Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Culinary Advice and Brain Rebooting

In the Mission breezeway this morning waiting for breakfast, I found myself next to two white boys who inhabited that indeterminate age I've come to recognize among street people which ranges somewhere between 26 and 66.  A denizen of this walking dead alley might look exactly the same at any point between the brackets depending on the convergent effects of intoxicants, sunlight, other forms of radiation, depression, and poor choice of reading matter.   They were snarling and whining about all the newbies who come into the Mission and demonstrate in embarrassing debacles and gaucheries their pathetic failure to learn the ropes, dig the scene, fit in or otherwise contribute something productive to homeless/Mission life. They were an odd couple, one a hardened, combat gear-festooned and gravely-voiced gutter rat, the other a high-voiced person of indeterminate sex.  I mean, he was staying in the Men's Mission, but still.   Listen in:

White boy one:  These fucking newbies, they don't know how to eat breakfast.

White boy two:  Fucking tell me about it.  It's a disgrace, absolutely calamitous, doll.

WBI: It's frozen waffles today. [sharpens knife]

WBII:  Oh.  Oh!  Oh dear . . . My, my, my, my . . .

WBI:  They never learn.  Oh, God!  I feel like cutting something.  Anything!

WBII: You've got to admit it's sort of endearing when the little darlings first try out the utensils.  They just don't realize how soft and bendy they're going to be.  You can't cut anything but cream of wheat with those forks!

WBI:  You gotta turn the fucking fork over and use the gouge and slash with the handle!

WBII: I agree, but some finesse does work its way into the technique after a bit.  Oh, I don't know if I can watch!  All those new pumpkins came in last night.  You can have my waffles this morning, doll.  Ramon's shooting the rest of me tonight.  Wait till you see my portFOHlio! [giggles]

At this point they were interrupted by a giant bald black man in sunglasses, leather and chains [there are lots of giant bald black men in leather, so settle down] we'll call Mike.

Mike:  Give those motherfucking waffles to me, white boy.  I can swallow them in one gulp.  Don't need no motherfucking technique.  Use my heroic gullet.

WBII: Oh, dear.  I don't think I've ever seen anything like that.

Mike:  And you ain't never seen nothing like my purple polka dot doo rag.

WBII:  No, I've never seen anything like that, either.

Mike:  You've never seen an earthquake, but you feel the effects. [big, scary smile]

Later, in the special ed class I had for the day, I sat at a kidney table with a group of at-risk-special-needs-kiddies and tried my best to get them to shuffle into chronological order cards imprinted with bright pictures of sequenced tasks like getting dressed or noticing it's raining outside and obtaining an umbrella. This is where the real heartbreak comes in ( Forget compassion for the homeless whether it's their fault or not. I've no interest in homeless advocacy. It's soooo boring. This is where your pity and passion and energy belong, Okay? More on this later).

Since I was only there for a day, and had no information about their deficits and afflictions other than vague labels--Joey is mildly autistic, Bethany has anger issues and has bitten in the past, Tanisha's got a strange home life, and possibly fetal alcohol syndrome, etc. I can do no more than smile, be mildly stern, and put them through the paces. It's grim, exhausting work but it's got to be done, even if most of these kids--wrecked by the genetic lottery and their worthless, FAT! stupid-by-personal-choice, FAT! (even if we don't believe in free will we can still hold them responsible, and stupid is just stupid, and FAT! is always different from plain fat, and is your fault, that's all) ambulatory-fungi-butt-crack-parading-cheetoes-chomping-parolee-leaking-boil-and-pustule-FAT! parents--never make it. It's not the teachers' fault, not the textbooks, not the test format, not the administrators, not the curriculum, and not the unit on rain forests that you and your wack-a-loon church friends think is really all about Wicca and paganism and global warming panic to prevent Jesus from coming but is really about beauty and unbearable sadness. It's the parents.

A large girl named Stacy was particularly somnolent, refusing to answer any queries or share. Her shaggy head kept sagging down.

"I wouldn't worry about it," a bright, hyper active snapper named Cambie said to me. "We've tried everything with her to wake her up."

"Can you think of anything new, Cambie?"

"A unicorn might do it," said Cambie.

"Do you know where we can find one?"

"Sure," she answered and pointed at Stacy. "Inside her head. There's a whole herd of them sleeping. We just have to wake them up."

"How do we do that?"

She scrunched her face up, thinking. "We could stuff some oats in her ears."

Problem solved.

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