Tuesday 17 March 2015
Sweet Grecy, Sam and I drove back to town the other day, my whips and jangles having subsided to a point where I can deal with the distractions of life again. And distractions there were. A young homeless man, who appeared to be schizophrenic, walked along the sidewalk deep in conversation with someone known only to him. He carried his belongings slung over his shoulder in a black plastic trash bag, and upon finding a grassy spot, lay down to continue his conversation, while using elegant hand gestures. Being American, and a bit insane myself, I completely understood. Sam had her nose pressed to her Ipad and did not notice. Sweet Grecy turned to me and said, “I can’t go home without getting him some food. If we don’t, it will bother me all day.” So, we found a McDonald’s and got him two super-sized double doubles of whatever was on the menu, returned, and found him still lying in the grass, still engaged in conversation with his invisible friend. When Sweet Grecy approached with the food, he said, ”I’m hungry.” She got back in the car, and told me, “He has the most beautiful eyes. When I gave him the food, he said, ‘Thank you, sweetheart.’”
At least he ate that day. I wish that solved his problem. But tomorrow, he will, no doubt, be hungry again. Band aids will never stanch his hemorrhaging for more than a nano-second. State mental hospitals no longer operate. If they did, I could have driven him to Camarillo State Hospital (The Eagles’ Hotel California) where he would have been given proper meds, proper food, and proper shelter. But Wyatt v. Stickney (1972) and Wyatt v. Aderholt (1974), brought a halt to that. They caused a sharp decline in patient numbers, and funding dribbled down to near nothing. Along the way, definitions of insanity changed. Little by little, the bar lowered. Eventually, it was decided if a person could dress themselves properly, they were fit to live on their own. And that was the end.
So—now what? Why is this man still on my mind? In the scheme of my life, how much does he matter? Chances of crossing paths with him again are nil. But somehow, his image sticks, and makes me wonder how close I live to that edge. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., in Breakfast of Champions, said Dwayne Hoover’s insanity was caused by bad chemicals. God knows, I have a few of those running around inside my noggin. Maybe they are the things that draw me to the homeless man, and maybe nothing more. But, I do not think that is all. No. I think, perhaps, it is a criticism of this culture I live in. The hard-hearted culture with uncountable wealth that allows such things to happen.
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