ECHOES FROM OTHER HOBOS #3: The Fast One, The Still One, and The Runner by Talia Gibas

The Fast One

She runs behind and slightly to his left, watching the quick, short puffs of his breath in the crisp winter air. He runs like water flows over rocks, elbows tucked against his body, feet hitting the asphalt in a smooth, soothing beat. She understands the mechanics of running downhill – lean forward, fall into it, take short steps, and let gravity do the rest – but rarely embraces them. She lacks his grace, his impossible beauty. But she wants to keep up with him, mechanics be damned. She tilts forward and feels her speed increase, her feet stumbling to catch her. She wonders how fast she is going. She is exhilarated.

Talia Gibas

Talia Gibas

Together they duck under the park gates and bound through the grass median on Vermont Avenue. When they burst onto the sidewalk at Los Feliz Boulevard he turns left and she follows, startling unsteady packs of revelers weaving their way home. “Happy New Year!” she calls. They respond by clutching one another’s shoulders and heaving boozy, heartfelt good wishes into the air. A giggly young couple whoops and sways under a streetlight. “Fuck yeah!” someone shouts from a car, while a near-middle-aged woman hangs out the backseat window with a noisemaker at her lips, delivering an absurd trumpet solo to the neighborhood.

Bleary-eyed bar employees sweep confetti from their path as they dart on and off the sidewalk. She plucks a party hat from an open windowsill and slides it over her beanie. He doesn’t notice until he slows to a trot on her street. “Look at you,” he says, and snaps a photo. “Green eyes.” Her face, already flushed from exertion, warms further.

Inside her apartment they exchange damp running clothes for old sweatshirts. He stretches across her couch to kiss her. “Are you happy?” he asks.

“Yes,” she murmurs. “Very.”

“Happy New Year,” he says. “The world didn’t end.”

“Nope,” she responds with a grin. “Not yet, anyway.”

They met in the fall. He was standing in a gaggle of people doling out stories and jokes but left them abruptly to stride toward her. “Green eyes,” he noted by way of hello. On December 30 he asked her to describe her ideal New Year’s Eve. “I want to be running,” she said. “I don’t want to be schmoozing with a bunch of people I barely know. I want to be in Griffith, on my favorite road, so if the world ends at midnight I am doing something that brings me joy.”

He tilted his head to the side. “That sounds fun.”

“You think so?”

“I do. Too bad the park’s closed.”

“Yeah. And too bad I didn’t think of this earlier, so I could berate friends into going with me.”

“You don’t think they would?”

“They have plans.”

“True.” He paused. “Too bad.”

Two hours later her phone rang. “T, what’s up?” he said in his bright, sing-song way. “My party fell through and I have this neat idea for New Year’s…”

He arrives at her apartment at 10:30 and they start running at 11. She has a tiny flashlight zipped in her pocket; he jokes about mace. They practically tip-toe past the stately mansions outside the park, as if running at night were a crime. Once they hop around the gate at the park entrance they ease into quicker strides, slowing every now and then again to take in the view, or to whisper to one another how fucking cool it is to be doing this. When they are well past the Greek Theater she switches on her flashlight and is startled by the eyes of coyotes staring out at her. Two dart across her path, but the rest watch and blink.

Outside the Observatory they crouch behind restrooms, dismayed by the security guard driving in circles near the entrance. “Champagne,” she whispers. “If we give him some champagne he’ll let us stay.”

“Champagne from a water bottle?”

“Worth a shot.” She takes three steps and the guard switches on his high beams. “Shit!” She darts back and they take off, giddy and giggling. Ten minutes later they stand at a break in the brush a quarter-mile downhill from the Observatory and look down at the city. “What time is it?” she asks.

He shakes his head. “I didn’t bring a watch. Did you?”

“No. Shit.”

“We could ask the security guard.”

“Maybe we – “ She stops. Something is rumbling against the bottom of her feet.

A half-second of panic splits through her body; her first instinct is that it’s an earthquake. Then a silver light flashes above downtown and she realizes, holy shit, it’s the city, it’s the millions and millions of people below starting to bellow and hug and cheer in the near-freezing air, their voices crashing into car horns and drums, fireworks, pots and pans, clashing together into a roaaaaaaar that jumbles and stumbles and rises and grows and grows, gathering speed, sweeping over the beaches, across the west and south and east edges of Los Angeles and over downtown, rising higher and higher with each scream and shout until it washes over them sending coyotes scattering to the hills and she realizes this is it, she is in love with him, this is what it is to be finally, completely sure, to know that he is the one for her, that together they are invincible and therefore meant to be.

As the roar recedes he turns to start back down the hill she launches after him, gasping and stumbling and gleeful in the darkness.

Months and months later, on the cusp of June, she sits across from him at a table in Thai Town and stares at a half-eaten egg roll. The pain in her left calf is unrelenting and her mouth is dry. She’d never noticed how his impatience radiated from his skin, how he couldn’t stop looking at his cell phone, how he called the waitresses “sweetheart.”

“Just tell me,” she stammers. “Tell me why you did it. Why you pursued me. You knew me, you knew how I felt about you. You knew that if I knew you were with someone else I would never – I would never have…”

He folds his arms across his body and stares at her. “I was attracted to you.”

It’s got a real clear view of things.

They exchange stiff farewells in the parking lot and she turns alone onto Hollywood to walk home. When she steps onto a crosswalk the strain in her calf brings tears to her eyes. Nice, she thinks bitterly. And you thought yourself a runner. The headlights of his car come up behind her and she tries to adjust her gait, determined not to limp as he passes. A sullen man on a bike approaches on the sidewalk.

I was attracted to you. As if explaining why he’d ordered chicken instead of beef.

She steps to the side to make room and vomits onto a fence post. An unsteady figure hoots from outside a liquor store. “Shit, baby, shiiiit!” he calls. “That’s no way to start your summer.”

It is a long time before she is able to cross the street, the Observatory winking above her.

 * * * *

The Still One

They sit on a bench on a mild summer night and she notes to herself that she never thought she’d fall for someone so quiet. In the short time she has known him she has been struck by the care with which he chooses his words, as if each were a precious marble he examines against his palm before sending it out in the world. In more playful and inspired moments he would take aim and send one hurtling her way, knocking her into a giggle fit or making her skin hum with the timbre of sunset. Tonight’s, however, are made of more fragile glass. He offers each politely, one by one, and she holds them to her chest, determined to keep any from falling and rolling away. They are nearing the end of August, and he will be leaving soon.

They wandered here side by side, walking along Franklin Avenue and up and down side streets to the top of Barnsdall Park, where they shared stories of a city oddly lovely from above. Finally they settled on this bench on a quiet street. They have been trying to determine why, exactly, they met when they did, at an inconvenient moment when they could do little more than pass through each other’s lives. It is getting late. She tucks her knees against her chest and he puts his head in his hands. She tries not to cry.

“What do you think some wise soul would tell us to do,” she says, “if they knew about this situation?”

“I don’t know,” he replies, his voice low. He pauses. “Actually. I do know. They would ask us, ‘Are you in love?’ Because if we are, then none of the rest matters.”

The word “love” lands like a hysterical toddler sprawled on the floor of her lungs. I don’t know! it wails. I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know! I don’t know because I don’t know how to know, and maybe I never will, but now I want to know you, and this knowing thing may be bullshit or it may be true, but let me sit here in this stillness and this not knowing with you.

Neither of them moves. The question bobs politely in the air for a moment before giving up and floating away – toward the Observatory, perhaps, where a less inconvenienced pair might make use of it.

A few days later, as a ripe, uncomfortable humidity descends on the city, she sits to write what she does know. This, she thinks, can be a parting gift, an homage to vague ideals like Transparency and Gratitude. The first draft is an inkblot of false starts, scribbles, and do-overs. The second is hastily copied onto fresh paper in a coffee shop. When she pauses to stretch out her fingers, a well-coiffed barista looks over her shoulder. “Hand-written,” he says approvingly. “Old school. I like that. Safe. You can’t google that shit.”

She is encouraged but when she squashes the envelope in her back pocket a fragment of bone and muscle trembles against her bottom rib. In deciding to write she had underestimated how difficult it would be to know that tangible evidence of her feelings existed in the world. It was one thing to express these things in person. It was another to write them down, and quite another to hand them over, relinquishing the power to rewrite, edit, or destroy.

She knows their goodbye will be stunted and chaotic, but as she stands before him, reaching into her pocket, she is startled by a craaack! in her side. He takes the envelope from her hand and she realizes with horror that he is taking a small chunk of flesh and bone with it.

“Thank you,” he says, apology, exhaustion, and hesitation curling the edges of his voice. “I have to… I gotta go.”

She feels the ground fall away. Oh god, what I wrote… It will bleed all over your hands…! Helplessly she watches as he drops it into the plastic bag he is holding, far outside of her reach. She tries to calm herself as she speeds home, clenching/unclenching/reclenching her steering wheel. Maybe in the bustle of uprooting his life he will forget about it. Maybe, as August mellows to fall, it will sit in that plastic bag, bleeding away. Maybe he will find it months or years from now, mixed in with his belongings, and sputter “Fuck!” in dismay when he realizes it has spilled all over his favorite shirt, as she does when she opens luggage to find a shampoo bottle has exploded inside.

Maybe she will never know.

Maybe knowing is overrated.

Maybe quiet stillness between two confused people is more akin to love than the feverish clamor of those who feel certain.


On the first day of September she jogs through the muggy twilight of Griffith Park, wincing at the pain in her legs. A car passes and the driver, a woman, glowers disapprovingly. It’s getting dark. You shouldn’t be running out here at night.

Her breath ragged, she shifts to a walk, giving each leg a brief shake in a futile attempt to dislodge cement from her muscles. She stares down at the city. The salt of her sweat is beginning to crust along her arms. The bottom of her right foot feels tender and her hip is cramping. She remembers a day before injury, when running was exhilarating. She ran carefree only to spiral into gloom when some inevitable, idiotic adventure would leave her sidelined with a fracture or pulled Achilles. She isn’t afraid of pain. Sometimes she relishes it. Whatever this is, however, is a little more complicated.

She looks around. She needs to determine her route home. Ahead of her the road slopes up and to the right. She is about a half mile from the Observatory, maybe less. She could sprint the hill toward it, collapse in a patch of grass at the top. Or she could turn and run back down the way she came.

The mechanics of running uphill are strangely similar to the mechanics of running down: lean forward, fall into it, take short steps, and let gravity do the rest. A key difference, of course, is the level of discomfort. Downhill is full of abandon and glee. Uphill requires patience to pace properly, acceptance of vulnerability, and faith that the body will recover at the top.

Below her Los Angeles shuffles and snorts. She looks up toward the Observatory and begins to run again.

imageTalia Gibas is known to her artsy friends as “that crazy triathlete” and to her triathlete friends as “that Shakespeare girl.” She manages arts education programs at the LA County Arts Commission and is Associate Editor of Createquity. She ponders, volunteers, nerds, and merrily verbs words in Los Angeles. She would like to put on a play. 

The Fading of the Ancient Screams

Hello Everybody,

Time Square in the wee-hours.  Desolate but still electric.

Times Square in the wee-hours. Desolate but still electric.

Passing through Times Square at 5AM is an interesting little jaunt through spacetime.  It’s like walking through a giant nuclear oven, left on by the irresponsible apprentice of Prometheus.  All the giant LCD screens are still flashing skinny models in bras and panties, skinny models in shoes, bulky sports heroes sporting giant Midwestern or Puerto Rican grins and reality TV stars now in their 16th minute of fame and “acting” in a Broadway Show, pursing their lips and inviting you – or whoever may be walking around in the darkest hour before dawn – to throw your hard earned virtual 21st century dollars their way.  Of course, not many people – excepting a few drunks and confused looking cops looking for something to do – are hanging around Times Square at 5AM.  I felt like a tiny byte of information wandering across a computer program in a sleeping laptop.  The world was still moving, but nothing was supposed to be happening.

Why was I at Times Square at 5AM, last Monday, you ask? Hello?!  I was working The Great Bridal Expo at The Marriott Marquis!  Why was I working it? Hello?!  For a handful of virtual 21st century dollars.  I tell you folks – as you well know- life ain’t boring, unless it is.

Actually, working The Great Bridal Expo really isn’t something to scream and shout about.  Me and some other fellas show up at 5AM, we check in with Walter, the guy who runs the whole shebang.  He and an 18-wheeler go up and down the eastern seaboard, setting up and breaking down the expo.  Walter’s a fellow Texan who doesn’t live in Texas anymore and we get along pretty well. We shoot the bull while we unload the the 18-wheeler of all things Bridal Expo, then load it all into one of the Marriot’s ballrooms, and finally, assemble it all – fully lighted stage with runway, dressing room, guest check-in station, and about a hundred booths for merchants to hustle all things big and small that revolve around the black hole that is the wedding industry.

Hey, I've seen it happen to  sweetest girls.

No caption necessary.

When it’s all up and ready, Walter strips down to his tighty-whities – in front of us, if we happen to be around him, or anybody, for that matter – jumps into a tuxedo and grabs a microphone. Not only does he assemble the whole shebang, he hosts it.  He’s all smiles when the doors open and the blushing, screeching, hopeful brides-to-be rush in.  He’s all smiles as the future luckiest-girl’s-on-Earth mill about the dress companies’ booths, decorators’ booths, catering companies’ booths, and travel agents’ booths.  Just when I think his smile cannot get any bigger, it does – as the estrogen cloud rises all the way to the ceiling of the giant ballroom, then falls like nuclear rain onto the shrieking, cooing baby bridezillas.  The falling estrogen has a curious effect on the mob – for the mob becomes one creature, as mobs generally do. One mind. One body. One insatiable craving to kiss all God’s toads to find that special prince immune to layoffs, mood swings, mortgages, smelly farts, toilet seats (Up? Down?), adultery, domestic abuse.  A gentle man.  A man who listens. A sensitive man that cannot be dented.  A perfect man.  Hell, a man with a cape.  The monster thrashes about like The Kraken in the Adriatic Sea.  And good ol’ Walter’s still smiling.

Believe me, I’m not against marriage at all.  In fact, as I await the “go” from Walter to start disassembling the shebang, I catch myself wondering just when and if I will be the prince one day.  Will I be a married man – that man who can steer his heart schooner into that elusive harbor nestled on an island between the seas of strength and vulnerability? I kid you not, I wondered about all that stuff as I gazed upon the writhing mob.  Then…I wondered what it would be like if a guy came barging into The Great Bridal Expo with an assault rifle.  I didn’t used to think about such a horrible thing.  But I do now.

Alas – at 9:30PM – The Great Bridal Expo ended.  No one was shot.  As the brides filed out of the building, Walter stripped down to his tightly-whities and put on his shorts.  It was time to break it all down.  Time for me to stop all the wondering and go back to work.

Yesterday, Osha, myself and a few friends jumped in a zipcar and headed north to Lake Minnewaska.  The frozen lake lay nestled on the Shawangunk Ridge, one of the northernmost ridges of the great Appalachian Mountain Range.  It’s really only an hour’s drive out of New York City, but getting out of the city takes about an hour, so it takes a good two hours to get there. But once past The Bronx, the traffic thinned and the lanes were wide open.  Soon we were off the highway, on smaller roads.  We were out in the country, motoring through one little town after another.  Finally, after scooting up a switchback, we arrived at the mountain oasis.

Frozen beauty.

Frozen beauty.

The lake and everything around it was beautiful.  Pine trees reached for the blue sky atop the cliffs, which dropped straight to the water.  The water was frozen all the way across, yet when we ventured down to the lakeshore – far away from any human sounds – constant cracking could be heard.  Not even wind – quite powerful atop the cliffs – could be heard.  Just the cracking.  I got brave for a moment and put my foot on the ice, then put a good portion of my weight over that foot.  It held and felt sturdy, but the cracking told me, You’d better move your foot, mister, for all things end…they all melt, crumble, disintegrate…no matter how secure and sturdy it feels.  Keep your feet moving, even if something feels that it will last forever.  

A little further up from the waterline were the bottom of the huge white-gray cliffs.  Wind, water and gravity eroded the cliff in such a way as to cause large squares of the rock to break apart at a time.  Huge slabs sat atop small slabs, and some of the cliffs rose at an angle greater than 90 degrees – angling out over your head by quite a distance, should you stand under them.  Huge stone faces – which I decreed to be the profiles of screaming Mowhawk Indians – appeared in the rock, due to the erosion.  They faced the lake and screamed.  For how long they had been doing so, I do not know.  For how long they will continue, same answer.

Ancient Stone Mowhawk screaming into Time.

Ancient Stone Mowhawk screaming into Time.

Back atop the cliffline, we followed the path to the ledge of the mountain.  From there, for as far as the eye can see, lay the floor of the Shawangunk Valley.  All the little townships that we passed through on the way to the lake could be seen.  One little town, then trees and hills, then another little town, etc.  Little towns with a few people playing out the huge epic of life.  A farm could be seen here and there.  It was such a godlike view.  I could almost see the little people living out the big movie of life.  A husband irritated at his wife for doing those little annoying things that made him hot for her thirty years ago.  An son angry at his parents, as he drove to the grocery store to pick up milk.  They didn’t let him spend his Sunday the way he wanted to, but he’ll still get the milk, because afterall, his ability to love started with them and no matter how angry he gets, his parents and his love are inseparable – will always be, no matter how cloudy or distant his relationship to them becomes.  Most of his epic still lay before him.  He will see things he never thought he would, get in situations in which he will have no clue how to move through, but somehow will.  He always will, one way or the other.  His love will most assuredly resonate toward others, should he not deny it.  His dreams are his pathway.  16 years old.  But this Sunday afternoon he will get the milk, and that evening he will break bread with his parents.  It’s not a bad deal, family.

God's eye view of America.

God’s eye view of America.

At some point, I foolishly tried to locate New York City.  I couldn’t of course.  We were over fifty miles away.  But it was a knee jerk reaction to try to find it.  That got me wondering again.  Why did I try to find it?  They don’t call it The Big Apple for nothing, but New York’s not bigger than the valley below.  Cities are big things, but they aren’t as big as the country.  Then I wondered myself all the way to the fact that most of the United States is still a bunch of small town spaced between forests, prairies, mountains and deserts.  Most of America is what I saw at the bottom of that valley, not Times Square.  Cities are the oddity.  Most of us are small town, or a product of a smaller community of people rather than a metropolis.  Most of us got in a car, royally pissed off one Sunday afternoon, and got the damned milk anyway.  Most of us looked out at the world as if it were a star laden galaxy, and ached to go somewhere new someday.  Most of us didn’t grow up in the nuclear warmth of one of those stars.  Nope, most of us had to be astronaughts.

Our shadows grew long – the wind blew harder and colder.  We made our way back to the car with the many and sundry people who also came to gaze upon Lake Minnewaska’s beauty.  Everybody seemed somewhere between genuinely happy and fairly content.  All seemed to be free of the tension that seizes the shoulders on a New York City block.  I didn’t wonder –  as I impolitely gazed upon them – whether they were from the city or not.  Curiously, what I wandered was whether they knew any of our nation’s servicemen and women who, while stationed in the Middle East, committed suicide over the past year.  I didn’t used to think of things like that, but now I do.

Fellow members of the Expedition.

Fellow members of the Expedition.

On the drive back, I felt isolated.  I was tired, we all were.  But I used the fatigue as an excuse to drift far from the car, beyond the head and tailights of other cars, beyond the bad-ass guitar riffs of the classic rock channel on the radio.  I drifted far away, all the way to the end of the screams from those stone Indians.  I can’t describe to you what I saw or felt when the screams finally faded away.  I just knew I had arrived at the end of something that we have been told will last forever.

A sign – floating independently in space – read “New York City”.  Osha steered the car under it.  I was back in the car, in my body.  Suddenly, the traffic was thicker, and grew more aggressive.  Cars sped around slower cars – horns a blazin’ – muscled into the exit lane.  Predators, preying as to not be the next pray.  The Law of the Jungle.  Moments later the electric mountain range of the New York City Skyline burst alive on the horizon.  The Empire State Building was alight in purple and pink.  The unfinished, new World Trade Center Building shone the brightest and towered over everything.  Then I found myself wondering again.  Just what, exactly, is progress?  Funny, I’d never wondered what it was before now.

Into the Great Beyond?

Into the Great Beyond?

Be Well…

It’s A Winter Wonderland, Dammit!

Hello Everybody,

New Yorkers packing it in to please Boss Man.

A few mornings ago, I got off the D-train at the 42nd Sreet/Bryant Park stop, on my way to work.  Upon my approach to the exit, a bum was crawling under the turnstiles.  I could smell him from several feet away – the  smell of an uncleaned pen in a zoo.  His chest scraped against the dirty floor of the station, his chin an inch or two away from the footsteps of other New Yorkers scurrying about, on their way to work, or wherever else a New Yorker might go.  But probably to work, because most had that look like they were about to lose their job, and OMG, right before Christmas…how Dickensian.  So they scamper, scamper, scamper – jumping into a subway car just as the doors closed.  The extra minute earlier that they get to work is gonna show Boss Man they got drive.  And Boss Man likes drive.

New York Bum.

But the bum didn’t have that look.  He didn’t have any look.  His eyes weren’t looking into this world.  He was looking into that other world, and he and others who know what that world is don’t speak English anymore.  They babble out a language only the Invisible People understand.  The Invisible People welcome them, don’t turn away from them, don’t turn their nose up at them.  As I neared the turnstiles, the bum got up off the floor and collected the colorful pages of a newspaper that he would undoubtedly weave into a coat of many colors under which he will lay to seek warmth.  Facing the turnstiles was a women dressed in black and singing gospel songs.  A series of pamphlets were spread out before her on a real blanket.  She sang, beautifully – old timey songs about Jesus – but not once did she look bum’s way.  But he didn’t mind, he wasn’t looking at her either.

After work, I walked The City for a bit, which I do from time to time to clear my head.  However, it’s Christmas time, dammit!  Walking The City at quittin’ time is not a path along the waters of Enlightenment.   I passed through the congested area around Macy’s Department Store on 34th St., a log jam of humanity and bad will.  Or maybe not bad will, but no will at all.  The shoppers that moved in and out of the giant store with beaten eyes – blank, going through the motions without questioning.  That’s what American’s do during Christmas time – they go shopping after work, when it’s crowded, wait in long lines, get angry, push and shove, maybe yell a little at somone who makes $20 less an hour, then resign themselves to a mysterious dissatisfaction of life.  Finally, they leave Macy’s, with that vacant stare, bouncing like driftwood off the other robots who aren’t programmed to question tradition.  I flow with the fleshy current, amidst the aroma coming off the meat carts and out of manholes.  I couldn’t help but feeling the Christmas season came early this year.  Then I remembered, it did come early this year.  Thanksgiving is just a week away – a week earlier than last year, or all the previous years since we broke bread with those kind and well-behaved savages so many years ago.  That’s so wonderful for our poor, gentle, sweet economy, getting that pesky day of thanks out of the way earlier.  That means an earlier Black Friday.  Those brilliant folks at Wal-Mart are having Black Friday on Thanksgiving Thursday, because why wait?  Why not lure the masses tryptophan narcoleptics to shell out their cash on National Thank You Day.  Thank you, Wal-Mart, thank you.

Holiday Joy?!?!

Night had fallen by the time I got to Bryant Park. Christmas lights shone like electric candy in the trees.  The park becomes something of a winter wonderland during the holiday season.  Little wooden booths are set up and in them merchants sell their wares of clothing, jewelry, leather goods, candy, and knick-knacks.  A happy little village.  In the middle of the park there is an ice skating rink.  Many, many people slide in a circle with either a smile or the look of death…depending on how well one can handle a pair of skates in a crowd.  Everyone moves in one direction, as if they have to, with no power of their own to stop, or consider going in another direction.  They dared not to even question it.

The park is crowded and festive.  I noticed a curiosity, however.  There were no bums in the park.  Bums are just as much of the New York Holiday Institution as the buyers and the sellers.  Bums are helpful to the buyers and sellers – to help them remember that Thanksgiving has not yet arrived, to help them remember there’s a heaping load of thankfulness that comes before the Great, Manic End-Of-The-Year Buy Out.  And after the Great National Turkey Overdose, the bums are there to help the buyers and sellers remember that Christmas is about a guy who invented the Golden Rule.  But then I saw one, then two, then three, then many, many security guards – all wearing neon green coats with SECURITY printed on them – patrolling the Winter Wonderland, and relieving me of the burden of that curiosity. Their job was to make sure the buying and selling carried on without blemish – looked as pure as the driven snow.  But there wasn’t any snow to compare it to.  It was still too early and warm for snow to stick.

Easy yet bustling Sunday Holiday Commerce.

On Sunday I walked through Union Square, which had a Winter Wonderland set up in it, too.  More of the same booths were set up – selling trinkets, clothes, chocolate, coffee, clocks, etc.  It was occupying the space that Occupy Wall Street used to occupy, after it was banished from Wall Street to Union Square, where the free speech was to be shouted, yet out of ear shot of the Wall Streeters.  Now Occupy Wall Street on Union Square was gone and Capitalism flourished in its place under the Sunday sun.  Many, many people moved like cattle in a shoot, through the small walkways between the boutiques.  People were bundled up in scarves, hats, gloves, enjoying the devine atmosphere.  Statues of war heroes, politicians and angels stood in through the park- touting the stature of immortality – over the mortals who only wanted their fair share of life, liberty and happiness, before the Work and Boss Man on Monday.  They shell out their cash, buy Stuff in hopes that Sunday may move a little slower.

Mohandas Gandhi – Calmly, wisely taking the path outside of Capitalism.

I left the Winter Wonderland and went to get a look at the statue of Mohandas Gandhi on the edge of the park.  I always thought Gandhi’s statue was a little out of place in Union Square, amidst all the figures of Americana and Christianity encased in bronze.  But he’s there and he’s captivating, in his little cloth wrap, humble spectacles, on his bare feet, holding his walking stick.  He also dons a smile that, to me, clearly conveys a pure understanding that nothing lasts forever, and that that is ok, that nothing on Earth should last forever, and that forever belongs to that other place beyond Earth.  That place that can’t be seen for all the Stuff…that only the likes of bums can see.  The back end of the Winter Wonderland runs just beside Gandhi’s statue, as if he is shut out of – uninvited to the festivities.  At first it looks like a slight, an insult to the non-violent humble leader, until I reassess the whole scene, and see it’s a choice.

I’m invited to wander that Winter Wonderland.  I am in a social class that is allowed to occupy its crowded walkways – I’m encouraged to spend, spend, spend.  I’m a bona fide College Educated Day Laborer. I can exist in American society, as long as I understand the Dollar.  As long as I keep my eyes focused in it’s world, work in it’s world, the sellers will let me buy, and I will be spared from a life of newspaper quilts and Invisible friends.

Sunday night a bum approached me on the subway.  I had my guitar with me.

“My young man,” he told me, “practice that thing until it’s the best thing you do.”

I smiled.  He didn’t ask me for any money and I didn’t have any on me – there was no money in between us at all.  Just before he left me, I told him, “Be well, buddy.”

And he said, “And you keep the faith, young man.”

I have, on more than one occasion, been in a subway car when a bum defecates in his trousers.  The other passengers, collectively, squinch their faces and hold their nose.  Then everybody joins in the exodus to the next car.   But I try to stay in the car.  Don’t get me wrong, there shouldn’t be a statue of me for being a selfless humanitarian – most times I get up with the rest of the passengers.  But the few times when I have stuck it out with the fellow, when I get to my stop, I walk above ground, into the cold air with a little more levity and peace in my soul.  And that makes feel good about myself.  Nobody should have to smell like shit alone.

Be Thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving…