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Tuesday, April 27, 2004

The Wrath of Punky

The Feisty Old Broad told me the other day that Punky assaulted one of his buddies, Steve-o, in the park. Punky can be very dangerous because he is treacherously temperamental and does not fight fairly. The other day he approached and, without warning, sucker punched Steve-o, another park regular. He then struck him in the right eye with a heavy glass Jim Beam bottle. Now Steve-o has a black eye, brilliantly hued and swollen. It is quite breathtaking.

Punky has been in a very petulant and resentful mood toward Steve-o lately because Steve-o struck the homeless/residential hotel dweller equivalent of the lottery: he began successfully collecting SSI. After petitioning the system with the tenacity of the herpes virus, Steve-o was finally approved for disability by his exhausted caseworker for some vague psychological disorder, which I have diagnosed as chronic shiftlessness.

What I didn't realize about SSI is that you are paid retroactively to the date of your initial application, so if it has taken its sweet time wending its way in the system through all the various rejections, appeals, and red tape then you are going to receive a sizeable lump payment. Steve-o himself received $7000, which is $2000 dollars more than earned marrying a Chinese woman in the immigrant scam ring he freelances for. In something straight out of Catch-22, the maximum amount you can keep in a checking account if you are on SSI is $2000, so you have to either keep the rest of the money in cash or money orders or some commodity like collectible stamps or heroin. Since Steve-o doesn't have a mattress to squirrel any valuables away in, he immediately squandered the entire amount on very lavish solo methamphetamine binge. Now he doesn't have one dime left, but at least he has a steady source of income courtesy of the taxpayer.

As Steve-o's friend, Punky felt entitled to a cut of this windfall, but as soon as Steve-o cashed his check he sensibly vanished before lampreys like Punky could suction themselves on. When he reappeared, jittery and 15 pounds thinner, he didn't have any money or drugs left to share. Punky had been brooding and stewing about Steve-o's lack of generosity and selfish extravagance until he finally erupted and assaulted Steve-o in a fit spiteful rage when he saw him strolling through the park. Punky will not be denied.

Not to sound all Reagan, but is this really the best use of our tax dollars? I'm grateful that we don't in our own small way contribute to the problem by keeping a copy of the DSM IV at this branch. When I work at the branches that do, I see hopeful welfare scammers poring over it, intently searching out information to build their disability case. That way, when they meet with their case agent they can be all prepared to recite verbatim the definition of whatever diagnosis they're after.

My friend who is a social worker would sometimes have up to 4 patients a day tell him exactly,
"I'm having flights of fancy and feel as though my thoughts are racing. My attention is too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli," which is straight out of the DSM's definition of bipolar disorder.

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