of Alms

October 24, 2010

Wish in one hand...


Some years ago in San Francisco, I remember a bold headline on a local Onion-esco circulation that read “The Homeless Can Eat Shit!!” Amused, my companions and I adopted it as our own anthem.

Not surprising really, if one had ever spent any time in the City during the early and mid Nineties. Where the homeless and panhandlers could seriously wear a fella out.
Never outwardly cruel or violent (some were) towards them, I certainly made no attempt to mask my scorn and NEVER gave spare change, offering instead a sneering “change comes from within, Brother”.

Some years later, having been exposed to a spattering of Eastern philosophies and religion, my outlook is modified.
I give.
But God help me, I hate to! Noticeably.
One part, “there but for the Grace…” Two parts, presuming on God’s Grace.
Fear and desire, Baby.
Obviously not out of any overwhelming benevolence,
Therein lies the riddle.
I answer it thus:
This ain’t Calcutta, Y’all. Where the poor are starving. Where beggars, lunatics and bovine are revered. This is Rome.
Here, like the days of yore in San Francisco, the beggars are professional. Usually from the Baltics, this brand is ruthless. Relentless. Here, alms is almost extortion. Protection money. If one turns a blind eye, one stands a chance of being followed and robbed at knife point or worse.
Still, not really why I’ve changed my ways.
I give…for me.
Why you need it, what you do with it, is not my concern.
Add it to your crack fund, buy some cheap grappa and drink yourself into a stupor so that you don’t wake at the freeze. One less mouth.
See…I care less now than I did when I refused to give. Then, I wouldn’t give out of some ridiculous notion that I was enabling bad habits.
Now…I do us both a favor. Win win.
Not very Christian of me, arguably.
One must adapt and this, my adaptation to an age old ritual. My concession. Take it or leave it.
You might understand my visible and audible scowl as I trickle euros into your proverbial outstretched hands.
It can wear a fella out.

of Fractions

October 23, 2010

What little attention spared for school as a child, was hardly spent on mathematics. Never having learned long division, much less algebra. Keeping instead, my mind and eyes, fixed to reading.
Looking back, I wonder if having devoted so much to novels, worlds and lives of others, the tragedy and triumphs, easily removed from and just as easily condemned or heralded, instead of an abacus, has left me at the mercy of a common denominator. Myself.
Having failed at every instance and variety of personal relationship, I could wish for the fiction that would have me deny the true nature of numbers. After the dust settles from the inevitable subtraction, I remain.
This lesson, even so late, has no rebuttal. Like any other equation, the factors leading to an outcome, are finite. I remain the sum and final aggregate. The reason. The cause.
It doesn’t change a thing.
Knowing, as I do, my role, has no affect. Realizing my inability to pair, affords me no tools or insight to change it.
I’d been instructed that in some worlds, acceptance is a step. To what? Having accepted responsibility for this deficit, where is the total?

I own it but it’s to let.