Saturday, November 20, 2004

At Least the Trains Ran on Time 

Two library security guards dropped by on their rounds the other day. They looked wearier than usual and told me that they had just come from breaking up a catfight between two partially clothed women on the front steps of the main library. Before you get too titillated, the combatants were filthy bag ladies who both looked a lot like the bloated body in the bathtub of room 217 of the Overlook Hotel. As they were screaming filth and grappling with each other they tore each others clothes off until they were down to what would have been their underwear if they had been wearing any. Just the thing you want your children to see on a visit to the library.

Homeless congregate on the steps of the library because misguided Good Samaritans will drive by and hand out food and clothes to them there. Citizens trying to help the homeless use it as a centralized drop off location for food and clothes, in effect making the library an unoffical rescue street mission/soup kitchen, but with none of the proper staff or facilities. The security guard told me that he often see homeless men walking around with plates of food and trays of lasagna, which they eat and leave half eaten on the library steps. People also drop off bags of old clothes so the homeless will use the library's bathroom as a changing room. He will find filth encrusted outfits crawling with vermin shoved in the trashcans of the library.

It's not that I haven't any social conscience or feel that the homeless should be hidden from view. But outside the library they loiter, shoot up, deal drugs, fight and the library and its staff are neither equipped nor trained to deal with this. The hit and run philanthropists who hand out food can get a warm fuzzy high but in the meantime the average patron avoids the library for fear of his life and the library is left to deal with the mess. At times I feel that the main has been basically ceded to the homeless.

What is so sad it that even though I consider myself a very live and let live liberal, when I see and hear these sort of things I feel myself sliding down the repressive (but well maintained and graffiti free!) slope of fascism. Intrusive phrases like "At least the trains ran on time" pop into my head. I envision more of a Starship Troopers style fascist utopia than Mussolini's or Mayor Giuliani's. In any case, the codependent, free for all style of this city is not working.

Wow, that's even worse than us and I thought we had the ultimate homeless problem. While we're supposed to just deal with the sleepers and junkies, at least the public don't actually think we're a shelter. I really feel for you, my foxy friend. Can library administration not get the police involved or find some way to get rid of the "do-gooders"? Seems like it's gone way beyond anything regular library staff should have to deal with, even by today's insane standards of what library staff have to deal with.
Your comment about how people will drive by, walk by, and give a few bucks and get all high on their horses with being philatropic hit home -- they don't think of what's left behind, what you and and others have to deal with, day after day. The thing is, people make choices in life, and these folks made choices that landed them in a homeless situation. Very rarely have I read about a homeless person who is like Job, just having everything taken away. Does that make sense?

And oh my goodess, I'd forgtten the horror of the bloated woman in the Overlook Hotel. I remember thinking, "My, I can't believe he's cheating on his wife with such a beautiful woman, and hey -- why is she still at the Overlook? They got all the tourists out for the winter season."

And then, well, the next scene was just nasty with her bloated body.

Thank goodness The Wizard of Oz is on TV tonight -- I'll be thinking of Glenda as I fall asleep instead of that bloated, rotted-skinnned lady.
lost in the river
i called for you
(silver moon hidden
behind thin clouds)
feeling my way to shore--
my toes caressing
smooth river stones--
i heard you call my name.
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