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Street people behaving badly

November 24, 2013

Pete admires the green guy’s soap art on McDonald’s front window.

Many homeless, and formerly homeless people call this part of the month “Mardi Gras” because it’s when they receive their welfare or disability cheques, which were duly issued this last Wednesday. The party will have already run out of steam for many, but not for all. For some, Mardi Gras is more a state of mind than the state of their wallets.

This evening I came upon two of my homeless friends “frolicking” in the alley just around the corner from the McDonald’s at Broadway and Granville. They had the entire brightly-lit loading area behind the Bombay store on Granville entirely to themselves. One of the mildest homeless fellows I know, the “green guy,” was aggressively pacing, tracing the letter Z, “zed” — he declared emphatically — in the air — for “Zorro.” His most recent dumpster mp3 player was attached to the sort of cheap portable powered speaker we all see in the garbage. The combined low-fidelity ensemble was pumping out Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On.” He was wide-eyed, and talking a lot like someone on jib, a kind of street speed: “Don’t blink. Don’t you dare blink!” The other homeless guy was Florida Pete.

Doing 50 in a 30 km zone

Pete joined me in McDonald’s, and I asked him what had gotten into our friend. “Two joints and half a bottle of wine,” Pete explained. His sin here was clearly one of omission. Under further prodding Pete added, “and I gave him some 222s.” So our friend was speeding a little bit?

“Ya, a little” agreed Pete, the enabler, a big smile on his face. He had a fresh opportunity to enjoy his handiwork, as the green guy planted himself on the other side of the window from us in McDonald’s, produced a bar of high-quality glycerine soap, and used it to draw all over the window. He had an environmentally-friendly cloth carry-bag which was blaring out a tune thanks to the mp3 player and speaker combo jammed in amongst whatever else was in the bag. A mother and daughter were standing behind him, closer to the curb, waiting at a bus stop. The mother was looking out at the street, but her young child was riveted by the sight of the crazy homeless artiste, and possibly by whatever he was saying. Finally the girl pressed up against her mother’s legs, which she hugged, but she couldn’t or wouldn’t take her gaze off of the green guy’s weird antics.

Good Clean fun?

She and her mother boarded the Number Nine bus, which the green guy then attempted to use as another canvas. The bus driver was having none of that, certainly not by the front doors. But Art will not be denied, and the green guy moved down the length of the bus, stopping now and again to “interface” through the windows with the various passengers.

No idea how many 222s he took, or how long one takes to wear off, but when I see him tomorrow, I trust the green guy will be back to his normal, quiet self.

I could probably say the same thing about all the clean-cut teens and twenty-somethings who are — even as I write — guzzling beer, and other things, and enjoying themselves, and yelling and, in some instances,  knocking over all the mailboxes, and certainly peeing everywhere, as they party along the three kilometre stretch of West Broadway between the streets Vine and Alma, as they do most every weekend.

When I think about it, homeless and a lot of non-homeless people in Vancouver have a real common bond in the shared experience of alcohol and drug use, and the stupidity it invariably leads to. Maybe that’s something we can build on, or not. Click the image to enlarge it.

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