Thursday, August 6, 2009

This Morning

As usual, I got up early this morning and to go to the gym. It was particularly tough getting out of bed, because I've felt pretty lousy over the last few days. Yesterday, I damn nearly passed out after my last set of dips. Things started turning white, but I fought through it. I felt pretty terrible for the rest of the day, though. There was a little of that feeling lingering when I woke up. But I've found that pretending like everything's fine is the best way to keep these morning rituals intact.

I got dressed, assembled my least smelly gym clothes along with my disintegrating running shoes and headed for the gym at 3rd & Pike. On the way to the Rivoli's front door, I could see that somebody was sacked out in the doorway. That's not unusual. People often crash there. They also often pee there. Sometimes they do both at the same time. The best thing to do is just leave them alone. They'll eventually be on their way. But as I went out, I noticed that this was the same Real Change Mama who thought my raccoon painting was a cat and was prepared to give me a whole 40 cents for it. This happened during the Sunday portion of the sidewalk sale. Of course, no business was transacted, but it was pretty nice to talk to somebody who, though she was a bit dense, was at least sane. (You'll recall that crazy people were out in droves that day.) She didn't linger long and was soon gone.

I've lived in Belltown for 19 years and I've heard ever single kind of hard-luck story imaginable. My verdict: everybody's got one. Hell, even I've got one. In fact, I have several. So yes, I'm immune to tales of woe. But I can't help thinking that maybe I should have let the raccoon (or kitty, depending on your perspective) go for 40 cents. Maybe this would have improved Real Change Mama's life by some small measure for a short amount of time. I mean, she didn't realize that it was (and still is) a terrible painting. At the same time, the cynic in me says that if I'd sold the piece to her, she probably would have gotten tired of carrying it around by that afternoon. That's very plausible. Finding it in a greasy puddle in some alley would have made me feel like a first-class chump.

I guess that brings us to the heart of the matter. It's an essential dilemma of living in a neighborhood like this. You certainly want people to be less miserable. You want all the people selling Real Change to succeed. But you don't want to feel like a fool for helping them - especially if their lives never get better. And many of them don't. Some of these vendors have been selling for years and they're still homeless. Others are demonstrably crazy. You can buy all their papers every day and they'll still be nuts. How does that help anybody? Still others are just scammers trying to get beer money. They're easy to spot, because they're generally charming in a very sociopathic way. That's what my experience has taught me. That's also why I never buy Real Change. I'm always nice to the vendors, but I never buy it. It just doesn't seem to do any good.

That was my conclusion as I headed up 2nd Ave. The raccoon picture wouldn't have helped Real Change Mama on any fundamental level. She would have discarded it soon enough. It's not like I denied her a basic human right by asking $5 for the painting. Still, it's too bad she has to spend the night in the Rivoli's doorway. I'm sure there's a compelling tale about how she ended up there. And I'll bet good money that it begins with a tale of tragedy and woe.

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