Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Death and Taxes by Susan Dunlap

Juggled several books in my mind, before deciding on "Death and Taxes" by Susan Dunlap. It is the seventh in a series of Jill Scott Mystery novels and the branch library did not have any of the others, so I could read in order. Can not say there is any rhyme or reason why certain titles attract me or say "read me", but "Death and Taxes" was one of them. Published in 1992 it answered a question I had about homeless mentions in novels. Had I never noticed them before or was it new trend, now that I come across so many?

"People's Park" in Berkley is part of the background for action in "Death and Taxes". A lot of homeless mentions. Dunlap could be describing Lincoln Park, MLK Park or a number of dive hotels in Long Beach or even my experience during my first days of homelessness; "must be an undercover cop", they thought not only about myself, but other newcomers. Some of the quotes that brought back my own memories:

"These guys needed a place to sleep. We've got twelve hundred homeless in Berkley and nowhere near enough beds for them."

"He wasn't a street person in the sense of being homeless night after night. He was one of the marginal ones."

"I don't object to people sleeping inside instead of in doorways."

"Citizens leave clothes in the box, street people come to get them, the university starts hauling off the box, a mob forms, Campus Patrol hauls off the demonstrators..."

"Castillo's slipped back under the trees with the rest of the homeless."

"All the guys in the park ~ the street people, the homeless guys, the winos, the addicts, the runaways ~ they all think Castillo's a regular too."

"Everybody knows how the park is. Even the homeless are nervous there. They complain about the dealers."

"It'd been taken over by the homeless, the dealers, the addicts. And in that mix the just plain homeless walked warily and slept with both eyes open."

Sleeping with open eyes was something I learned early during my street living days. Even hardened or chronic homeless, drug users, were wary of Skid Row in Los Angeles. Learning that some character that would frighten "little old ladies" or even not so young gals, were afraid of homeless living on Skid Row was a surprise to me. I guess there are different degrees of "badness". Pulling out the crack pipe in front of people was no big deal, but those Skid Row people are shooting heroin in plain view! In my mind heroin or crack was the same level, so how could a crack smoker be afraid of a heroin user? Whatever.

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