Friday, December 26, 2008

The Amazing Banana

Andres, my friend from the Dominican Republic (not Dominica!), said he and his mother laugh about us silly Americans and our bananas. Just when he thinks the bananas are almost ready to eat, they're put in a special sale box, at a low, low price, because now they are completely disgusting, black and soft and spotted and good for nothing but baking banana bread. That's exactly when he buys them -- cheap and, in his opinion, perfect.

And who knows more about bananas, he asks when he sees the cretinous head of my American Superiority start to rise up, than people who grow the bananas?

Who, indeed?

So fine, Andres. Come get these bananas that have been languishing on my kitchen table for too long. They had been headed for loaves to be given to the homeless people at Williams Park, but that was before The Cold That Stole Christmas came by. Now it's Boxing Day if you're in Great Britain, and the first day of Kwanzaa if you want, and the bread is still not made. The odds of it getting made are slim. But lo! the freezer accepts skinned bananas. When I'm ready to put the frozen fruit into the bread, it'll basically be a black, banana-flavored slime which, oddly, hurts the bread not at all.

I had thought the Wednesday Midday Market (WMM) was touting itself as an organization that wanted to coexist with the homeless there, but I found out differently this past Wednesday, Christmas Eve Day, when my cold was blowing full. Some charitable-at-Christmas organization was handing out brown bags of lunches. The person at the Market muttered, "If I had my way, I'd chase that church away."

Really? Why?

Because it's just keeping the homeless here.

Goodness. Where should they be?

S/he named a couple of shelters where, according to her/him, this batch of homeless folks could be -- should be, in fact.

Hmm ...

And later I talked to an artist who's a regular at the Art in the Park -- another Williams Park weekly event. S/he hates the homeless being there. S/he works with troubled teens all week and doesn't want to have to deal with people like them on the weekends, too, when s/he's selling art.

I wondered what those people do that's so offensive, but s/he was hard-pressed to answer.

I understand that. Sometimes I find myself thinking that dirty people are bad. Hah. After just a couple hours at a market, I find I have dirty fingernails and I wonder how that can have happened. Well, really, now: How did that happen?

Now try days and weeks and months without a shower.

I make a point to use the public restrooms at Williams Park at least once per Wednesday. There's a nicer one that's locked until it's unlocked for special people like the vendors and the musicians at the Market. Well, this public restroom is scary. The worst part is that there's a huge generator that's making an amazing amount of noise, so you'd never know if someone else had come into the room or not. That alone would be enough to keep me out ... unless I were homeless, of course, and this was the only place I could pee in private, or the only place with soap.

Yes. I think if I were Lord of All Creation, I'd have a hard time dealing with homeless people, too. I don't know what the solution would be. I don't for one moment believe that homeless people are lazy puke-balls who don't want to work. Nor do I believe that they're all a bunch of drunks who'd be okay if they'd just put the plug in the jug. I used to think that, but my brother, a paranoid-schizophrenic, disabused me of that idea.

He also said that thirst is a bigger issue than hunger when one is homeless. Huh.

A woman I've known casually for years, Elaine, is often homeless. She also happens to be an alcoholic, but she's been sober for years. Her real issue is some kind of mental illness. I don't know her details. I don't know her cycle or patterns. I do know that the last time I talked to her, a halfway house for women was willing to take her in as long as she'd been on her medication for at least two weeks. But she's not willing to take the medication until she has a safe place to stay because being on meds and staying sharp for the streets are mutually exclusive.

And so, should I invite her onto my couch for two weeks? I'm not willing to do that. It's shameful but true.

One time, I lived in one of four apartments in a big house at Tenth and Tenth. I was the only young person there, so you know it was some years ago. One morning, a young man was found sleeping on the downstairs porch. The other three tenants -- geezers about my current age -- thought he must be a friend of mine. He was a stranger. I told him he could have gone to The Mission, but he said he didn't like hanging with Those People.


And medication? In the first place, the last I read, there's really nothing for treating schizophrenia. The best one can hope for is that it's a mild case. (Hah.) Beer and pot occasionally relieve the symptoms, I'm told. Fine. Have at it.

I don't know a single person who wants to take medicine. Everyone I know who's on mental-health meds -- and I know too many and have been one myself -- is always thinking of ways to get off the medicine. I don't even like taking Zicam as often as instructed.

At the risk of sounding like Freud, I do ask: What do The Homeless want? They probably want what the rest of us want: A safe, comfortable place to be. I think if the places the WMM person suggested were better for the homeless, they'd be there. But yes, they'd probably need a place that was fresh out of rules, too. Many homeless people simply won't -- or cannot -- abide by rules, at least not long enough to get on well in society, and that's a mental health issue, too.

I don't know. Maybe there are gang turfs. The bipolars have Williams Park and southbound, the schizophrenics have North County, and the multiple personality disorders have east and west Pinellas.

I don't know. I don't know. I don't know.

1 comment:

Barbara said...

This comment is from EUNICE:

A friend recently gave me three stubby bananas that were sliding down the other side of the hill, because she deemed them no longer fit to eat. They had not come from a store, but from a friend's backyard.

I eat bananas in almost any state of ripeness, and I can honestly say that she missed a rare treat. These were not like ANY bananas for which we dole out our hard earned cash. They were truly SWEET! They reminded me that I had heard, from a friend who had traveled to a place several borders south of here, about bananas that don't ship well, but taste thousands of times better than the fruit we identify here as "banana."

I think bananas are, in some cultures, like snow way up north -- lots of varieties, with lots of names. Anyway, I learned that, the next time someone offers me homegrown bananas, I'll jump at the offer -- and I'll hesitate mightily before sharing them with even the closest of friends.