Early this morning I watched a bum (hobo, vagrant, derelict, gutterpup, drifter, floater, guttersnipe, transient) suspiciously hanging around the newspaper bins on Hollywood Blvd. He was lanky and his green army fatigues were stained and filthy. The rush of morning traffic hurtled by him. Horns honked and brakes squealed as each fleet of automobiles stopped at the light.
The bum opened the LA Weekly bin and took the entire pile of magazines. Holding the stack of paper on his forearm, he let the glass door bang shut. A sharp-looking man in a business suit was striding toward the homeless man, and he yelled, “Hey, put those back, you have no right to take them all!”
I was searching for the missing Hollywood bum and oracle, Lyle Shove-It. I’d received a tip that he was still alive and well, but more deranged than usual, and that he’d made his new digs somewhere around Hollywood and Cahuenga. I’ve received many tips from my readers about Shove-It’s whereabouts, but none of those tips have been helpful. Today was no different. I didn’t find Lyle Shove-It, but I did learn that LA Weekly‘s publication makes great toilet paper for the homeless folks, and that they also think it’s a pretty good read.
The bum, standing directly in the path of the businessman’s projected fury, was startled, and he almost dropped the newspapers. He stuttered and stammered, trying to say he’d done nothing wrong, that nobody takes the LA Weekly out of this bin anyway, and that the new Weekly would be out today, and these would just get thrown away.
The businessman, with his short gelled hair and perfectly creased suit pants, pointed a finger at the bum. His finger stopped one inch before touching the bum’s chest. The bum looked down at the finger. He had fear in his eyes. “Mister, I done nothing wrong, now please let me go on my way.”
The businessman said the bum would not be going on the bum’s way until those goddamned papers were put back in the bin, and if the bum wanted one LA Weekly, then the bum could have one LA Weekly, but that’s all the businessman would permit.
“I be taking these back for the other guys,” the bum said. “They’re not all for me.” The business man scoffed. “Most of you can’t even read.”
I could take it no longer. I stepped up to the two men. Listen, I said, this gentleman has every right to take all the LA Weeklys he wants, and nobody is going to stop him. The businessman sized me up with his eyes. “You look like some kind of struggling actor,” he said. I told him, I work for a flooring company. Our best clients call us at the strangest hours to do immediate replacement of floors. We’re pretty good at destroying evidence. When it’s spilled all over floors. Some stains don’t come out. Got to replace everything.
The bum smiled. The businessman again told him to take one and put back the rest. No, I said to the bum, take them all. They are free. They’re yours. LA Weekly would be proud to have your readership. Nearby, a horn honked.
The bum smiled. The businessman said to him, “And none of you people have all of your teeth. No wonder you don’t have jobs and have to steal all the LA Weeklys.” You’ll be missing some teeth also, I said, but don’t worry. When you come to, you’ll notice I packed them in your breast pocket. Now get outta here and leave us alone.
“I’ll be talking to the police about this,” he said as he hurried off. He raised a finger in the air, “I swear, we’re going to start cracking down on the bums in this town!”
“Thanks,” the bum said, “I’m glad to be rid of that jerk.” Karma will get him, I said, and maybe even at the next stoplight. Pedestrians get run over all the time in this city, and somehow I think most of them deserve it. I’m glad you people enjoy the LA Weekly. It’s a good publication. I’m glad it’s free. LA Weekly is the authority on Los Angeles events. It is the definitive source of information for news, music, movies, restaurants, reviews, and…
“Events,” he said, “in Los Angeles.”
I said that already.
We walked east on Hollywood, and the bum explained to me the importance of LA Weekly. “It makes good toilet paper for us homeless folks,” he said, “and, it’s a pretty good read.”
I felt the corner of one page. Not so glossy, I said. I can imagine it wipes better than other papers. This feels more absorbent.
“It don’t matter how well it wipes, I mean, it does a pretty good job, but it’s free. If the LA Times wiped better, it wouldn’t matter. Nobody in their right mind would pay a buck for toilet paper when he could get it for free. One of us usually grabs a bundle for the group. We have a little shelter beneath the 101. The city provides in all kinds of ways, if you let it, and as long as nobody stops you.” He paused. “Like that time it rained dead pigeons on Larry King Square. That was a blessing from God, and we fried those pigeons on some poor vendor’s hotdog grill.”
I saw that on CNN, I said, and when you tried to bring your pigeons into the CNN building to roast them in their kitchen, they kicked you out and the cops came and arrested you.
“We don’t ask for much, but somebody’s always trying to stop us from living.”
Like that guy dressed as a pallbearer, I said. He looked like a young Ed Muskie. He was trying to playact importance over you.
“I’m used to it,” the bum said. “I’m just trying to live like Jesus lived.”
That’s what Lyle Shove-It was always trying to do, I said. Have you heard of him? He found out that trying to live like Jesus in this country only gets you killed. You have to have money to live like Jesus. Not mercy. In America, Jesus has a huge bank account. And he certainly wouldn’t wipe his ass with the LA Weekly.
“I never heard of Shove-It. Sounds like he’s one of us.”
He was, I said, and now he’s gone.
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