I was standing outside my local Ralph’s grocery store talking to a bum (or a homeless man) who had been talking to the brick wall of the store just before I arrived. I’d had very little sleep the past few days, and I felt this man exemplified all that was right and good about America. I watched the homeless man for a few minutes until he noticed me and asked for seventy-five cents, and I told him I’d give him one dollar if he told me about his plans for Memorial Day weekend 2011. He smiled and showed me his half dozen crooked teeth and then said, “Sure I does.”
I gave him two dollars. I shuddered to think of what had recently gone down at this grocery store only two weeks ago: the vicious transvestite riding in a zippy motorized scooter and biting the hand of a small Asian lady. The Ralph’s crew had since cleaned up the blood. I truly thought that ominous situation was a signal for the end of the world. I was wrong. May 21st came and fizzled, and nobody got fried. Not even Harold Camping. Nobody claimed to have been saved either. Not that I’d heard of.
So, what are your plans, for Memorial Day, 2011? I asked him. The bum shrugged and gave me a shy smile. He pointed to his overloaded shopping cart. A tarp had been strapped around it, and the only visible parts were the cart’s undercarriage and wheels. You going to travel, for the special weekend? Make it memorable?
“Let’s just us wait and see,” he said, “what I do I don’t know until the last final second of the last final minute of the hour in which I stand.”
I gave him another dollar. Many Americans are going to travel on Memorial Day weekend, I told him. It’s required of good Americans. They have to travel. Triple-A says so. Americans are required to make memories while on the road, despite the gas prices.
“I’ll travel,” he said. “I’m going to push this hog down to Starbucks and get myself a cool one.”
Starbucks doesn’t hurt the environment. That’s the truth. And Starbucks is raising their coffee prices, I said, and that egomaniac Howard Schultz told everyone to calm down about it because it’s not his fault. He needs another yacht. He’s got a lot of seaman in him. Schultz needs more than one yacht. Despite the gas prices, I said.
Sayeth the bum: “Despite the gas prices. I’ll travel. This Memorial Day Weekend. 2011, the year of our Lord. Or was that last year?” The bum held up a hand that seemed a mocking gesture of a Nazi sympathizer. “Be cool,” he said, “you won’t be alive much longer. But me, I’m going places. Traveling. Despite the gas prices.”
Despite the gas prices? Because that’s a concern for the Memorial Day weekend warrior travelers. You know, I said, pointing a finger right at his sunken chest, if we were to compare the Memorial Days of this year and last year, I can tell you that gasoline prices are now about $1 a gallon more. How are you going to afford that? I slapped the metal cart. It rolled forward along the slanted pavement.
“Jesus!” the bum cried out.
Where? I shouted. I don’t believe it. Not yet! I turned to look. These days nobody should be joking about end times or Judgment Day. Not when we’re so perilously close to the edge. And Memorial Day unsettles me enough already. Just the idea of 30 million Americans roving through the vast American countryside doing their very best to make a few more precious memories. If that doesn’t seem like the possible end of a civilization, I don’t know what does.
I saw nothing out of the ordinary, so I turned back to the bum. He was pulling his cart back to where he’d been sitting. His oily hair was stuffed beneath the collar of his jacket. He was sitting on a copy of LAWeekly. He started scratching his face. Do you know, despite the rise in gas prices, Triple-A believes that roughly the same number of Americans are going to travel this year as last year?
The homeless man kind of shook his head.
Because, it’s due to the unpredictable gas prices, I told him. Triple-A says so, and it would be unprecedented to argue their point. Americans like a good game, and with gasoline prices the oil companies play one of the finest king-hell games in this country. Especially over Memorial Day weekend.
“How do the triple As know how many Americans are going to travel?”
That’s simple, I told him. Triple-A employs an enormous amount of lackluster people, mostly illegal immigrants, and then they post those people along all the major highways and freeways in America, and they count the Memorial Day wayfarers. Triple-A gives them a dollar an hour to give a very accurate estimate of Memorial Day traffic.
“They can’t possibly count all of them that fly,” he said. The bum spread out his arms like an airplane’s wings. “Flies are everywhere.”
These are rough estimates, man! 88 percent of the travelers will be traveling by car. 30.9 million, that is. If you count flying Americans, then the increase in travelers rises to 34.9 million Memorial Day weekenders. These are hard facts.
“Give them all the Jewish kiss,” the bum said and waved me away. He kissed the backs of his hands. He sucked on his fingers.
I haven’t gotten my money’s worth yet, I told him. And what’s a Jewish kiss? Something with a lot of beard? This feels like ethno-religious racist territory, my friend. You’d better behave, or the LAPD will come and wash out your mouth with 1200 volts of taxpayer funded electricity. Or are you talking about Netanyahu? He gave something to Obama. It might have been a Jewish kiss.
“Got any smack?” the bum croaked.
Netanyahu? I agree, I said. He does need to be smacked. He needs to get wailed. He’s an out-of-control tyrant. A real son of a bitch. A genocidal freak. And the U.S. Congress loves it when an Israeli Prime Minister stands up for Palestinian genocide. If it’s sticking it to the Arabs, the U.S. is in. Congress claps and cheers like they’re in some kind of pitiful scene in a film on Lifetime about making memories during Memorial Day traveling. They clap and snort like suited sea lions turning tricks for free crusts of bread. Democrats and Republicans alike. If it’s about Israel, the U.S. will sex it up. The United States is like an incestuous big brother to Israel.
The bum put his head down. This was his way of agreeing with what I’d been saying. I know this, because I’d spent considerable time with my homeless friend, Lyle Shove-It, the famous Hollywood bum and oracle. But he’s missing. Been missing for a long time. The LAPD probably buried him alive, but let’s hope not.