Saturday, February 14, 2009

On The Bus ~ The Urban Hermit

Could not avoid easesdropping on a conversation while on the bus. It was crowded and I grabbed the first seat I saw, the first row facing the two side rows. This is the Disabled area and those side row seats and where I sat are put up to secure wheelchairs if they are needed, so I usually do not sit there. Diagonally across from me a guy talked non-stop to a guy across the aisle.

If I were a real writer I could describe his looks. Maybe 6' tall ~ hard to judge sitting on the bus ~ 220 plus pounds. He had a typical huge beer belly, but te rest of him ~ arms/legs, chest were equally big. His jet black hair was pulled back away from his face and it was not until later I realized he had styled it in pigtails. He had a lot of wavy or wiry hair. Facial hair? Do not recall; would make a lousy witness, except if I saw him again, I would remember him. I not only listened to the conversation but stared at him.

Rude, I know, but I was hoping to make eye contact so I could ask: "Can I have a dollar?". The reason being was something he said to a departing passenger about enjoying the journey. The man told the guy across the aisle he always says this to people when they ask him for money. Do not recall if he said "bums" or "homeless" or left that part on said. I wanted him to bless me on my journey, because of something he said earlier.

"That explains the nose," I think when he mentions being Native American, communing with his ancestors who are powerful and help him all the time. The nose was big too, not wide, but long and straight with that little hook at the end. How am I doing describing the man's looks? I could probably do a sketch better than trying to show his image with words, sigh. Anyway this guy talked about focus. I just read something in one of the many books I read that said the same thing. "It's all about focus; you have to keep your focus."

When I started reading "The Urban Hermit" by Sam MacDonald, I kept picturing the guy on the bus as being the speaker in the tale. It is a true story actually but one of those "Truth is stranger than fiction" types. Like the guy on the bus, MacDonald was big. The stomach was due to excessive beer drinking, and I guess over-indulgence on food. I stopped reading to look at the author's photo to get the bus guy's face outta my head. Could say the author looked like a geek, not a hard-drinking bar guy. I could easily picture the guy on the bus, drinking nightly at the local hang-out, but not the author.

"The Urban Hermit" includes a lot of quotes. Even one from "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" by Tom Wolfe, about, what else, being "on the bus", attributed to Ken Kesey. Sure enough, MacDonald soon writes about "focus". I think the guy on the bus would like this book. There is no talk about communing with ancestors, but a lot about serendipity, which I believe the bus guy understands.

"The Urban Hermit" was a surprise. I had no idea what an Urban Hermit is, but it sounding interesting so checked the book out of the library. It is interesting. Not just that the man got in financial trouble and decided to get down to basics to get himself out of debt. His experiment was to last a month. He put himself on an 800 calorie a day diet, even though his cousin, a dietitian, told him he would need a 1,200 calorie diet to survive. What surprised me was how politics entered the story: a trip to Bosnia reminded me of than Senator Clinton's tall-tale about her own trip there.

How could a man so broke he decides to save money by eating less, much less, get to Bosnia? You will have to read the book if you want to know! He also visits a Rainbow Gathering. There is where the mentions of homeless people enter the story. There are "street kids from Seattle" and "Real hobos," who hopped boxcars, sometimes for decades.

An apartment complex MacDonald lived in caught fire and he says "...we were homeless, we were broke, and my wife was five months pregnant with twins." Read about apartment complex fires that leave many homeless. Usually no follow up stories on those people's lives. I heard many people's homeless stories and never met anyone who became homeless due to a fire. Yet, I am sure losing all one's possessions due to a fire, could be the thing that begins a descent into permanent street living.

When I picked up this book, I did not expect to read about George Bush, George Wallace getting shot, the Ku Klux Klan, Confederate flags, trailer parks, Al Quaeda, terrorism and stock market crashes. Quotes by people like Thoreau about Walden's Pond were expected; street living is another way to learn about basic survival and life's necessities.

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