Monday, August 18, 2014

What We Think About When We Think About Squalor (or: How I Learned to Start Worrying and Hate the Woody Allen)

Broadway Danny Rose

I started out writing about my four favorite Woody Allen movies:  Crimes and Misdemeanors, Alice, Broadway Danny Rose and Hannah and Her Sisters.  This turned out to be way too tedious of a task though – I had to write little synopses for each of these movies to prove that they were full of neurotic integrity and did not contain any of the classic Woody Allen lechery.  Also I had to include a ton of qualifiers about how if his alleged sexual assault of his daughter Dylan is true  -- I don't even know what to say about.  How can I legitimize liking the art of someone who may be a sexual predator?  I gave up on the Woody Allen thing.

Instead I want to write about something I went into in a recent post, about how I was going through a phase of really caring about others, and then when a homeless man I was pretty familiar with was a dick to me one day, it put the kibosh on my recent overwhelming sense of empathy.  I wonder if it sounded to readers like I stopped caring about homelessness just because of this one man.  Full disclosure, I come to think of some homeless people I develop an acquaintance w/ as “my” homeless people (I think other people tend to do this too, but who knows) – this is sort of ridiculous because it makes it seem like they’re my friends.  We are just people who’ve grown familiar with each other and who get along, and who I usually try to give a buck to when I have  cash on me.  

It is true that this recent unpleasant exchange with this one of “my” homeless people really disappointed me, but this is only of many bad experiences I’ve had with homeless men over the years.  I have definitely had my share of locations I had to circumvent to avoid a homeless man who’d turned creepy on me.  Of course I’m inclined to help homeless women out more and have never had an exchange with a homeless woman go sour on me yet.  My mom is on familiar terms with many homeless people, and growing up, I knew the quirks of these people, mostly women.  There was one woman who was a picky eater – if a person offered her their restaurant left overs, she’d be like “what’s in there?” and if she didn’t like the food, she’d reject it (she totally liked these tacos from a stand down the street from where she camped out, but only if they didn’t have hot sauce on them!).  People thought it was snotty of her to go hungry instead of accepting any old handout offered to her  but I thought it was pretty awesome that she was able to maintain her tastes.  There was another woman we saw a lot, who was always yelling at the top of her lungs but pretty much left my mom out of her screeds, probably because she sensed in her a fellow screamer.  Anyway, this woman was black, but she constantly yelled hating black people, and she also hated women, and would only accept money from men.

Anyway, yeah, homeless women presumably have a rougher time on the streets than homeless men, and I would prefer to only ever give women money, except --  I feel sorry for a lot of the men because they are veterans.  So I never really parse my meager contributions out only to women. 

Anyway, back to the homeless guy who pissed me off the other day.  The point of the post about him was that I’m not sure what philosophy is the real way to live, and I was going through a real strong phase of secular humanism for a while, but my exchange with him sort of broke that spell and now I’m feeling like an existentialist borderline nihilist.  I just don’t care about strangers right now. 

There is a great movie called Please Give, in which Catherine Keener's character Kate can’t keep it together anymore and has these really strong attacks of conscience – one example is that, as an owner of a vintage furniture shop, she goes to homes of the recently deceased to potentially buy valuable items from the estate.  She goes to this one house where the dead woman’s son is heavily grieving and his sister is like “All mom’s stuff is just shit – we should give it to the Goodwill!” but Kate feels bad for the grieving man and ends up buying a whole bunch of worthless furniture for a lot of money, pretending it's all really valuable. 

For a little while there I was feeling like the character in the movie.  At the L.A. zine fest a few months ago, there was a girl collecting zines for troops, and when I was talking to her I started crying thinking of the troops!  At this time of my life (lasting for only a few months) I was feeling really sad and emotional every time I saw a homeless person.  But I’ve realized that this has a lot more to do with me than with the plight of the homeless strangers I was seeing.  

I just don’t want any reader to think I was being flippant about my disproportionately strong reaction to the homeless man’s rudeness.  It may be a fucked up reaction of mine but at least I’ve been reflective about my change of heart.

Anyway, I still strongly believe that it’s a disgusting thing to try to make homeless people disappear into thin air, as if they were a problem to be dealt with, and not just people that things didn’t work out for (I hate it when people say “Things have a way of working themselves out."  I can think of a million instances of that being untrue, like for starters, people who ended up on the street).  I’ve read a few really interesting articles recently about this tactic of making homelessness disappear.  See, I’m still a liberal, I’m just sort of a jerk.  Maybe my next philosophy will be religion.  Oops, I’d go to hell.  Nevermind.  Hail Satan.

(the first paragraph is so weird:  "Acknowledging that law enforcement alone had failed to end homelessness on skid row, officials launched a city-county initiative Tuesday to bring social services and enhanced cleanups to the 50-block downtown Los Angeles district."  Why are cops the go-to solution for homelessness on skid row instead of community outreach groups?  Homelessness is illegal the way suicide is, two examples of Big Brother shittiness).

from "Please Give" -- Kate offering her left overs to a man who is just dressed casually and is in line to get into a fancy restaurant

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