Spare change – Manna from heaven (Round 3 : Page 1)

September 27th, 2007

“Okay, I want to talk about Ireland. Specifically, I want to talk about the Famine. About the fact that there never really was one. There was no famine. See, Irish people were only allowed to eat potatoes. All of the other food, meat fish vegatables were shipped out of the country under armed guard to England while the Irish people starved.

And then in the middle of all this they gave us money not to teach our children Irish. And so we lost our history. And this is why the thought is still hurting me. See, we’re like a child that’s been battered, has to drive itself out of it’s head because it’s frightened, still feels all the painful feelings, but they lose contact with the memory. And this leads to massive self-destruction, alcoholism, drug addiction, all desperate attempts at running, and in it’s worst form it becomes actual killing. And if there ever is going to be healing, there has to be remembering, and then grieving. So that the then can be forgiven, there has to be knowledge and understanding.”

-Sinead O’Connor, “Famine,” Universal Mother EMI/Chrysalis
Records, c. 1994

I spot my friend sitting alone at a corner nook in the Cafe Ennui, staring morosely at the table. “Crazy Bear!” I cry, walking over to greet him. “How are you?”

He eyes me suspiciously. “What do you mean by that?” he demands.

Taken aback, I mumble, “Well, just that-”

He cuts me off. “How am I supposed to respond to that vacuous question? Do you really care, or should I lie to you and preserve the rose- glasses illusion? Medically, I’m sound, except for the lurking killers they haven’t detected yet hiding in my organs and bloodstream. I’m terminally afflicted with life, of course. Financially, I’m worth a third world nation, which gives me nightmares. Emotionally, I feel like the inside of a turtle’s ass, and I know I have absolutely no good reason to feel bad, which makes me feel even worse. Existentially, I’m a washout. I can’t escape being a parasite.” He manages a weak grin. “Why do you ask?”

I return the wry smirk. “It’s a custom on my planet,” I say, mocking Mr. Spock. “The traditional rejoinder is, ‘fine’.”

He rolls his hollow eyes. “Do I look fine?”

As a matter of fact, he does not. He has adopted both the manner and garb of a street person. His long brown hair is in severe, matted disarray beneath his smudged Bear totem hat, and he looks and smells as if both beds and showers have somehow been inaccessible to him, despite his royal credit rating, for several days now. He’d have probably been ejected from the cafe on the basis of his appearance, except I think he owns the place.

Diplomatically, I offer, “You look like hell. What gives?”

He shakes his head. “That’s just it. I don’t know. I realized that I was the most selfish person in the world. Just buying whatever I wanted. So I went out giving away hundred dollar bills on the street, to all the spare- changers. ‘Spanging,’ they call it, for SPAre chANGE.

“As per my standard policy, I read much more into the grubby street ethic than was actually there. I saw ghosts yellow-robed samadhis with their humble begging bowls leaning over the shoulders of the ill-tempered gutterpunks and sneaky street heads. The homeless, I decided with manic obsession, were holy renouncers of the corrupt materialism I wanted so desperately to free myself from. I pledged to devote myself to their support.

“That seemed noble to me, supporting the spiritually entrepreneurial. They were going back to basics. Offering absolutely no product except human sympathy. Selling kindness. I saw the derelicts as martyrs to the unfairness of the system, staking their whole game on the notion that even avaricious America could not ignore a needy hand. Merchants of mercy. So I bought.”

Talking seems to cheer him up, so I carefully maintain the illusion of interest with well-timed non-verbal cues, brief nods, widening of eyes, showing of teeth. “The kids all loved me. They’d take me off and get me high, I’d hang out at their squats. The girls would offer me their bodies. I felt like one of them, even though I’m really this multimillionaire. I wasn’t worried at all about being robbed, even with five grand in my pocket, because these kids knew better than to kill the goose laying all those gold eggs. I was an industry. They could invest the cash I’d lay on them in the street medicine game, and come up quite a bit.”

“Then one day I went out to see a friend, and I didn’t have much cash on me. This weaselly kid, who I didn’t really like, came up to me and gave me this whole cock-and-bull story about he was getting thrown out of his place, blah, blah, and I was getting impatient, and I told him flat: I couldn’t help him that day.”

“And this kid, to whom I’d given probably twelve hundred dollars over the past two months, just to get him to leave me alone, really, started swearing at me and accusing me of lying to him. ‘I know you’re holding out on me, motherfucker.’ Then he threatened to kick my ass, and all the other kids, my friends, recipients of my manna from heaven, were nowhere to be seen.”

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One Response to “Spare change – Manna from heaven (Round 3 : Page 1)”

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