I recently watched a movie that put my moral compass on trial. Well, maybe not my morality, but certainly my humanity. Bf and I decide to watch “The Solosist,” you know, the true story about a man whose homeless, but is this amazingly gifted musician and the reporter who found him, wrote a story about him in the “L.A Times,” and is now his life long friend. Oh, and did I mention that this homeless man is played by non-other than:
Which, when you think about it, would follow in the dictionary as the perfect definition for an oxymoron. I mean, how many MILLIONS do you think he made from doing this movie? Even if completely flopped, he still would be skipping all the way to the bank. Must be interesting to play a homeless person when you know that you are probably the farthest thing from the truth.
But, that aside, the movie and story itself is actually very touching and like I said, put me to shame. It almost made me feel bad about all the times that I cursed the mariachi band that, by no fail, seems to be on every train that I get on. It doesn’t matter if it is one in the morning or ten at night it never fails that at some point in time in my trip that I am forced to hear the strumming of four guitars on probably one of the most acoustic platforms possible! It’s like the music bounces of the walls! And if there aren’t any bodies in the car when they happen to play, forget it, buckle up, because honey, you’re at the Met and you have a front row seat! NOw, I realize that these people aren’t homeless, but nevertheless, they are still begging. And you have to think that this would be a last resort for a person. That this act of begging would be the last thing anyone would want to expose themselves too. The stares, the ignorance, the inconvenient and begrudging smirks of passengers that you endlessly feel on your backside as you pass your way through one side of a car to the other; knowing all the way that you are the reason people have closed their eyes, turned up the volume of their Ipod, or shifted their bodies forcefully out of your way as to avoid you at all cost. I’m sure from the beggars angle it would appear as if they were Moses and they had possessed the power of God to part the Red Sea.
Now, I realize that as a New Yorker on the train you might not run away from the mariachi band, but you definitely turn a blind eye at times. And you definitely have turned a blind eye to the homeless man sleeping on the bench in your car or the man with no legs, no wheelchair, who scoots on his ass using his hands to pull him forward, begging for money, claiming that his disfigurement is a result of being wounded in Vietnam. I know you have, because I’ve shamefully done it too. I’ve become so hardened and dulled to the homeless that it doesn’t phase me when I pass them by. It’s almost as if they’ve become part of the ground, the cement that they lay on, the flies on the walls. You forget that they’re human beings, you know, not just an annoyance or a drain on society or whatever opinion might be held against their favor. I mean, I don’t even think twice when I pass the homeless man that sleeps on my block. It think that I may have given him a second glance the other day when it was raining outside because I thought how awful it must be to have to sleep in a cardboard box with only a sheet of plastic to cover you from the rain. But, the point is that I kept walking, kept going on with my life, kept worrying about being late to work, kept him out of my thoughts. How is this possible, you wonder? How is it possible to deny a human being the right of even acknowledgment? I mean, these people had to of had lives before they became so unfortunate. It isn’t possible to be born into homelessness, I refuse to believe it, even though I know that this is the truth in some cases. Some of these people, like Nathaniel Ayers, portrayed by Foxx, may have had a normal life, a steady life, and then something unforeseeable occurred and they were then so unfortunate as to end up living on the streets.
Actually, just to add a side note, it’s interesting that I am talking about this because when I used to work in Soho, there was a woman who used to sit behind the building I worked in. She couldn’t have been older than 25 and sure enough, when I would come up to the building, I would see her. I saw here everyday for about a year and never once did I say anything to her. A couple of the girls that I worked with were so kind as to give her food every once and a while and by the time a year had passed, she looked as if she had aged thirty years. There were days that I can remember walking by her and not even recognizing her. She had grown dirtier, skinnier, and more disheveled as the days passed. After about a year of seeing her everyday, she just seemed to disappeared. I never knew what happened to her or what had even caused her to be homeless in the first place. I imagained that there was no possible way that she had a family because if she had there wasn’t a reason that I could conceive that they wouldn’t come to her rescue.
But, back to my actual topic, I had been feeling pretty shameful after seeing the movie up until about two days ago, when in my new state of compassion, I was sitting on the F train, on my way to work when a visibly drunken man boarded the train. Now, I don’t even look up. I’m listening to my music, ignoring everything that is going on around me. So, this man gets on and sits across from me. I can already smell him. BO, piss, with a dash of onion. I don’t move though, I don’t want him to feel any worse than he already probably does about his situation Why I thought this mattered is beyond me. So I’m sitting, minding my own business, and I catch out of the corner of my eye, his body moving around rapidly like he was a pacing or something. I mute my Ipod. And apparently, he has been yelling at me the whole ride to the next stop! Everyone has moved to the end of the car and now it’s just me and the drunk, smelly, old homeless guy! What in the hell am I supposed to do now?! I get off at the next stop, so there’s no reason to get up and stand by the door because that might give him the reason to actually come over and be next to me. Atleast here a could bury my head and sink in to my seat. The easiest thing for me to do would be to wait until the doors open and just simply slip out. Oh and by the way, this whole time while I’m planning my escape route, he’s telling me that he’s going to kill me if I take his picture! “Don’t take my picture! I’ll f*cking kill you!” I don’t even have a camera, you idiot! And you know, I’m not even really scared or worried about something bad happening, I’m just really pissed. Pissed that I seem to be a magnet for homeless people (I’ve been mugged once). Pissed at the other people on the train not acknowledging the fact that we have a crazy on board and completely ignoring my end of the train. I don’t think he would of done anything, but still what if he had? Ten bucks says not one person would buck up and help me out. Luckily, the train doors open before the situation really escalates and all I hear as I leave the train is that it’s a good thing I got off because he would of hurt me if I hadn’t. I flip him the bird as I exit the train. Probably not the smartest thing I should have done.
As I walked away from the train I couldn’t help not have a sour taste in my mouth. Had this one man ruined my renewed sense moral integrity? Was I going to now unconsciously choose to go back to my previous ignorance? I guess I’ll find out when I walk down my block.
Art by the Homeless: