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March 07, 2002 - Image 22

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-03-07

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6B - The Michigan Daily -Weekend Magazine - Thursday, March 7, 2002

T c D W 4
The Michigan Daily - Weekend Magaz

Green Bean
By Emily Wing field

DOWN AND OUT IN ANN ARBOR
BY RICHARD LAX

"You could be a
model "
my mother con-
soled me
as she piled my
thick, entangled
golden hair on top
of my head.
A fluorescent
green piece of
paper sat
crumpled in my
young hands.
It declared that I
too
could be a flawless
image of
beauty
if only I sent them
a photo and
a hundred dollars.
Her bright sap-
phire eyes pierced
into the emerald
ones she created in
me,
that now glim-
mered
fighting against
tiny drops of
water.
"You could be a

Photo llustration by BRETT MOUNTAIN/Daily

monster"
I thought as I
looked at my
gawky reedish
reflection
in the smooth lake
of glass
beyond the thin,
worried figure
perched in front of
me-
a bird hovering
over her young.
A repulsive mon-
ster with long yel-
low fangs
ready to destroy,
starve tender
hungry flesh
as it feasted off
visions of
slender beauty.
The monster is
inside me.
It forces me to
drop warm, gooey
cookies
Run an extra mile
at practice
Drink 8 bottles of
water a day
Chain myself to
the blinking, blood
Red
numbers of the
scale.
It slowly became
me.
Envy
Jealousy
Greed
The monster taunt-
ed the growing
teed of a girl,

a pesticide
killing the one
who loved to race
sleek, strong hors-
es through
billowing seas of
wild waves of
green grass
and scale the
rough bark of
young apple trees.
She loved to pluck
its tiny green rocks
to pelt the frustrat-
ing neighbor boys.
The boys were the
monster:
staring at the pic-
tures of those
models
with their water-
falls of silky hair
flawless porcelain
skin
full red lips
thighs like straight
twigs
She put a frail arm
around me
shaky from all the
black, bitter coffee
she loved, pulling
me from imaginary
thoughts
of my cottage
cheese thighs.
'Green bean'
she has always
called me
when I was that
girl.
Maybe
She was afraid
I would snap too.

For as long as I can remember, I ve
wondered what it would be like to have
no home specifically, what it would
be like to be homeless. Sure, its easy for
me, watching my golden television, eat-
ing hundred dollar bills, to suppose what
it would be like, but there s a good
chance, I think, that experiencing it
might possibly be somewhat different in
some respects or others.
John Griffin, who darkened his skin to
experience the Jim Crow south as a black
man, said, How else except by becoming a
Negro could a white man hope to learn the
truth? I, Ricky Lax, was destined to follow
in Griffins footsteps and take on the life of a
bum not just act like a bum, or pretend to
be a bum, but actually become a bum for a
half hour at the minimum.
I reasoned that my apartment would be a
poor (intended) location to conduct my soci-
ological experiment. If someone was truly
homeless, they would not be living in my
apartment. If they were, Id ask them to
leave. It would be difficult keeping them
from my parents when they visit.
MOM
Hi honey.
RICKY
Hi.
MOM
Who s the bum by the refrigerator?
HOMELESS MAN
Hi Ricky Hiya Mrs. L.
(Long, uncomfortable pause)
Then, theres the whole upkeep issue;
feeding him, cleaning him, walking him
I know people that own bums live longer,
and that bums can teach your children about
death, but I guess I m just more of a cat guy.
For the experiment, my Kenneth Cole
sweater and Banana Republic Jeans just
wouldn t do. Searching through my
wardrobe, I found nothing appropriate for
the occasion and the last thing I wanted
was to be wearing inappropriate attire for
my lower-class society debut. I needed
something simple, a mnimmalist attire that
wouldn t scream social faux pas like my lit-
tle brother always did. Social faux pas
he d shout, for no apparent reason. I drove to
the Salvation Army discount store praying I
could find something cheap, ugly, and tat-
tered enoughifor me to wear in the Old
Navy behind it.
I carefully selected a pair of faded cargo
pants that were two sizes too large for me. I
picked out a red t-shirt and orange sweater
to accompany it. Orange on red two sizes
too big boy, did I look silly Silly and
homeless.
Next, shoes. What kind of shoes would a
homeless man wear? I asked the sales clerk
this and he, taking a real interest in my
experiment, answered Mephistos without
hesitation, and sold me two pairs right on
the spot. He sure knew his homeless
footwear! He listened and cared about my
experiment. And about me. He even said, I
care about your experiment and I care about
you, which is why 11 throw in the second
pair half off. You just don t find people like
that these days. I like to think of the sale
as more of a friendship transaction. Thanks,
friend.
Next: haircut. I tipped the stylist extra to
make some sloppy cuts and slips of the
razor. The guy next to me, impressed with
my new do, asked its name.
Arthur, I replied. I in so witty. Witty,
original, good-looking and modest.

All I needed now was my bum name.
Scruffy M. Guy would be too obvious and
Skinny J. Stature would be too subtle.
Tummy S. Empty perfect.
I, Tummy S. Empty, was now ready to
take to the streets. I turned my cell phone
ringer off and spit my gum out before
realizing that it was feasible for a bum to be
chewing gum. Not only was it feasible, it
was probable. Though they have no home,
bums, as I ve learned, posses an abundance
of things that rhyme with the word bum :
A stick of gum, a pair of thumbs, a saltwa-
ter aquarium, a troublesome curriculum,
burdensome pandemonium, some plums.
Sadly, plums alone are not enough to keep
someone off the streets
TALKING THE TALK
Notice the subterfuge, the subtle adding
of certain words that a real bum might say

when speaking to another: Good after-
noon, fellow bum.* Boy I could go for a
nice turkey facashta right now, fellow bum.
But, its not just the words that homeless
people say, its the topics they discuss as
well: What a marvelous day it is to be
homeless. The sun is shining, and who bet-
ter than we, the bums of the earth, to enjoy
its warmth what, having to home and
all.
I even constructed the following anec-
dote that would pass as typical: Just the
other day, I was asking this gentleman for
change, and he replies, No sir, I m sorry, I
don t have anything. And I reply, You don t
have anything. Hey, who s the bum here?
Needless to say, we both had a good laugh.
A jolly good laugh indeed, fellow bum.*
I worried that my friend Mike, passing,
would blow my cover. If my new peers saw

-

Apy tier
Sermng

him acknowledge me as an equal, my exper-
iment would be ruined. As he passed, I
improvised one last bum speech, Look al
that student over there. Id sure hate not to be
a bum, but to be his friend instead, and not
just because hes a social climber whc
would ditch me the second someone more
popular asked him to hang out, which is so
high school. Yes, thats what Id say if we
were friends, his name happened to be
Mike, and the remaining things I said were
applicable to our situation.
REFLECTIONS
Lets just say being a bum is not all its
cracked up (intended) to be. The way you
see bums portrayed on television and in the
movies is not at all representative of the true
homeless lifestyle. And this, I think, is dan-
gerous. When an impressionable child sees
Arnold Schwarzenegger or Pierce Brosnan
playing a bum on the big screen, strong
suave and majestic, hes likely to think,]I
want to be strong suave and majestic, much
like Arnold Swartcnager or Pierce Brosnan,
therefore, I want to be a junky when I grow
u p which is ironic because of the classic

I

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Vietnam i
Suggested Readi
A Thousand Tears Falling, Yung Kra
North Vietnam's most important an
meantime, married an American Colo
the CIA and FBI. She had to go to t-
print this autobiography, although
late-March appearance by Yu
For more info, go to: ww
A Viet Cong Memoir, Truong Nhu Tar
of the National Liberation Front. Des
major offensives, and manipulate
eventually fled Vietnam as a "boat
it truly was an im
The Sorrow of War, Bao Ninh. N
soldier, covering his life before, d
All Quiet on tf
Paradise of the Blind, Duong Thu Huc
women, describing the brutal 195
the corruption of the commu
We Were Soldiers Once and Young,
This book will leave you exhausted.
of the la Drang Valley. 450 troops of tI
performance of The Little Big Horn.
and his close friend, the newspaper re
into the middle of that hell. To meet I
and listening to Bo Schembechler (p
movie based on the
Home Before Morning: The Story
VanDevanter. Loved and hated by'
worked in the 71I Evac Hospital, a ME
When casualties were pouring in, nurs
including amputations, except for saw
delegated to bed pans and
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