Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Homeless Man Perfects Invisibility

The first nice day of every year I like to repost this blog. 

Homeless Man Perfects Invisibility

            Today was one of the most beautiful days I've ever seen. Sun everywhere, a light breeze cooling off the 75 degree temperature. Magnificent. It's hard to imagine a better day anywhere. I even met a man who invented a cloaking device today. I wanted to call the military because I know this technology is something they've been trying to perfect for a long time. But this man had it. Let me tell you about him.

          What a great day I must repeat. The Cubs were kicking butt against the Pirates. The game was going so well, in fact, that I decided to make the walk to the Hilander to celebrate this beautiful day by eating. I got out there on my feet and crossed the street and there I saw the invisible man, sitting right there on a bench in Martin Park, just like he had been for most of the winter and into this spring. I know he was there because I have this special radar that detects invisible people. It's called humanity. I'd seen him on some pretty awful days and in some pretty brutal weather toughing it out on that bench while I made the short walk to the Hilander to get milk or soda or whatever luxurious foodstuffs I could afford.

          He was there. He existed. Ten feet away from one of the busier streets
In Rockford and Loves Park this man sat on that bench all winter while traffic passed him by. I know it did because I can see it from my window. I could only think of one reason all these nice people in these nice cars would pass this man by all winter… he was invisible.  He had accomplished what great minds like Da Vinci and Copernicus and Einstein and Newton and Tesla couldn't…. he had perfected invisibility.

          This man was a genius I thought. But late this afternoon his genius ran out. His cloaking device mysteriously ran out of fuel and he materialized right there on that park bench on the most beautiful day I've ever seen. Now magically, nice families with nice little kids and dogs and bikes and grandmas and grandpas could see him. I thought to myself: this is great, now someone will help him.

          And you know what? I was right. Three Loves Park police cars and an unidentified squad showed up at five p.m. and after a long strategy meeting decided a man so brilliant shouldn't be wasting his life on a park bench. And they took him away.

          Feeling some sort of bond with this man I called to find out what beautiful place they were taking this genius. And they told me to mind my own business and the Loves Park police don't have jurisdiction in Martin Park and nothing was happening. I said I know this man possesses the ability of invisibility and who knows what else he's invented during all that time no one acknowledged his existence, but I'm as we speak watching three Loves Park police cars and an unidentified squad take this man away.

          They assured me this hadn't happened.

          What a relief.

          I thought I was seeing things. Invisible things.

          Ok, enough smart alec. Here's what happened. A homeless man spent part of the winter and spring on a bench in Martin Park and as far as I know no one helped him. Then on the first nice day of the year when there was a lot of foot and bike traffic people decided it was inconvenient and uncomfortable to have a homeless man littering their beautiful park and making their fairy tale day somewhat less Disney. So they called the goon squad and hauled him away like a sack of garbage.

          Now let's get one thing straight: I'm a bad dude and I've done some nasty things and no one is going to give me a humanitarian award any time soon, but I got on my phone and I called both local newspapers and the Loves Park Police and the Park District. And do know what: this isn't a story. Either it didn't happen or it's not a story.

          That's where you're wrong. This IS a story. That man existed. And you let him freeze and starve his ass off all winter and wouldn't help, then the second it warms up and "real" people see him there(like they couldn't him from their cars) he becomes a nuisance and has to go.

          Then you tell me it's not a story. What is a story? A reporter standing outside a gas station every day pointing at a sign to tell us gas prices are up? Thanks for the update, Einstein. Were you aware that in the past week there have been food riots worldwide? I bet you aren't. And it's not because you're a bad person it's because if you weren't watching Public TV, listening to NPR or reading an alternative news website they didn't tell you. These weren't small riots and they weren't confined to small, insignificant nations.

          So, I called. And no one cared. I'm not evaluating the response I got I'm telling you what they said. They didn't care and it's not a story. And I need to re-evaluate my priorities.

          Well, let me tell you what my priorities are. The truth, mother fucker. You will never, and I repeat, never, no matter what you do, make me say black is white and white is black.

          We will all be evaluated by the way we treat the weakest among us. I think God said that. I'm pretty sure Allah and Siddhartha and Brahma said it, too. But even if they hadn't said it isn't a certain level of humanity and decency called for?

          I'm worn out from this place. The corruption and the stagnation and the apathy. Keep good track of this incident, downtown ass-lickers, because if they ever do succeed in transforming downtown from a war-zone into a tourist attraction, you'll be the first to go. Maybe I'll even try to speak up when it happens.

          Of course maybe I won't. Not that it would make any difference.

          That's all I have the stomach to say without vomiting. A man spent the winter on a park bench and no one helped then when it was inconvenient for apathetic fuckheads to bear the burden of witnessing another human being suffering he was hauled away. You justify that however you want in your brain but you keep in mind your Gods and your prophets and your philosophers and your poets warned you: whatever happens to the weakest among you will eventually happen to you.

          I'll try real hard to give a fuck.

          I'm far from an organizer but I think we should have a homeless Sit-In. Pick out a day or a week or a summer and just sit on that bench with signs letting people know a homeless man spent a winter there and he's not the only homeless person around. Raise some money. Shame the corporations and wealthy developers and vultures of Rockford into donating to the homeless and food pantries.

          By the way, no one try to fuck with me and say the man wasn't there because I walked by him every day. In winter. Hating myself because I'm too weak and poor to help him. Then he disappeared. And I did nothing. I stood in my window watching. Being the great person I am I even tried to write a poem. But I DID nothing.

          Maybe they took him to a better place. But what they can't take away is all the nights and hours he spent on that bench.

          I'm constantly aware of the paradox of my blog. I'm preaching to the converted. The people I know are the good guys. My rants and raves are misplaced. But what else can I do? It seems the burden of humanity is on a few. If you tell me poverty and injustice and human agony aren't a story then I tell you that maybe your inhumanity is the real story.

          And I'm going to tell that story. And I'm going to call on all of you to tell the story. Being human is great. We can't let them steal that from us.

This is sad. This is a scene from last night (September 21, 2013) in Rockford, Illinois. I think we should be able to do better than this. Rockford has so far to go if it wants to stop being ridiculed by the national media. Not ignoring obvious problems like this one would be a start.


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  1. This is one of my very favorite pieces of yours, every time I read it I get mad again. Thank for re-running it. It's brilliant.

  2. Thank you. What felt much better than writing this blog was being able to save the homes of many mentally ill people in the summer of 2009 by working with Bob Palmer at Housing Matters, and I want to note that I was completely ignored by my two state representatives, Chuck Jefferson and Dave Syverson. Every year when i post this I hope to find myself in a position where I am doing more and more for the homeless and the mentally ill.


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