Wednesday, October 31, 2007

People of the world

Every city has one.
Their clothes are garbage but elaborately put together.
Stitches everywhere.

We had one in the village where I grow up.
We called him Midnight Victor.
We'd normally find him sleeping in some ditch on our way to school.
We were not afraid of him. He never did any harm.
Some kids were more harmful. To him.
They begged him for money.

I met my second stitch-man when I moved to Gothenburg.
Instead of shoes he had layer after layer of plastic bags wrapped around his feet.
Which made his feet look enormous.
He was always pushing a shopping cart around.
He collected bottles and cans. 10 cents in return for each.
Rumors had it he'd amassed a little fortune after a life of bottle collecting.
But that he was too cheap to ever use any of the money.

Amsterdam has one.
I asked him to be in an ad once.
It turned out he had been in advertising himself.
Before booze, Dutch weed and laziness took over.
I am pretty sure he didn't lie about that.
He seemed to know the names of all the big stars in American advertising.
And a few less known one.
Why would a bum bother to learn such things?
Or lie about it?
He didn't lie about his alcoholism and drug dependency.

New York has one too.
Or two. Or more.
I used to see mine around Union Square.
Close to where I worked.
My job was to make ads.
His job was to sit there and advertise his misery.
He was a pretty savvy ad man if you ask me.
If he'd dressed better and shaved more often
he might not have got his hat filled with money as quickly.
He was done by noon as far as I could tell.
Never saw him afternoons.
Maybe he went home, took his beard off,
changed into something passable,
and went for lunch at a decent restaurant.

What do I know?
About these men.
Well, I know there was one in Tokyo as well.
On weekends I used to take my kids out to a playground near our place.
That's where he would sit.
He never seemed to beg for money though.
Perhaps they don't in Japan.

What people don't know is that there are in fact homeless people in Tokyo.
They live in groups.
In tents made of tarpaulins, or in card board boxes.
Little villages of homeless people hidden away in the corners of some parks.
I think my Japanese stitch man lived on the playground though.

Now I've discovered one in Hongkong.

1 comment:

geo said...

The universal languages: poverty and despair.

The unheard languages: compassion and empathy.