A little background before I begin. I am in a wheelchair. You'll understand why that was necessary in a minute. First was the lady who asked if I was a Vietnam Veteran. This wouldn't be so strange if it weren't for the fact that I am 20 and very obviously too young to have participated in the Vietnam War. Then there was a lady who told me, "You musta dun somethin wrong, cuz you in a wheelchair and I aint seen no white folk in wheelchairs". I really have no explanation for this statement so I told her to come out to the suburbs more often and that there are a lot of white people in wheelchairs in the suburbs.

Of course there have been at least ten instances of homeless strangers coming up and praying for me to be able to walk. Some have gone as far as to kneel next to me. I find this odd but it beats the hell out them asking me for money. I have also had several homeless people offer to push me up hills. Once again this wouldn't be so odd but for the fact that I weigh 210 lbs and I can benchpress 315 lbs. I don't think I look like I need help pushing up the hill, but maybe I just have a false self-image. Who knows?

A homeless fellow approached me while I was standing at the bus-stop and said:

"Sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening, sugar all day long. You know that's an old song, and I never quite knew what it ment, but I know one thing, the guy who wrote it, he's gots to be in love!"

Somehow that affected me profoundly.

He didn't ask for money or a smoke, and after he just smiled at me, I couldn't help but smile back.
I wish I could remember this whole thing, but I can't, so I'll have to paraphrase it. (note: this wasn't actually said to me, but rather to the person I was standing beside)

He was driving up to Ontario somewhere; I think it was to Barrie. Anyway, at some point, he pulled over and got out for whatever reason, and went into the woods by the side of the roads. He then proceeded to take his clothes off (I think he said something to the effect that "I came into the world naked, so I was gonna leave it naked") and climb into a tall tree, so he could jump out and kill himself. But, as he was high on the tree, Jesus came to him in a vision and told him that there was a curse placed on him, and that he had to climb down and continue living, because he had to bear this curse. So he got down and wandered in the woods for a while until a hunter found him; the hunter laughed at him, and then I think fed him and gave him some clothes.

A bit after this he was walking down the side of the highway when the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) picked him up and took him to the station. They then proceeded to shine a laser beam onto the back of his head, reading all his memories, everything he said and did for all 30 years of his life up to that point. They then implanted computer chips in him, one on each side of his head, between the ears and the skull (he said they were still there, too) which allowed the police to know what he was thinking at any given time.

Eventually, I don't remember how, he got back to Prince Edward Island (now that I think of it, I think he said he hitchhiked, because he'd left his car on the side of the road when he wanted to kill himself). He went to the hospital there (the Queen Elizabeth Hospital) and asked to have surgery to have the chips removed from his head, which they refused to do, for some corrupt/supernatural reason.

This is where I lose memory of exactly how the story went, but somewhere it involved mafia doctors and the elevator shaft of the hospital being a gateway to hell (and this was said as a matter-of-fact aside, not a revelation). I'm sure I've forgotten a lot from the above parts, too; he was sort of like an odd, insane stream-of-consciousness. Or, as the priest next to whom I was standing later said, "Oh, he's nutty as a fruitcake."

Update: I have since been informed by one Cletus the Foetus that said urban outdoorsman may in fact be a man who goes by the name Frizzel (though when I was present he said he was Robert). To quote Mr. Foetus: Legend has it that that dude ain't crazy -- it's all an act. F. is supposedly very well-read, and only goes to the Hillsborough Hospital (the local mental ward --SB.) on cold nights. The "crazy act" is precedent so they'll let him in; but my sources tell me that he's not crazy. Actually, he's got it made, since he doesn't have to pay taxes. Pretty sweet deal, really.
There is this homeless man in his 30's who sometimes hangs around my friend Rob. Rob is an artist who makes art out of other people's trash and likes to listen to what the man talks about, even though most of it doesn't make ANY sense. He calls Rob Henry Kissinger and he sometimes calls me Mrs. James Madison. But I've also been Mrs. George Washington to him.

He likes to switch roles and be other people too. One day, while he was having a conversation with Henry Kissinger, I walked up to say hi to Rob and the homeless man turned, looked me up and down, then stood up on the bench and loudly proclaimed: "I am going to become a single white woman alone in the world and leave this town!!" Then he sat down next to Rob, and stared off at nothing again. Rob said, "I think that was directed towards you.. See, he's still in there. Those little things he says are why I hang out with him"
When I was working in New York City, there was a gentleman of the outdoors who would sit on 57th st, near the SE corner of the 57th and Park Ave. intersection. He always had an elaborately colored sign, which he would make using colored Magic Markers and a piece of cardboard, then cover with clear packing tape. His name was Norm.

He was quite friendly, and had few foibles unless you count barking at women. He never made any move to even approach them, but when a nice-looking lady went by, he'd start softly yapping, culminating in a series of barks if she ignored him. If she looked at him, he'd start panting or even whining, and if she smiled before turning away (rare, but it happened) he'd stop and blow her a kiss when she wasn't looking.

But I digress.

One day, out of the blue, Norm waved me over as I was on my way to lunch. I went over and greeted him, and without preamble he told me that he wanted to say goodbye, because he wouldn't be seeing me for a while. When I asked why, he replied that he had always had a hankering to see Mount McKinley, and was going to do so.

In Alaska? I asked.


Okay, Norm. Good luck! How you getting there?

Oh, walkin', naturally.

Note that up to this point I'd never even seen his legs as he sat there with a blanket pulled over 'em, so I just kept a straight face.

Then he vanished.

Ten months later, on my way to lunch, I heard my name shouted out, and there was Norm. When I welcomed him back and asked how Alaska was, he got very quiet and said "Beautiful." Then he gave me a pebble which, he explained, was from the river below Mount McKinley. I thanked him solemnly and continued on to get lunch.

On my way back, he waved and handed me something without speaking. I nodded and hurried back to the office, already late, without looking. When I got to my desk, I checked it out.

It was a photo of Norm, still kneeling with his blanket, next to a river, holding some stones. Next to him was an enormous wooden sign welcoming all visitors to Mt. McKinley, and in the background, there was the mountain.

I laughed for perhaps ten minutes.

I never saw him again.

My father, being an eccentric fellow, often took to engaging the Homeless People around his work in conversation as he made his way there. Dad would bike when the weather was nice, and when it wasn't, he would drive this really beat up old 1982 Honda with a rust hole in the roof large enough to swallow several people whole.

He got to know a man named Percy, who would panhandle the street where my father's office was. The conversation (according to my father) follows:

Percy: Hey man, you got any money? I so hungry!
Father: Well, I'm on my lunch break. Why don't you come to McDonald's with me?
Percy: Oh, no, you don' see. I so hungry. I haven't eaten all day I so hungry!
Father: Well, an average McDonald's meal has more than enough calories for a days intake. Come on.
Percy: I buy my own food. My own food.
Father: Um ... I don't think so.

They continue haggling for a while, my dad finally manages to take Percy to McDonalds. Upon leaving the place, Dad sees Percy giving away the food to the other bums on the street. Not so hungry, apparently.

Another great homeless person experience my father had: A bum once walked up to him on the street, said, "I'm not lonely. I've got myself to bother." and walked away.

A few years back, I was sitting at the bus stop bawling my eyes out over something or other - I was a very miserable teenager, but I'm feeling much better now, thanks. A middle-aged man with too many hats came up to me, bummed a cigarette, and said "Don't worry. The more you cry, the less you have to pee."

Sound advice, that.

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