Thursday, September 20, 2007

What Are You A Slave Too? Another Beggar's Tale

Bartolomé Esteban Murillo: Brother Juniper and the Beggar (Oil on canvas)

The stories of the homeless are always interesting to me, having lived a life of austere poverty when young. I often read that a high portion of the homeless in NYC are mentally ill, that they really need more help than a hand-out. This I believe. We were without a home because of my mother’s bi-polar disorder, and I can only imagine the myriad of illnesses that keep people sleeping on grates and cardboard boxes rather than a home. Granted, some, like the beggar in my last tale, see it as a profession and aren’t really homeless. Then you run into the case that I’m about to tell you about.

It was a long night and I was coming home from a wrap party. I used to work in film a lot more than I do now, just simple things, but also volunteered at all the festivals held in NYC. So it was a nice party, open bar (I don’t really drink, but was talked into trying a Cosmo by some devotee of Sex In The City), and a lot of drugged-out wannabes. Not really my scene, but the gift bags were nice!

I left the party a little early and famished as the pot-smokers always bogard the hors d’oeuvres at these types of functions. As I’m walking I spy a Burger King – yeah! Affordable food. Now, as with many establishments, there is someone begging at the door. It’s funny, because they tend to not want food – just the money. Once, I asked the gentleman begging outside the door if he wanted to come in and I’d buy him a burger, he told me, “No way, that food’s too unhealthy for me!” Beggars can’t be – oh well, they can. Another time I actually bought bagels for this person who was lying on the ground and pitifully moaning about how hungry he was. He told me, in a non-moaning voice, that he was on Atkins, thanks. When I went to return the bagels there was a girl returning muffins – who had bought them for the same reason as I- and was pissed that he did take the water she bought for herself.

Anyway, while in line gazing at my limited choices (no beef for me, and at the time, no chicken either, so probably just some fries to tide me over) I overhear this woman on the phone – she works for MTV! I had been wondering about getting a job there. She’s very cordial, and we start to talk. Then matters turn to the gentleman outside the door, as I think he came in and asked her for money – by name – and she gave him a couple dollars.

“That is the greatest musician that will never be,” she sighs to me. “We found him one day, beating, just amazing sounds. This guy is wonderful. And here he is homeless! We get him in and record some stuff and then offer him this huge contract, millions of dollars.”

I’m hooked then – this homeless guy begging for money outside a BK is so profound?

“Oh yeah,” she tells me, “just amazing. So we get him out of here and put him up in a nice hotel. Only thing is, he’s a user. So we have to detox him. That’s the condition – he has to be clean. The contract is signed, there it is, millions of dollars, he just can’t use.”

Well, we already know the ending of the story. He walked away from a life of music, of living up to his potential as the best thing around, to hold the door open as people enter a fast food restaurant in hopes of getting enough spare change to get his next fix. She looks truly devastated as she tells me this, and I think my jaw went slack. To give up so much of your future, for some immediate fabricated ‘feeling’ that a drug will provide.

That scene has long stuck with me, perhaps as a guidepost, as a bench marker. To make sure that my future isn’t obscured my immediate fleeting desires, to see that I still have control of my dreams.

10 comments:

Amel's Realm said...

UUUUUHHHH...what a story, Vic!!! THANKS for sharing. What a waste of talent!!! Tsk tsk tsk...

heavenabove said...

I've seen most all my friends from way back in high school ruined from abuse of drugs. They have even unsuspectingly passed on this horror to their children, many of whom are young adults now doing the same crap their parents did after trying so hard not to be like them. Sad, but I cannot associate with those people that were so close to me before. It truly is a waste of life and leaves me with a sad heart.

P I F F L A N said...

your post really made me think about humanity and humans.
Thanks for dropping by to my blog :)

Victorya said...

Amel - Yes, such a waste! Who knows, he could have revolutionized hip-hop or music in general!

Heaven - I too have lost friends to drugs and alcohol. One, last I heard, had her two children taken away as she was prostituting herself to get the next high. It's so sad to see someone so dear just go down the drain. She was my best friend for a long time.

Piff - welcome back! It is amazing, isn't it? the human condition, there's nothing like it out there.

fishwithoutbicycle said...

We humans can be amazingly self destructive. It really is a shame that he wasted his talent, but he made a choice and maybe his refusal opened a door for someone else.

david mcmahon said...

That is such a profound message, Victorya.

My word, you have the power ....

david mcmahon said...

Serious question - have you ever thought about writing a book?

Amel's Realm said...

Btw, Vic, I agree with David he he he...You are a WONDERFUL writer! ;-D

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

The worst part is that this guy isn't an isolated case.

Linda said...

Profound and poignant--a far cry from what many US midwesterners experience until we go the "big city." Helping the less fortunate is complex. Is it our responsibility to give and let the receiver be held responsible for his stewardship of the gift, or are we to be wise and discerning about the probably outcome? And your "beggars can't be ...." made me smile.