I should have ended the story yesterday. It was all feeling so neatly packaged into a sweet made-for-tv movie. Valerie Bertinelli was going to play me...it might have even inspired an episode of Touched By An Angel.
8:30PM. I stop by to say hi to Tim around 8:30pm. I grab a hotel magazine with stuff that is going on around town- just something for him to read- and stop to buy a $5 power aide thinking some electrolute replacement might be a welcomed thing after the record heat of the day. When I arrive he is facing a bit of a different direction and has re-arranged his things. He smells quite strong. I can tell his shirt as been soaked with sweat and dried numerous times. I find him with his hands down his pants scratching his outer leg- you can see a good part of exposed territory where his sweatpants are pulled down following the weight of his hand. He is not as animated to see me. My offering is met with feigned politeness but obvious reservation. He talks at length about high fructose corn syrup as a killer. He knows a lot about sugar cane, fructose, maltose...then he throws in pantyhose as a joke. I can barely hear him sometimes with the city noises.
The magazine has Chinese writing on 1 side and he asks if I can read that. Perhaps he thinks it is all Chinese? He launches into a diatribe about a scientific discovery made by an Argentine-Japanese partnership that takes rusty metal and combines it with a string of acronym. He asks if I know the acronym then gives me clues to help me guess. It's teflon. He calls the rusty metal by its mineral name and says Australia has a wealth of it in its mountains. The next homily is about the mormons and all the BS that religion is, apparently only more absurd are jehovahs witnesses. I ask when is last time you watched any TV? He responds why does that matter, I read books all the time. I reply I want to see if he had ever seen Big Love- a series on mormons. I am trying to just be normal. I ask if he believes in any religion and he says he is a Christian.
I ask him where the town hall rail station is because the girls want to observe the colony of rats touted on the city wildlife plaque. He tells me where it is a little annoyed by the question and I mention how expensive the underground is here. He says not quite as expensive as London and jumps into Australia is one of few solvent countries left. He acknowledges he doesn't know if I am a Democrat or Republican but goes on that Clinton did alot of good for funding science and his predacessors have cut back significantly. He adds in case I am wondering, that he and the rest of Australia do know about Monica Lewinski but no one outside America really cares about that. We talk about the space program and he quotes all the countries that still do have some sort of space or launch programs and that America is really going to hell and lost its edge in just about every area. He is delivering intellectual snobbery up on a platter to me. I must have really pissed him off with my offer of high fructose corn syrup and superficial reading material. More likely, he knows I am a writer and my self interest as such is feeling a bit out of balance to him for my deposit to date. At this juncture, I am hesitant to pursue my idea to ask him for his life story. I don't know what is going on quite yet and just have to let it play out. I see that calamine is on his ankles.
He continues, Australia learned what NOT TO DO from the USA system of government. The legal system is a joke in the USA. Australia has federal marriages so there is no state differential and people getting hosed like in California on divorce. All appeals go to the federal level in Australia so the individual states are kept in line versus the USA system that only federal crimes can be appealed to the federal supreme court. I didnt quite catch what he said about sheriff's but he followed it up with- that would NEVER be allowed here.
I see Jeff from the other night about 10 feet down singing with a basket of money extended. He is pretty good. All my assumptions and the package I tied up neatly with a bow has been unraveled. Tim has had a rough day with the heat, and has told me he has sent $1100 to his stepdaughter so feeling the money pinch. He is sending me a message or two for sure.
The Aboriginals are the next topic and the gall that old singing Jeff has. Jeff apparently is 6 degree Aboriginal and is going to apply for a pension. With the approval of elders he can get much more money than he can as a non-Aboriginal. Tim is irate. He draws the parallel to native Americans and adds that all native Americans are of Asian decent. I ask if he considers Aboriginals honorable and he hesitates and responds they can't handle drinking and Australia just cant find them jobs because they live so far from anywhere anyone else wants to live PLUS they don't want to work.
I am feeling dizzy as I am being intellectually b**** slapped by a homeless guy that has now just faulted a group of people for not working all the while he is midstream collecting money from passerbyers sitting on his duff smelling up the corner. My compassion is getting mixed up in a blender of other thoughts and feelings.
I must go, I say. I get the feeling I have taken him away from some of his working time- he collected just $2 while I was there. He asks how much longer I am in town. I tell him and he asks if I am interested in writing about him in exchange for a donation. Well isn't that interesting, I had given up on that one and there it falls out of the sky. Yes, I say. He queries, do you want to write about what I know about Australia and America, or do you want to write about me? I say you, if you will allow it. He says OK, and that he will also talk about Australia and America too. I ask what time works best for him. He tells me that the lunch crowd is generous so to come before that- around 9:30am will work, and he will find me a seat.
I leave brimmed with curiosity. $1100 off to his family, I suppose he has the means to buy his own books and sustenance. There is a reason this guy is in the primo spot of town reigning and looking like homeless Zeus. Here is the deal. This is his work and he gets to choose what he consumes, my job is to exercise compassion and fund the cause. He is sitting their doing this work because the step daughter is too ill to so he makes the ultimate sacrifice altruistically for her. Tomorrow instead of standing while he sits just off the ground, I get to sit alongside him and see what it feels like to be homeless sitting on a crate while others pass by and look at you.