Thursday, January 16, 2003

You can't ask a homeless guy for change.

Will and I went to Barney's for dinner. We had, of all the strangest things, a gift certificate. Yes, for Barney's. Let's keep the story rolling. After dinner, we walked, with our carry-out styrofoam cartons, to Gelson's supermarket to buy milk. (If I cannot have milk with my coffee, I am very cranky, and the milk we had at home was starting to threaten sourness.) As we walked down the street, a man coming toward us said, "Hey, can I ask you guys a question?" Will said sure, and the guy almost won me over, because he said, "You have to stop walking first." Almost won me over. He proceded to explain that he is an out-of-work drummer, and used to play with David Bowie. He is now, he tells us, divorced, and has sold his house in Sherman Oaks. He's been walking up and down Santa Monica Boulevard, singing the chorus of Papa Was A Rolling Stone for a buck or two. He'd like to sing for us, and if we like it, we'll pay him, and if we don't, he'll give us the full two dollars.

I knew that we had a twenty dollar bill.

"Do you have a dollar or two, sweetie," I asked Will pointedly (I hoped). He said he didn't, and the guy tried to haggle us down to fifty cents, then a quarter. I offered to look for change in my purse, and Will offered his leftover food. "No," the man shouted at Will, "I want to find a cheap motel room."

That's where he lost me. I do not trust homeless people who will not accept food. And frankly, it is currently 70° fahrenheit. A night outdoors will not kill anyone - certainly not in this neighborhood, anyway.

I gave him the fifteen cents I was able to dig from my purse, and we walked on, but not before I saw that the man was crying. I am somewhat distraught.

Somewhat less so because as we were walking home it occured to me that the tear I saw could have been a sign of a sad, pathetic man, or could have been the sign of a man ready to snap at any second, and there are alleys and doorways he could have been in. But I knew (and confirmed when we arrived home) that Will was prepared to slug him, and I knew that I could wield that gallon of milk with deadly accuracy if I had to.

We're fighters.