Today's installment of Why Downtown Creeps Me Out Here. So Friday morning, I have a freelance gig I'm going to. I'm walking down the hill on James Avenue, right? From the bus stop near the court building. And ahead of me is some guy in a red hoodie. Well, that's nothing stra--
He wasn't wearing pants.
I don't mean, he was wearing shorts, or--as far as I could tell--he was wearing his underwear.
No, I mean he was wearing the hoodie aaaand...that was it.
It's one of those moments where you don't want to look, but you cannot believe you're actually seeing this so you cannot help it.
Maybe in Seattle, this is casual day for homeless people?
And he's ahead of me THE WHOLE WALK DOWNHILL. Including right past a COP, for pete's sake. Stumbling from side to side, obviously gone out of his mind on something. I mean, I'm assuming he would HAVE to be homeless, because I don't think there are Seattleites that absent-minded. Also, the shade of red he was wearing is the kind of thing one would ONLY wear because they had nothing else. Think the dwarf in DON'T LOOK NOW.
This afternoon when I left, at 5 pm, and walked uphill to the same 355 bus stop? Mr. Literally Bare-Ass is still wandering about on James Avenue. Still without pants. On a street that's between a courthouse and a police station, down the hill on Yesler. This is a city where being homeless not only means perhaps not having even pants, but nobody, in any respect, giving a crap. I wondered if I was the only person who could see this. I wondered just how desensitized Seattleites are. It's not jadedness. I've lived in places that are jaded, and it's usually because things happen in those places. If Seattleites are jaded, it's more in the sense of a child who not only doesn't want broccoli, but has decided it does not exist. And if they reacted to this person, perhaps that might mean having to take some civic responsibility for someone who, whether you find his pantslessness offensive, amusing, or sad, is obviously not someone in a good place.
See, that's the thing: it's not permissiveness that makes them not notice Mr. Bare-Ass. It's that they can't be bothered to be concerned about anyone.
Gotta tell ya, never even saw anything like that in truly jaded, cosmopolitan places Chicago, or in San Francisco, the kind of places you would think you might. The strangest thing I ever saw on the street in the San Francisco Bay Area back in the late 1990s--besides Maxon Crumb, but that's another story for another day--was this guy who looked a bit like Gibby Haynes, had no shirt, and walked around downtown Berkeley upside down, on his hands. I was told I should be happy about that because when he flipped onto his feet, he would kick people in the head. Altamont, it seems, had been interesting times for him. But in Berkeley, the homeless have an easier time than many places. Up here, not so. They can freeze. And they do.
At another bus stop on my way home, around 130th and Aurora, a homeless man who's usually there on that corner begging from the cars passing, with a friend, first has his backpack stolen by a third hobo, then gets it back, and then just as the bus comes, he suffers a massive seizure on the sidewalk. His friend begs the bus driver to call 911. (there are no other phones on the streets here, and I don't have a cell phone so I could not. I can't account for the others on the bus) The bus driver goes "Uhhh, okay," and it turned out he did put the call through on the radio, but he waited two stops.
So I am left with little to say about all this but...
"Eternity in the company of Beelzebub, and all of his hellish instruments of death, will be a picnic compared to five minutes with me & this pencil." --E. Blackadder, 1789 Questionable
words & pictures from John Linton Roberson