when a friend and I were approached by a wino (don’t send me any nasty letters... I could have called him a drunk!) on a street in Chapleau, in Northern Ontario. That guy asked for a contribution so he could make a down payment on a liquor store. I liked his honesty and sense of humour, so I gave him some money.

We will be off down the coast, south to Los Angeles, Venice Beach, Hollywood, Disney Land and all the typically touristy places next.

I think I will set aside fifteen or so minutes, one day soon, to stand at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine. Maybe I'll be discovered by a movie agent and I'll be hired to be a character actor.

I've been told, after all, on more than one occasion, that I am a real character.


  1. RE: “Family killed by Ninjas. Need money for karate lessons.”

  2. "write when you get work as a CHARACTER."