Homeless Beach Bums Keep it Real

by Dan on June 25, 2007

So I’m reading this book called the 4 hour Workweek. Great book. Tells you how to build a business from the ground up, that you can automate, and keep a cashflow running with medium effort. I usually don’t like to read in my apartment, because I’m there so much of the time to begin with. The beach is usually the best option. Get a nice iced green tea from Starbucks, and sit on the concrete wall over the sand.

7:40 pm is not the time to do that.

Around 7:4o, the homeless people start to congregate in the area. In the part of town where I live, the locals often don’t dress well or keep themselves clean to a respectable level, so it’s often hard to tell who’s homeless and who isn’t. This makes giving change out more of an operation as you don’t want to offend someone who lives a block away.

So I’m sitting there, reading, when a bunch of teenagers come in rags and sit on a comforter blanket on the sand in front of me, talking about scooping up the food and condoms they have there. Sounds normal enough, though I assume they’re joking about the condoms. Out of nowhere, a really ratty looking guy starts directing them for where to go. It seemed a little odd, because he seems too young to be one of their fathers, but too old to be an older brother or peer leader.

The guy started chatting with me, and I obliged. He seemed normal enough. He said he was glad to be back home. I asked, “Where were you before?” He said he’s just around here, but the beach is his home. I said then, “So you’re homeless?” He said “Houseless, not homeless. This is my home. It’s a great place here.” He seemed a little too intelligent to be legitimately homeless to me, regardless of how ratty his clothes were. The kids looked a little too well-adjusted as well.

I’m used to homeless people hollering at me and saying weird shit, as statistically 1/3 of them are schizophrenic, from what I learned in Abnormal Psychology. These people, however, were social and seemed rather content with themselves.

Then of course, it had to get weird.

More of them came, and they seemed to take a liking to me. One of them, a light skinned African-American, said “Hey man, we got your back if anyone gives you trouble. Just don’t talk shit to anyone.”

I was really wondering what threat they saw coming. The beach area here is probably as safe as you can get. There are some drugs, but the violent crime rate is ultra-low. I later figured out that they were talking about cops trying to clear them out of loitering at the beach.

The black man introduced himself to me, and held out his hand.

Fuck.

The guy smelled, but it would be so freakin’ rude to refuse to shake his hand. I didn’t want to make an enemy of the beach homeless population the next time I went back there to read, so I shook his hand and made a note not to touch my face until I got to a sink with soap.

To make matters worse, a woman in the group, who wasn’t bad looking, but mildly dirty and growing some dreadlocks, asked to have a sip of my iced green tea. That, I could politely refuse. I just said I don’t share things like that. Some of these transients can get pretty ballsy with their propositions. A few months before, on the beach at night, a black homeless lady said to me “You wanna blowjob?” I politely declined. Then she said “Can I use your cell phone?” I said “No. I don’t want to do that either.” I had to think at that moment which was more risky: letting a homeless lady go down on you, or letting her borrow your cell phone and turning your back for a second.

Back to tonight…

The goatee’d black man, known as Mutt, started giving me his spiel. He used to work construction for minimum wage, had to pay rent, and hated it. Now he’s ultra happy, and at peace with himself living from day to day, begging and chilling. I asked him how much money he made per day begging and he said “I don’t know; I never count.” Great money manager here. If I was homeless I’d be watching every penny.

That’s the thing though; these guys are happy homeless. They tell you straight out that they don’t want a job, a house, and a car. Mutt started talking about how “the world is not put together the right way, and how education and hard work aren’t enough. You have to know people too.”

As non-judgmentally as possible, I said, “It’s cool that you like this lifestyle, but I’m sure you could live the normal way if you wanted to.” He seemed caught between saying that this was a lifestyle he chose, or the default lifestyle that he could make himself do with. He and the others began to rant a little bit about the plastic society we live in, where you can go to college and end up still flipping burgers at McDonald’s because you don’t know the right people.

I saw my opportunity right here. I said to Mutt, “You read a lot right?”

He said “Absolutely, all the time.”

I told him, “Well I agree with you, that you need to know people to get ahead in this world.”

He nodded happily, glad that I was validating his excuse for not making a life for himself.

I then said something he probably hadn’t heard before, “That’s why it’s so awesome that there’s this book, Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi.  It’s so cool; it tells you how to network with people anywhere you are, build a social circle, and land jobs by knowing people.  The author agrees too that it’s all based on who you know, and now there’s a way for everyone to make it in this world, even if they aren’t born knowing people!”

For a second, I saw the positions of his eyes change, as if this could possibly change the meaning of why he lives on the beach.  He quickly gained his composure, however, and said “That’s right, and I’m GREAT at meeting people! Put me anywhere, and I can make new friends.  I could get a job in a heartbeat if I wanted to!”

Definitely wasn’t the response I expected.  However, I did feel like this was some real progress for him, acknowledging that he was homeless and jobless just out of his own volition, and not because of anything society did to him.  As long as he keeps this in mind, he can change it.  And maybe he’ll read the book too.

He actually took an interest in my book as well, The 4 Hour Workweek, though ironically, the weekly working time commitment is more than he’s used to.  The conversation had started to outweigh its novelty, and the smell of his rarely changed torn clothes was starting to make me more uncomfortable.  I started to consider moving, as dizziness started to hit me.  Fortunately, he excused himself and sat with the rest of the bunch on the blanket.  Thank goodness for small miracles.

I asked the guy next to me if everyone on that blanket was homeless.  He said “Those teenage girls aren’t.” I immediately thought, “Wow, these girls actually choose to hang out with homeless people.”  The bums must keep it real.  I was looking at the teenage girls sharing the blanket with the “houseless” beach community.  Their parents must be thrilled.  Really puts it in perspective for next time one of their dads says he doesn’t want his daughter dating a black classmate, huh?

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