Friday, March 13, 2015

The Traveling Lens Closed - Memory Connections


Sometimes a place will imprint in your memory, branding that location by the incidents that occur.

I have no photos of these incidents but I do have the memory, distorted as they may be by time. Taking notes on people I observe is sometimes easier than invading their privacy by taking a picture, and risking offending them.

PARIS, FRANCE

Eiffel Tower, Paris, by DG Hudson


The homeless men in Paris, who appeared pleasant after spending a night above a heating grate, sitting and chatting perhaps about how they would go about gaining a bit of food that day or even where to panhandle.  Some of the homeless beggars under the crowded rue de Rivoli arcades (on the way to the Louvre) used dramatic methods intended to wring compassion from the passing tourists. One heavy woman of an advanced 'certain age' with her hand out, hunched inside her robes and clutched what appeared to be an infant to her bosom. She was not of childbearing age. She grunted only as if the hand said it all. Perhaps her man or her family had sent her there to earn her keep. It made me wary.

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KEY WEST, FLORIDA, USA

Key West Florida, Old Town, by DG Hudson


In Key West two homeless men in their forties got upset when we ran past them and their sauntering gait, to meet our boat for an adventure cruise. They yelled at us, irritated at our impatience, but we kept on walking at a fast clip and didn't look back. We were hurrying to meet a tour, and the homeless men appeared to have just woken up after a hard night's sleep. We made it, but the catamaran wouldn't have waited if we were late. The tour was an all-day trip to the Dry Tortugas, an old pirate stopover. I still cannot understand why our 'passing' those homeless guys on Duval Street triggered such a response. Another incident that made me wary.

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ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA, USA

Across from Disneyland, the home of fantasy, a man in good clothes told hubs a tale of having spent all his money and needing some to call home. . .but what was the real reason, when he didn't look shabby or homeless? A true bad incident? Or an experienced street beggar who pinpointed tourists? He did get a fiver from hubs, before I came back to see what the delay was.


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VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA in the 'burbs

Cityscape view from Stanley Park, by DG Hudson


Nearer to home, in a hospital parking lot, an elderly lady in her seventies dressed as you would expect in suitable clothes claimed to be at the end of her rope, and asked me if I could give her some money. I had just bought a parking lot ticket with my credit card. I don't carry cash, so couldn't help but my instinct was on high alert. Something just didn't ring true. She told me she and her hubs were from out of town and had been mugged. He was in the hospital being cared for, but she had no money to call relatives.

It happened again on another afternoon, when another elderly lady in a grocery parking lot approached me asking for handouts.  There are also many who walk the medians in traffic with cardboard signs asking for assistance in the way of money. All these incidents make me wonder what we are doing to our society.

Neil Gaiman used an elderly homeless lady in his Neverwhere story, but the frequency and variety of these occurrences which I have encountered make me wonder, is this a burgeoning trend of our time period?

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Questions:

What do you think of the flourishing and growing trend of panhandling or begging? Is it prevalent in your city or town? Is society failing its citizens? Does it bother you? This seems to become more visible in the better weather in our area when our homeless population grows.

Please leave a comment if you can to let me know you were here, and I'll get around to your blog soon as I can.  Sorry for the slow blogging schedule, but life intervenes. If you avoid commenting on social problems, I understand.  I just observe and wonder, and use it for my writing.  I always like to know what others think about these issues.

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8 comments:

  1. We are seeing more of it here. I am selective about who I help, and how.
    I am certain that some of them beg as a living. Sometimes a moderately lucrative living. I am also certain that some of them are in need. Needs that are simply not met.
    No easy answers though. I wish there were.

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    1. I see warning signs, when society is failing to feed its people. I feel alarmed at seeing elderly asking for handouts.

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  2. I have mixed emotions about just handing out money. The one that I gave $5 to on a snowy day said, "Thanks, now I can go on my break," he said cheerfully. Apparently he had made his quota. Donating this Easter to the poor children in Guatemala on a bonafide website.

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    1. I agree with you loverofwords. Fundraising and begging are two different ends of the same phenomena. Even some fundraising orgs have been found to be questionable.

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  3. Having lived in San Francisco and worked in the financial district I became hardened to the homeless and panhandling. I actually knew of one girl who would dress in rags, dress her kid in rags, and panhandle in a rough part of town. She actually shared a gorgeous rental house in a great part of town, but she didn't want to work and preferred to devote her time to tie dying. She gushed at how generous people were b/c of having her daughter with her, and getting free groceries. It made me sick. And that 'I'm from out of town and have no money to get home' scam has been around for ages. I got hit up in SF by someone w/ that sob story....they were from Sacramento and needed to get home. I told them tersely to use the pay phone and call a friend collect, I was sure they'd come get them as Sacto was only 2 hours away.

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    1. Great comment, JoJo. Vancouver is a lot like Frisco, and draws people from other areas (like a moth to the warmth), as I guess places like Paris and Key West are too. There seems to no longer be any sense of shame at having to beg, or ask for money. I do also see other homeless men hustling to gather bottles for money. It's a rough life for the real homeless, not the posers/fakers.

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  4. I've read before that in the right areas, people can make as much (or more than) $50,000 a year, tax free, doing this. So they'll panhandle instead of getting a real job and aren't even homeless. It's all in the act (as you can clearly see from your experiences).

    I had a friend who'd give $5 to this "poor, legless old homeless man" sitting in a wheelchair on the street corner whenever she saw him because she felt "so bad for him." I told her he was probably faking it. She didn't believe me and said people would never do that.

    One day, she gave him $5, and as she was walking away, some dude actually ran up and grabbed the guy's money cup. So what did legless guy do? He jumped up out of his chair, magically sprouted legs (which had just been tucked behind him) and ran after the thief in a FULL SPRINT.

    I won't let her live that down to this day, and you'd better believe she doesn't give out money to the homeless the same way she did before.

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    1. That's the best story I've heard yet, ABFTS! I used to feel sorry for a lot of them too, but anything that gets overdone loses its drama effect. They are better than the pickpockets though - saw a special on Parisian pickpocket experts the other day. . . I was wary when in France, and I'm glad I was. A fellow French traveller warned me about the Metro.

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