The Politics of Homelessness

Clerical Help

The New York Times, sect. A, p. 29 (December 16, 1993).

More than a decade after our fellow citizens began bedding down on the sidewalks, their problems continue to seem so intractable that we have begun to do psychologically what government has been incapable of doing programmatically. We bring the numbers down–not by solving the problem, but by deciding it’s their own damn fault.

‘Mr. O’Really’ Gibson Flack, ‘Two Lunches’ Leroy Johnson, ‘Chicken Bone’ Charlie Brody and Admiral Nano sat at McDonalds on Locust Street in Aurora, IL. It was a hot afternoon and though they had come in separately, they had taken tables near each other. In fact each had a whole table to himself, four people taking four tables. The staff at McDonalds’ hated the homeless for many reasons and this was one of them. In fact, the staff at this particular McDonalds’ in Aurora, IL. hated the homeless so much they not only discriminated against them, but essentially penalized them for being worthless customers. But such a thought was for another time as Admiral Nano listened to the current conversation between Mr. O’Really, Two Lunches and Chicken Bone.

Two Lunches, a Chicago native fleeing from gangs on the south side said, “Yo dog, I can’t believe da government can’t solve all da homeless pro’lem. We hab da homeless all my life and dey ain’t been nothing dat helped. Po people getz da Link Card, disability, social security if we work a bit, free med’cine, child support, food lines, but we’s still got da homelessness.”

“Yeah man”, said Chicken Bone, a southerner from Georgia who usually wore suspenders and had moved to the Chicago suburbs. “It’s like they blaming us nowadays for being homeless. The homeless didn’t create homelessness. We’re victims. I used to have a home, but I lost my job when Tyson Foods moved. I can’t be following those folks around the country with my family. My wife worked at the Walmart, but she didn’t make enough for the whole family. I left my family to look for work here around Chicago. I had a friend up here said he’d give me a job at a warehouse as supervisor. It didn’t happen. I’m too broke to get back to home. Besides, it’s embarrassing heading home with no money. At least my family is with my wife’s parents, so they got a place and food to eat. My wife don’t need to homeless man. I can’t be living with her parents.”

“Oh really”, said Mr. O’Really. “You left your wife and kids and can’t get back. If it was me I’d start walking. You’re wife is raising your kids and your not doing your part. Really? Really? You just sitting up here for months blaming the government for your problems. I haven’t seen you looking for a job, You’re always bumming squares and chasing women, when you’re not drinking. I don’t even think you got a family. The reason your homeless is because your a lazy, worthless bum.”

“That ain’t so” Chicken Bone said, who’d gotten his name by dropping chicken bones along the way as he walked from the homeless shelter in Aurora to his various destinations, like the local watering hole. “I got six children and if I can’t send home money cause the government can’t give me a job, then me being home isn’t going to change things, only make them worse.”

“Oh really? Really?” O’Really said. “Being there as a father looking for a job, doing anything to help your wife is not as good as sitting up here all day smoking? Really? Really? Are you retarded? I think you’re retarded. Really! You are retarded. You have to be retarded to think like that. Only a retard thinks like that. REALLY!”

“Shit”, said Two Lunches, who usually took as many lunches as he could before he got caught. He didn’t care if someone else didn’t get a sack lunch for the day with a crummy sandwich in it. He was out for himself and to hell with everyone else. Which pretty much explained the nature of his problems and what had even gotten him in trouble with his own homies. Now he was hiding out in Aurora hoping they wouldn’t drive out here and finish him off, or one of the many rival gangs of his old neighborhood. Two Lunches was a hood and never did anything good for anyone else.

“I gots family”, admitted Two Lunches. “I ain’t seen my kids since I went to prison. Black folk know how to use da system to get what dey want. If we wants a car, we takes a car. If we need money, we robs someone. Politicians wants our vote, we expect them to gib us stuff. The government creates poverty man. They makes money at it.”

“Oh really?” Mr. O’Really said. “How they making money when it cost them billions in programs to deal with it? Really? How are they making money dumb ass?” O’Really crossed his arms and stared at Two Lunches as if he wouldn’t be able to answer.

“Cause da tax payers are footing da bill man”, Two Lunches said. “Da government takes dat money and dole it back out ta white folk who help da homeless. Government hands it to charities, businesses, churches, you names it. Der lots of people making money from homelessness. See dis link card?” Two Lunches ask as he waved his Illinois link card in front of Mr. O’Really and Chicken Bone.

“Dey knows we cheat da system with dis. Dey ain’t dumb. So why you think da never come get us and jail us? Cause we spend using this card. It don’t make no mind who is spending who’s money on this plastic. If I spends it on myself like I’s supposed too or sales it to someone else to use, either way, da grocer man gets da money. His business sales more. He can pay his taxes to the city, state and country. Den government gets da money, hands some of it back to those helping the poor while claiming dey be making a diff’rence when no real diff’rence actually happening. It’s all a circle of lies and deceit. Dey all just lying and with hands in each others pockets. Da only one left out in the cold and get’n screwed is the homeless.”

“Yeah” Chicken Bone said while scratching his chin stubble. “I can see your reasoning. The staff at the shelter applies and gets all sorts of grant money from the state and feds I’m sure. They prolly use it to pay salaries and cover some expenses. Ain’t no way all these church folks coming over here can afford the money it takes to run this lousy place all by themselves. It’s all churches can do just to get a few folk here and bring us food worth eating. Even so there are times there ain’t no volunteers and the food is terrible.”

Two Lunches nodded and added, “Dats right. If da government didn’t gib da shelter lots of money, den all da staff would be jobless too. Where else a social worker gonna work if der be ¬≠no homeless people to tell what to do? Who be paying for der salary? Not da chu’ches. It’s be gov’ment who den claim dey handing out millions of dollars to ‘solve da homeless problem’. But it not being solved, just treated. Da money run in circles, but da homeless ain’t getting helped and all da time, da be mo’ and mo’ homeless. Bankers, politicians, lawyers and all gettin richer and richer. The country gets mo’ broke and mo’ poor and homeless.”

Up spoke Mr. O’Really again to Two Lunches. “So, Mr. Smarty Pants. How would you solve homelessness? Tell me that. Seriously, tell me that. I bet you can’t tell me. You know why? You’re a dumb asshole. Really! You’re a dumb asshole.”

“You are one dumb cracker man”, said Two Lunches. “All this stuff we get, like tooth paste, why are companies gibin it to da homeless. Not cause dey can’t sell it. If dere was something wrong with da toothpaste, dey’d have it back. Dere be reasons dey be gibin it to us man. You can’t solve homelessness when it makes millions for people who are greedy or want to feel good about themselves in a competitive, capi’listic society. It’s parta da system. You could only get rid of it by getting rid of da system. I ain’t got a better system either.”

Chicken Bone threw away the toothpick he’d been chewing on and nodded. He looked over at Mr. O’Really. “You been here nearly forever man. Like ten years or more. How come this ghetto man got to be telling you this stuff? You been jobless, homeless and sucking the government tit a long time. Why don’t you get a job and get out of this hell hole?”

“Oh really? Really? Seriously. Are you serious? You must be serious. Do I look like someone who’s gonna get a job. I’m a sot with emotional problems and no good education and work ethics. I’m going to live here till I get old, rot and die. I want the government to take care of me. I like the government taking care of me. I want them to do more for me. You got to be retarded to think I want to work or take care of myself. I want others to take care of me and do it without making me feel guilty. Seriously? Really? You must be even more retarded than me.”

Admiral Nano sat and listened, but the conversation was suddenly brought to a stop by a lady manager at the worlds’ worst McDonalds in Aurora, IL. The little Hispanic girl said in broken English at this restaurant where except for a couple employees, only Hispanics were hired, “I’m sorry, but we’ve been getting complaints about you guys talking. You need to leave now. Besides, you’ve been here to long. You’re over the thirty minute limit. Leave now!”

“Whoa dere”, said Two Lunches. “I’b been here only twenty minute and I ain’t finished da cup of coffee I ordered yet. Besides, you gots the restroom door locked and I need to use it.”

The female manager looked bored and cared less, her professionalism nonexistent. “We lock the door to keep homeless people like you guys out so they aren’t drinking or doing drugs in there. But it’s too late now for you anyway. You need to leave.”

“Who are these people complaining?” said Chicken Bone, since the restaurant was nearly empty and the only ones in it were a few more homeless, all eating or drinking something. “I haven’t seen anyone come up the your counter and complain. What did they look like?”

The manager was getting miffed now. “It don’t matter who they were. I said you got to go and if you don’t go now, I”m calling the police.”

Admiral Nano remembered some of the recent things he’d been studying about ‘criminalizing homelessness’ with a variety of laws aimed at reducing their presence in various ways from various places people didn’t want them to be. It was like a social disease or being a leper in the Dark Ages. He got up and started to put his coat on. It was very cold outside and it mattered not to this inconsiderate, immigrant, minimum-wage manager how she treated the poor or what image McDonalds wanted to portray in commercials. McDonalds would have you believe it was an All-American, family friendly place for everyone to come, but in reality, the franchises were owned and run according to whatever standards the owners wanted to have for their business. As long as McDonalds got their franchise fees and royalties they were happy. They weren’t going to question any franchise’s behavior policies. Again, that was another story yet to come.

Nano made his way outside and in a few more moments Chicken Bone, Two Lunches and Mr. O’Really joined him in the windy, subzero cold. Even a non-homeless customer was ordered to leave having been there thirty minutes nearly. Through the window glass he could be seen yelling at the manager while retrieving his winter coat, gloves, scarves, and all. Now there were no customers inside the restaurant, but there were still homeless people holding their McDonalds coffee cups steaming in the frigid outside. It is hard to become ex-homeless when nobody wants to treat you respectfully and makes stereotypes out of you. Homelessness was definitely an unfair discrimination brought on by the ills of a given society and what they valued. In this case, it was a human love of greed and self-centeredness combined with selective blindness. As long there was money to be made from homelessness and political posturing to produce vain images there was no chance it would be seriously prevented.

The foursome moved off, headed somewhere to be warm. The customer got into his new car and drove off giving the watching manager an obscene gesture.

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Wouldn’t Treat A Dog Like This

Homeless - 09

Mother Teresa – “Suffering,” A Gift for God (1975).

If sometimes our poor people have had to die of starvation, it is not that God didn’t care for them, but because you and I didn’t give, were not an instrument of love in the hands of God, to give them that bread, to give them that clothing; because we did not recognize him, when once more Christ came in distressing disguise, in the hungry man, in the lonely man, in the homeless child, and seeking for shelter.

The temperature was ten below zero. The sign on the door said at ten degrees above zero, or 22 below freezing, the emergency shelter would live up to it’s name and become a ‘warming center’. Despite this at seven that evening, about one hundred fifty people were standing outside the closed metal door waiting to get inside for warmth, dinner and a place to sleep afterwards. There was a line of women, the first to be able to go inside, so much for equality of the sexes, followed by a large group of men huddled around them near the door. Families were let inside as soon as they arrived, even if instead of being children, it was merely a man and wife or sons or daughters of late teen years. After families and women men were let in alphabetically. It would take an over an hour to let everyone in. By that time, people put outside at six that evening would have been outside in extremely low temperatures trying to survive the cold for at least two hours.

Admiral Nano imagine a ‘normal’ person locked outside their home from six this evening till a locksmith came and got your door opened at eight o’clock. How miserable would that home-owner feel? Would they be happy that it would take that long to get inside their home waiting for the locksmith to arrive? Consider leaving your pet poodle outside during that time and your neighbor noticed it. What do you think might happen if your neighbor called the local police or animal society and they came over and found your dog outside for two hours in temperature that could kill or was considered cruel punishment for a pet? What did society do to people like that? Would your pet be taken away? Would you be charged with a crime? Would you face a large fine or possible jail time? You wouldn’t treat a dog like that, but homeless people are treated like that, even by the shelter staff.

If you are poor or homeless society doesn’t mind if you are treated like this. If you live in a homeless shelter where you have been systematically dehumanized and lost your self-esteem to the point you are treated like a child and have to ask permission for everything you do as if you’re a prison convict, then you are abused like this. You are treated worse than an animal. An animal has better ‘rights’ than a homeless person.

Nano stood in the at the edge of the waiting crowd in shelter’s weak lights, hands in pockets, layered in clothing like those around him. While homeless folks shivered in the bone-freezing cold he gazed up into the overcast sky and observed the large snowflakes falling upon the poor and hungry. The snow swirled in a gusting wind and laid a covering upon the shoulders of all. The homeless shuffled and mumbled, helpless to change this situation. Sometimes they vehemently gave opinions to each other about the rationale of being out in this weather at this time of the night in a church run charity where compassion, kindness and the Christian spirit were the often used buzzwords. You could often see those terms used on the road sign near the street where presently cars plowed through the growing snow and freezing slush.

“Don’t they know how cold it is out here?” said ‘Clodhopper’ Clyde Cousins. Clyde had been a Illinois farmer till a bank took his farm of three generations away from him.

“They know”, said ”Choo Choo’ Joe. “They just don’t give a damn. In fact if a few of us perished they’d avoid the blame by telling us they had to clean the floors first before they could let us come in and undo it with our wet shoes, coats and the melting snow on us.”

“Dat surely be da trut. Yessir, dat da way it be.” ‘Shower Cap’ John Backwall laid drunkenly against the brick wall of the building, looking down at his wet feet with his socks showing through the holes in his tennis shoes. “Yeah, youse got it rights, we be just nobody to dem. We be dogs. Likes you can’t do dis to a dog, but we be homeless y’know. Dey be staff, inside nice n’warm. Dey ain’t cleaning shit dose motherfuckers.”

Choo Choo Joe shrugged his shoulders and looked over at Clodhopper. “You been here a long time Clod, why they treating us this way?”

“Because we’re homeless and we can’t sue the bastards. Besides, who cares about homeless? We going to go find a lawyer to represent us? I don’t think so. There’s no money in it for a lawyer.”

“It’s not right” said Choo Choo. “We’re humans still. We might have drunks and idiots here, but we didn’t give away our rights to be treated decently. I can’t even think of a city official who would care to check on this place. It already violates morality if not building codes of health, safety and capacity. I mean, does the public even know this place used to be a nasty city incinerator. We live in an incinerator man.”

Before Clodhopper could respond, Shower Cap interjected. “We jus losers and scum. Society no care. Chu’ches dat runnin dis place don wanna t’know if we be here in da cold. If we dead, no one of those volunteer motherfuckers comin to da funeral. Dey not be askin why da man froze outside da shelter. We be jus trow-away people. We not humans, we not real Christins. We be scum dogs.”

No one mumbled for a moment or two, then someone in the crowd yelled, “Open the doors you assholes. We’re freezing out here.”

Which was followed by a woman shouting, “I bet you wouldn’t let your family stand out here for this long you.”

Nano watched. They were right these bums. If you’re poor and didn’t own a home for whatever reason, you didn’t qualify for ‘human rights’. That was a term that supposedly meant the decent morality of humanity. It also implied equal treatment with respect according to good standards. In fact, there was no truth in human equality that Nano had observed between those who had and those who had not. You got as much respect as you had the ability to enforce on others.

Admittedly, a good deal of the problems at the shelter stemmed from the lack of personal responsibility the ‘guests’ took upon themselves for improper and self-destructive behavior. However, the manifold problems the homeless brought with them was much magnified by the philosophically unsound principles of the Aurora shelter and the unskilled and often uncaring nature of the staff. If this line of people were cats and dogs left in the dangerous temperatures to fend for themselves, the staff would be in jail now and facing stiff fines.

For tonight it was a matter of surviving the elements of nature for the homeless. Tomorrow would also be a matter of survival. Homeless people would be in hospitals from colds, pneumonia and influenza, and frostbite; costing Aurora tens of thousands of dollars in health care. It was the cost society inflicted upon itself for not dealing effectively and compassionately with the homeless. It was poor planning and understanding of the the problem. In the meantime, after the homeless were finally inside from the terrible weather, they would be served by this christian charity noodles with tomato sauce, apple sauce, a bread roll and maybe some milk.

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Not Bad (or The Big Lie)

Homeless - 19

Toni Cade Bambara – Black Women Writers at Work, ch. 2, by Claudia Tate (1983).

My responsibility to myself, my neighbors, my family and the human family is to try to tell the truth. That ain’t easy. There are so few truth-speaking traditions in this society in which the myth of “Western civilization” has claimed the allegiance of so many. We have rarely been encouraged and equipped to appreciate the fact that the truth works, that it releases the Spirit and that it is a joyous thing. We live in a part of the world, for example, that equates criticism with assault, that equates social responsibility with naive idealism, that defines the unrelenting pursuit of knowledge and wisdom as fanaticism.

Admiral Nano sat in The River’s Edge Cafe with ‘Da Vinci’ Jack Jones and ‘NASA’ Henry. Nano sipped on a cup of what he’d learned is called coffee and at this business also called Seattle’s Blend. What the city of Seattle had to do with coffee served near Chicago in the suburb of Aurora, Illinois Nano had no idea, but it’s bitter taste made his nose wrinkle. Still there was something about this drink humans enjoyed. Perhaps it was an addiction of some sort. He looked over at his table mates, Da Vinci and NASA. They seemed to be enjoying the hot beverage as they chatted away. It was crowded in the Cafe at this lunch hour on a cold, windy, steel gray day in late November. Snow had not shown up yet this winter in the area. It was overdue and some were looking forward to it. This week was Thanksgiving and Nano was trying to learn about the reasons for the holiday’s beginning.

This holiday confused Nano. It had something to do with turkeys, Native Americans, pilgrims, a divine being and a large meal they all had shared after coming ashore from an ancient wooden boat after sailing over the Atlantic ocean. The only one that didn’t enjoy this offering of food was the turkey. He’d been the main course. Nano had heard the story a few times in bits and parts from ‘guests’ at the shelter. Guest was another word for poor homeless people at the Aurora emergency shelter. The fact is the guests were not guests. If anything, they were victims. Mostly they were just people who’s lives had gone astray and were getting little if any help at the shelter. They certainly were not guests. Guests would be a kind of customer whom you’d serve respectfully, with care, kindness and professionalism. Nano had seen words like those used on the emergency shelters’ road sign to describe the facility. He had not observed much of it in practice. Those qualities depended on the person you were dealing with. Some staff cared, but most where there for the paycheck and a free meal bummed from the church volunteers trying to feed the poor, not those receiving paychecks.

As for Thanksgiving, why people hundreds of years later were celebrating a single meal between immigrants and a native race and attributing it to some sort of divinity and mixing a turkey into it all, was a mystery. But it was a very important holiday to humans and it was that which all over America people were preparing for and Da Vinci and NASA were talking about.

“My family lives in Springfield” said Da Vinci. “I can’t go there and join them though. I’ve burned all my bridges behind me and they don’t put up with me anymore. Forgiveness doesn’t run in my family much and so I doubt I’ll have turkey with family again, much less ever see my siblings or their children. Fortunately my parents died some years ago, so they didn’t see the disintegration of the family. Then again, they set the stage for it.”

“That’s too bad” commented NASA. “I still keep in touch with my family. This holiday they are traveling to California to visit my mother’s side of the family. I’m not going because I can’t afford it and even if I did go, my family are big church goers and they always feel awkward explaining to others I have no job now and am staying in a homeless shelter. So, I won’t have a turkey either. I think I’ll just be sitting outside the shelter and hoping the weather is decent till they let us back inside again for PBJ sandwiches.”

The two sipped their Seattle Blend and looked out the window at the bridge being constructed just past the window of The River’s Edge Cafe. It was quite loud out there with about fifty construction workers in their yellow reflector jackets over the top of layers of clothing to fight against the chill wind of the cloudy day. A crane swung a heavy concrete road bed component to the next section of the bridge where workers carefully guided it into place. The project was nearing completion after seven months. It might be done by December, but probably not. No one came in the front door to the Cafe, but all came and went through the back door. There was no sidewalk beyond the front door, only danger. Just a glass window and a few feet separated comfortable coffee drinking patrons from tons of heavy equipment and dangerous swinging loads. It was a small, intense, heavy-construction zone, but if the River’s Edge Cafe was to survive the downturn in business, it had to suffer the hazards and continue to be open. It was a time to struggle for both business and homeless.

Before NASA, Da Vinci and quiet Nano could come back to the subject of the Thanksgiving holiday, a customer walked over to the table and smiled at the threesome.

“Hello, my name is Nancy Rose Gardener. How are you three doing?”

Da Vinci choked slightly.

“Not bad” lied NASA politely. After all, they were three homeless men with no prospects for a job, a home, a return to families or what most others considered ‘normal’. It was really quite a stupid thing for someone to ask a known homeless person how he, she or they would be doing. What truthful reply can a homeless person give a ‘normal’ person without seeming rude? Perhaps, ‘Oh, just swell, couldn’t be better’?

“I just wanted to wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving. I know you’re homeless people, but remember, we’re all living on this world together and I just wanted to say I hope Jesus blesses you this year and helps you with whatever your problems are. Like addictions, or broken families or getting a job or whatever. We’re all special.”

She walked away as the threesome digested it all silently. After her came an old man who extended his hand and said, “How are you doing?” But no one answered, being a bit stunned. The threesome did nod politely and smile up at the man in his clean clothes and freshly shaved face.

He held out a ten dollar bill to Nano who looked at it curiously. The man wagged it in front of Nano, but Nano just looked up at him blankly.

“He’s mute” said Da Vinci, smiling at the old man. “I’ll take it for him.” He reached out and snatched the ten-note.

The old man said, “Just split it between the three of you and again, I hope you’re doing very well.”

Smiling at a few others in the Cafe, the elderly gent walked back to his chair and sat down. Nano looked at the ten dollar bill in Da Vinci’s hand as did NASA.

“Well, that was nice of him”, said NASA. “Very Christian thing to do. I feel all better now about being homeless.”

“Yes” added Da Vinci, “Almost makes being poor, jobless and having a bath once or twice a week worthwhile.”

“Seriously” came back NASA, “It was nice of him to do that, but now we have a problem.”

“What’s that?”, questioned Da Vinci.

“What are we going to do with ten dollars?”

They looked over at Nano who said, “We can buy more Seattle’s Blend.”

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Chicago Navy Pier

Navy Pier in Chicago, 2012

In memory of Louis ‘Pops’ Hoffman, a kind old man.

In kindness many good things are found. Admiral Nano

 

Admiral Nano and Moses ‘Pops’ Thornton had gone downtown Chicago to Navy Pier. They were standing in line to get on the ferris wheel. Pop was trying to eat a hot dog and hold a coke at the same time while Nano was downing a burger and some lemonade. The line was slow and the sun hot. They’d have been sweating except today there was a cool breeze down at the lake and enough distraction to keep them looking around. Slowly they worked their way toward the front of the line.

“Pops”, said Nano. “Have you ever been here before?”

“Yep” Pops replied. “I was here way back in 1946 when I was just six. I don’t remember it that much then, but it’s changed a lot since then. After that I returned often. Back when I was a bit older, it was mostly just a place you came to see big boats or get on one to go somewhere, like over to New York. If you wanted to get to New York cheap and you had no car, you could get on a boat third class. No one really flew planes back then and many didn’t have cars, so boat was easy. Just get on here at Navy Pier, go over the lakes, up the Erie Canal and get off in New York. Well, not New York City exactly, but close.”

“Interesting” Nano said. “Did you ever make that trip yourself?”

“No, I never did it” he said as the line moved forward to load more people on the ferris wheel towering over them and Navy Pier. Only a hundred more people ahead of them in line, then they’d be soaring in a little metal chair hundreds of feet up in the air. Nano was beginning to wonder if this was a good idea.

“So Pops” Nano quizzed, “You grew up in Chicago. Why you always stayed here? Never seen other places much?”

“Well, I been around, but I just stayed here. Chicago is home, family is here, lots to do. Why move?”

“When you was young Pops, what did you want to be?”

“I wanted to be a nurse. I went to nursing school.”

Nano frowned, “You didn’t become a nurse did you?”

Pop smiled, “No, but I did learn to take care of folks. I got work taking care of people, that’s kinda like nursing you know.”

They finished eating in line just before climbing into a ferris wheel seat two could ride. Nano found it exciting, then disconcerting when it jerked to a stop after a quarter turn up to load more people aboard below them. Then they were rotated slowly a couple times before they were stopped at the very top of the wheel. It was a very good view from the top of the waterfront area along Lake Michigan. The wind was stronger up since it was not blocked by buildings. Birds flew below them and boats left wakes on the water as they sailed or motored around the piers or along the shore of Chicago. The sudden jerk of restarting made Nano frown, but Pop was all smiles all the time. He seemed to be both looking around and at everything, but at some moments looking toward the horizon and nothing in particular, perhaps thinking of some past memory of being here. Another turn or two and they were let out at bottom to be replaced by others clambering for their seats.

Over the next hours Pops and Nano visited all the sights on Navy Pier. They played games, saw booths, ate various things until their stomachs started to complain about it. They considered a souvenir but decided not to. Money was hard to come by being homeless and unemployed. There was no room in their small, students’ locker for anything but essentials and few of those. It had been all they could do just to get to downtown Chicago on a train and have money left to get back and food. Admiral Nano and Pops entered a large building of glass with soaring beams and lots of people and activity. A street musician was playing a harmonica and singing some blues. They stopped to listen and gave up a slim dime to his collection hat, despite being broke themselves.

At one place as they stood in line for some ribs, a lady in front of them dropped a earring. The black lady looked around for it, but Pops spotted it first and picked it up. While the lady and two of her friends looked at Pop, he returned the ear jewelry.

“Nice” he said, extending it over to her.

“Thanks” said the large black lady, smiling at Pops. Nano behind Pops grinned. He’d seen her sneak a peek at Pops and in his opinion, she fumbled the dangle purposely.

“Well, thank you very much sir” she said. She put out her large hand to Pop introducing herself, “My name is Stella Beambroad. My friends call me ‘Stellar’.” She smile large as she could at Pops, only sparing Nano a brief polite glance.

“Moses Thornton” said Pops, his gray beard waggling a bit as he also put on his reading glasses to stare at her in focus. “They call me Pops.”

“Oh my, I like that name. Shows wisdom. Such a good looking man too. I bet you know a lot of things don’t you?”

Pop cast a quick glance at Nano, ascertaining he wasn’t feeling put out or left out, but actually interested in this development. Turning back to the woman, Pops politely laughed and responded, “Oh no, I’m just an old man enjoying life. Ain’t nothing worth nothing if it makes you unhappy.”

“See there, you are wise Pops. I like you” said the well dressed lady, her shiny purse with golden chains glinting in the light inside the large building where they stood still in line. There was a lot of standing in lines at Navy Pier Nano had learned. “I bet you drive all the ladies crazy with that cute smile of yours. You remind me of Morgan Freeman. He tall and good looking too.”

Pops snickered a bit. He was not particularly tall, but he’d accept good looking. Why not? He smiled up at the lady, briefly watching her hat’s feather flop around in the artificial breeze the air conditioning was providing inside the glass building. She was dressed as if she’d just left a downtown Chicago church. Sunday morning brought lots of people over to Navy Pier on sunny days to enjoy as family and friends. Pops and Nano had to scrounge for a couple weeks to pull this off from the far suburbs of Chicago, but that just made it all the better reward to be here.

“Thank you very much” said Pops stroking his beard thoughtfully like a gentleman and smiling pleasantly at the lady. “I like the way you are dressed too. How was church service today?” he inquired.

Stellar smiled largely, pleased to have gotten the compliment and having been guessed a regular attending, properly respectful church lady. “Pops, we had us just the best service in a long time. We had a visiting preacher name of Reverend Justin Gliber, nice young black man. Knew all about the bible and just got out of seminary school. Doing a bit of preaching for practice along the lines of some history he had been studying. He told us about how Jesus lived in those days, what it must have been like, how the Romans treated the Jews and all. It was very interesting. Lots of things I didn’t know. I can’t remember most of them now though, but it all was good to know.”

Nano looked at his shoes and smiled.

“Sounds like it was a good day for you then” said Pops. “You staying for the fireworks?”

“No, I can’t stay”. She looked at him sadly. “I have to get back and get supper ready for the grandkids. They coming over later and we going to have us a big meal. Fried chicken, tater salad, greens, watermelon, all under the trees out back. I got to go cook it all up soon.”

“Well, I’ll bet you put on a great meal Stella My mother always told me how to spot a lady who could cook and I think you can cook.”

She turned curious, “How do you spot ’em Pops?” the lady said, plucking at her pearl necklace, which drew Pops gaze to a bit of cleavage, which caused her to smile in a ‘Mission Successful’ smile. Like the previous war though, this one was just starting.

“Well, I can’t tell you here, but maybe if we was to know each other better, I might one day.”

The smile on her face said it all. She broke out a pen and a little notebook and wrote down her number. She handed it over to Pops saying, “Okay Pops, there is my number. Now you won’t embarrass me by not calling will you?”

“Oh never” smiled Pops. “I want some of that fried chicken. Just enjoy your family and I’ll give you a call tomorrow when your not so busy.” He folded the paper up and stuck it in his shirt pocket.

At that point they were all at the front of this line again and she ordered her meal. A minute later, hands full of plate with food, she turned to Pops as he and Nano moved up, “Now please call Pops. We got lots to talk about.”

“I shall do that” said Pops and gave her a polite nod as she hustled off with her two friends who’d never said a word, but had listened plenty. The trio of well dressed ladies moved away with a few glimpses back at Pop as they spoke quickly and quietly.

As Pops stepped up to order he glanced at Nano with a large smile and laughed. Life is what you make of it said the smile. Their orders collected, they went to nearby tables inside the building and sat to eat under a towering plastic tree which gave off electric light shadows. Not Mother Nature stuff, but still symbolic of life. Nano looked over at Pops.

“Pops, are you really going to call that lady tomorrow?”

“Yep. I sure am.”

“Why?” ask Nano.

“Why not?” ask Pops.

“Well, you don’t really know her” said Nano. “But then again, you have to met her to learn more.”

“Oh, I know her. I mean, I knows her type. Been around them all my life. She could be a lot of things, even much trouble. Probably though she’s lonely, lost her man somehow. Now she goes to church and wonders as she gets old if another man will ever share her life. She’s got her friends, but it ain’t the same as having a man open doors for you, take notice, say nice things. She’s most likely always gone to church, a baptist church downtown. She’s probably a very nice lady. I could spend some time with her. Be better than the emergency shelter I’m at.”

“What will she do if she learns you’re living at the Aurora homeless shelter?” ask Nano.

“Depends. She might be polite but stop being interested. Same as anyone might be. But I think she likes me and she’d understand. Black people have a lot of suffering they share in common with each other. We tend to be more forgiving about our brothers and sisters who have less than others. White people are tough on each other. Black people can’t be so much that way, cause many of us have been poor or homeless or broke.”

Nano nodded. Soon their meal eating was done and they made their way toward the end of the dock. The night was approaching and lots of people would be around for the fireworks. Those there first got the best seats or places to stand. Nano had some other things to talk to Pops about. Pops wasn’t very old, but at his age, he’d lived most of his years and seen and experienced much. Nano liked Pops and how he treated others. Pops had problems, but for however they kept him down or hurt them, he was kind and smiled at others. Nano wanted to listen and learn from Pops.

 

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Cultural Homelessness

Adequately Evolved ?

So what attitude needs changing?

Except for the poverty, uncleanliness, hopelessness, depression, lack of intelligent discourse, subjugation of free will, surrender of personal independence, the forced acceptance of being ‘unworthy’, the smirk of the ‘worthy’ self-righteous, homelessness is not so bad.

Admiral Nano

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me;
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Emma Lazarus – The New Colossus – words for The Statue of Liberty

It was two o’clock in the morning and Jim ‘Father’ Pope, a fine guitarist and a somewhat hyperactive man, had been conversing with Admiral Nano in the warehouse. Around them at this early morning hour were two hundred homeless men sleeping either on aluminum cots or in metal bunk beds. They were conversing at a folding school table, sitting on the little round seats as far removed from the sleeping men as possible. ‘Da Vinci‘ Jack Jones, a very bright and well educated person had joined them a few minutes ago. And now out of curiosity Standing Bear had come over to see what all was going on. He went by the nickname of ‘Chief’ and was a half blooded Native American Sioux. He was also a paid staff member of the church oriented, charity supported, Aurora Emergency Shelter. A stranger group you would not likely see anywhere, but somehow it made sense in the microcosm of humanity at the Aurora IL shelter.

“Chief” ask Father, “Is there homelessness amongst the Native Americans, I mean, in the old days.”

“Me no can tell pale face” said Chief smiling widely. “Me thinkum homelessness came from white man, like scalping, small pox and reservations.”

After some subdued laughing to keep from wakening the sleepers of the dirty, sooty, poorly heated warehouse that was substituting for the main shelter these days during it’s extremely overdue and poorly time renovations, the foursome returned to the subject.

“Seriously Chief, I have an opinion, but I want to hear yours about Indians.” Father brought the question back into focus.

“Opinions are like white men, everybody is stuck with them.” Then Chief dropped his favorite form of humor. “Lucky for you, I happen to know something about Injuns. No, there was no homelessness amongst the Natives, not in my tribe or any other I’ve heard about.”

“Why was that?” said Da Vinci.

“It had to do with how we lived and thought. A cultural thing” explained Chief.

“It was hard to be homeless. Indians lived in groups and they depended on each other for strength and survival. Now days, people cast out those that they don’t want or ignore those that end up here, like you white men. Indians didn’t do that. Even if you were some sort of outcast from a tribe, you weren’t homeless. There was nothing to keep you from making your own lodge or tepee, hunting your own game, marrying, or doing about anything you wanted to do. Native American’s had no house payments, no taxes, no bureaucracy, needed no banks or even permissions to do what they wanted to do. They lived in simpler times with a less complex culture. They didn’t have an economy like the one these days. They all believed in the Great Spirit, not like today where some people are Christians or Catholics or agnostics or atheists. To keep someone homeless made no sense to tribes and was a waste of a human spirit and being. We value our brothers, sisters, women folk, families. Our old are revered. The helpless were taken care of. We helped as best we could those hurt or lame and considered those insane blessed by the Great Spirit. We treasured our diversity of spirit since the Great Spirit created us all. We were uniformly believers in destiny, honor and sacrifice for the tribe and each other.”

“That is what I thought” said Father. “It’s a cultural thing. Now suppose that Americans had never come to this land and that Native Americans had experienced an Industrial Revolution. If they had of developed a modern society on their own do you think Native Americans would have homelessness?”

“I don’t think so, because all the values that were a part of our culture still come forward. We’d just be more modern and that would produce new stresses, but we’d still be praying to the great spirit with a culture tens of thousands of years old. We’d still value freedom and our independence, our own forms of governing, our cultural history and taking pride in it. We’d have to undergo a total mental change to let homelessness happen. Then we would have lost our old culture and replaced it with something else. We no longer be the same kind of people. The question of our culture and why it didn’t have homelessness would be irrelevant.”

“I agree” said Da Vinci. “Native Americans are not alone in having never had homelessness. For most of history, mankind had no homelessness, or very little of it.” They turned to listen to Da Vinci now.

“For instance, Eskimos had no homelessness. Neither do Amazon tribes. Aborigines, Bushmen, Africans, ancient Egyptians, Romans and Chinese dynasties experience little or no homelessness. Their cultures or leader or government were such that it wasn’t possible or feasible. Dictators and emperors, kings and tyrants have always used people like resources to build and carry out their edicts. An unused peasant, slave or even a freeman was a wasted resource if he wasn’t being used or had no job. Whereas today we are kept from starving by our government or sometimes social charity, in times past, you’d usually starve to death or die of disease. Homelessness in that way was a self-solving problem. Aside from morality, such loss of population in times where people didn’t live so long was an impractical situation. Experience is even more valuable when people live shorter lives and have less time to gain it. It was not good for your kingdom to have unproductive people who were still supported. Such folks either died or they were put to work for the benefit of a nation or ruler.

“I think that must be right” said Chief. “Native Americans value the wisdom of the old ones and the experiences they have learned from. That experience helps a tribe to make better decisions, keep people well. But sometimes when people were old and feeble and times were hard, the old ones would leave the tribe to die alone. In this way they wouldn’t be taking resources like food in wintertime from those who needed it more. They contributed to tribal survival by making for the Happy Hunting Grounds, to join their ancestors and met the Great Spirit. It was considered an honorable thing to do. No one ordered them to go. The individual made that decision for themself.”

“So, Nano” said Chief, politely bringing the man into the conversation, “if the theory is right that the values of a culture are what determines the existence of homelessness, because here in the present world there are still societies that have little or no homeless people, what will it take for homelessness to disappear mostly from all of the human race? You say you’re a historian from outer space. What do you say?”

Nano without hesitancy said, “Assuming mankind doesn’t eliminate itself first then eventually mankind will have no homelessness” said Nano. “And while that may be a long time to some people’s way of thinking, it won’t be compared to all of human history because things on Earth are changing at a more rapid pace all the time. There is a good chance that by the end of this century mankind might have no homelessness, But even if it does,it will be greatly diminished and disappearing.”

“Why” said Father, getting back into his own conversation.

“Because of the direction humankind is headed in general. Many attitudes that humans are using now have created inefficient systems which are under tremendous stress to the point of nearly breaking. Such attitudes and the systems they created have not evolved adequately. They no longer can support your demand for lifestyle and culture. They will break very soon. That will result in many years of chaos. People who survive this long period of chaos will reexamine the past and learn from the mistakes. They will come to have different attitudes. That will create better, more flexible, more efficient systems. One of those attitudes and systems will be how to deal with homelessness.

Secondly will be the effect of greater technology on the lesser and remaining population of Earth. Technology is on a path to make fundamental changes to your culture. If just nanotechnology alone matured it would change the way humans experience life in ways you can hardly imagine now. But such trends of development do not happen apart from one another. One field now drives several others. The combining of several mature fields of science into one goes far beyond what mankind has previously known. It’s an exponential outcome. The time is very near when several very important technologies are about to mature and combine. In the new world they produce people will no longer live the same as people do now. Almost everything will be done differently. In this new environment of humanity, homelessness will not be possible in the classic example.”

“So you believe homelessness will end sometime soon?” said Da Vinci.

“Yes” answered Admiral Nano. “Mankind does learn, though sometimes he has to pay a great price for it.”

“That is very true” said Chief. “Native American’s might not have had homelessness, but neither did our ancient traditions and culture have flexibility and so when white men came, our culture started dying. We had no way to incorporate change fast or a willingness to do so. We died mostly as a culture because we couldn’t learn fast enough or adapt to demands. Our systems failed. Our culture is now mostly gone.”

Soon the foursome broke up and went back to bed. Back at his staff table, Chief stared for awhile at his hands and shook his head. They were hands that his great grandfather would have used to hunt buffalo and live on The Great Plains. Then Standing Bear returned to work typing with his hands on the computer.

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William Tell

“Now that is good music” said The Roller Dennis while listening to music on his computer. He turned a bit toward Lawyer Joe as he made ready to roll another cigarette, or square. “What are you listening to?” he ask Lawyer Joe.

“What are you listening to?” Lawyer answered, returning the question. He was also creating cigarettes the same way as The Roller while listening to his own music on his own system. On the small round table in the warehouse he had a pile of tobacco and some tubes, that is, empty cigarette casings with attached filters. He would pick up a pinch of tobacco and push it into a small depression in a cigarette making device. Then he’d insert a cigarette tube, close the machine and manipulate a slide mechanism which pulled the tube inside around the tobacco in the depression, filling the tube with tobacco. Reversing the slide pushed out a stuffed cigarette ready to smoke, after a few table taps to settle the tobacco and perhaps a pinch at the end to make sure it was tight. To his right The Roller was doing the same thing the same way. To The Roller’s right sat Raccoon Man Jimmy Smits, who was simply observing and chumming it up with his pals here at the table. Completing the crowded foursome was Nano, also listening to music on his computer. Three people listening to music on three computers while two of them made cigarettes and the fourth just stared gaped tooth listening and occasionally chortling a ‘whoohooo’ to whatever seemed funny or a polite jab at another.

The Roller, “I ask you first”.

Lawyer Joe, “Yeah, but I thought of asking it first.”

Laughter from Raccoon Man, rubbing his nose that was healing from a lost nose bout with a wall. That is, his face contacted cement when he took a tumble off his bike while DUI, on a bicycle. Fortunately, no police were involved and there was probably no law broken. He suffered a busted snout where his face first made contact with the road and some fractured ribs.

So The Roller answered, “Well, if you must know, I’m listening to …. uh… hmmm. I forget the guys’ name. You know the guy that wrote ‘Baby Got Back’. The Roller glanced over at Lawyer to see if he had heard it clearly in the warehouse, full of noise as it usually was, including a half dozen black guys yelling at their normal volume while standing next to one another. Then there were the other nearly two hundred voices echoing in the nasty, soot covered, metal roofed, cinder-block structure. It was a wonder the warehouse mice got any sleep before their nightly scavenging activity of finding food on the floor. The spiders, mosquitoes, biting flies and other insects had long ago given up being smashed, hunted and even dying from the bites they had inflicted on dirty humans. Being an insect in the warehouse was tough. Biting people who had no good smelly soap on them from lack of wash facilities was a mortal mistake. Even insects can only stand so much filth to bite through to a nice good meal.

“Your listening to rap?” said Lawyer to The Roller. “You can’t do that, your white.”

“Whoohoo”, said Raccoon Man, grinning, his gaped teeth showing. He was a very pleasant fellow, good humored and friendly. While one might get some charity dental service for a problematic molar or some dental emergency, any major service like teeth straightening or dentures was not going to happen. As it was, Raccoon Man slurred his words since he had no front teeth to help form consonants. Raccoon Man laughed and pointed at The Roller, driving home Lawyer Joe’s quip.

“I can like rap if I want to” replied The Roller grinning. They always did this with each other, back and forth, teeter-tottering on any subject that gave them the chance to poke each other. It was like a form of psychotherapy in that it was a bit of fun, a bit of perceived sanity protecting one from all the really horrible conversation constantly battering oneself like waves crashing on sea cliffs. The warehouse is a condensed, concentrated place of some of the worse human traits and to stay sane requires an active defense. Continuous conversations about prison, wanting to hurt someone else, who stole what from who, who said something nasty to whom, who was or is now drunk, high on drugs, making out with whom, sleeping in the park on cardboard, hid alcohol and where, an endless stream of depressing subjects by nitwits pretending they were ‘normal’ was no way to keep one’s sanity. Humorously jousting with a pal was an active defense even if the subject was a bit childish. To The Roller and Lawyers’ credit, they often talked about more serious subjects, like when they had to be in court, how low they were on tobacco or tubes, what status of repair where needed on their bikes, where they were headed each morning, usually a selection of two McDonalds, the library, two other soup lines in Aurora to eat at, plus the odd store visit or friend to be met for a ride to somewhere for something.

“Well, I’m listening to Celine Dion” said Lawyer, proudly representing a better choice in music and finally answering The Rollers’ initial question.

“Celine Dion” snorted The Roller. “She’s Canadian isn’t she? Canadians can’t sing, only say ‘Eh’ and go to hockey games.”

“She makes millions of dollars in Las Vegas” defended Lawyer. “Better to listen to her than some rapster.”

“Oohhooo!” said Raccoon Man, which paused the conversation as The Roller and Lawyer quit rolling for a second and stared at him.

“At least we got computers to listen with” said Lawyer to Raccoon Man. “What you got?”

“Hey, I don’t need no computer. I can go to the library and listen to music on the computers there anytime I want.”

“No you can’t” corrected Lawyer, living up to his querying and contrary ways. “You can only use a computer for forty five minutes at a time, once per day at the library, unless they aren’t busy. Then they can ‘extend’ you if they want to.”

“Well, I don’t have to have a computer” said Raccoon Man.

“He doesn’t know how to use a computer anyway” said The Roller.

“I know how to use a computer” argued Raccoon Man. “I even have an email address.”

“When is the last time you checked your email?” queried Lawyer.

“Oh, last summer, I think”.

“Last summer?” Lawyer laughed. “You forgot how to check it didn’t you?”

“Yeah, well, I still don’t have to own a computer” and Raccoon Man rubbed his nose again where the large bandage covered his wounded snoot.

Trying to avoid more, he dodged toward Nano who’d been quite as usual, but listening with a small half-formed smile. “Admiral Nano” said Raccoon Man grinning, “What are you listening too? Country?”

Nano, “No. The William Tell Overture.”

“Whoohoo” said Raccoon Man, pointing at Nano and looking at Lawyer and The Roller. “I bet he misses the apple.” The Roller and Lawyer shook their heads.

Nano smiled, turning his memory again to days long ago when composers struggled to feed themselves. Mozart, Bach, Rossini, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin and many more created music that would last for centuries. Their operas and music halls were attended by royalty and peasants. They were the stars of their day. Patrons vied for their service, to be that noble man who retained great artists in their employ or for their kingdom. It was called The Renaissance. If only mankind could have another renaissance now of higher thinking and ethics.

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The Last Roman

Roman Soldier

You still shall tramp and tread on endless round
of thought, to justify your action to yourselves,
weaving a fiction which unravels as you weave,
pacing forever in the hell of make-believe
which never is belief.

T.S. Elliot – Murder in the Cathedral

Nano walked at night back from downtown Aurora, IL. He hoped to make it back to the homeless shelter where he lived in the primitive facility sometimes called The Warehouse. He hoped to make it before they gave away his poor bed to someone else leaving him an unsure place to lay for the night. It might be on a picnic table out in the cold wind, or to sit up all night on a wooden bench shivering. It was less important to him he managed to find a meal this late than a bed under a roof, even if amongst over two hundred other desperately sheltered people in Aurora, City of Lights. The City of Lights was mostly dark now at this hour and as for the ‘normal’ citizens, the light of charity for those poor souls in their midst was only acknowledge by a few and served by less. Still the volunteers who came to the shelter were well thought of by those whom they served.

Admiral Nano started across the North Street Bridge over the Fox River. As he neared the river, he heard a far cry. In a moment Nano was gone from where he’d stood. Now he watched a short distance away as two men assaulted another. It was Lord Aurelius being attacked by two men, ‘Podum’ Bubba Washington and ‘Two Lunches’ Leroy Johnson. They had Lord Aurelius at bay. Podum was a tall, black man with no particular skills, no verbal clarity and very bad character. So was Two Lunches, so named for regularly taking as many bagged lunch meals was he could con volunteers into giving him, regardless of limited supply and the need of the others. Both were abusive types, smug in their apparent invulnerability and self-centeredness.

Aurelius was bleeding badly from several wounds given by the knives of the two thugs. He swayed palely on his feet, gripping his wounded sides with one hand in pain. He held his other arm out and cried to them. “No, wait. I’ll pay you. I just need a day or two”, he gasped.

Ignoring his plea for life, Podum cursed him. “We’re going to kill you Marcus. Marcus was his real first name. You should have done what we told you motherfucker. Now you gonna die fucker.” They started for him again, Podum from front and Two Lunches from the back even as Aurelius fell to his knees in weakness. Then like statues the vicious assassins froze. They moved not at all, not an eye twitched, but past them came Nano to Aurelius. Aurelius barely recognized Nano as he toppled slowly to the wet ground in his dirty clothes. His breath smelled of vodka and his eyes were glazed with pain and and a distant unfocused look.

“Nano, look out, they’ll get you too”, warned Aurelius, but Nano shook his head. “You are safe now Lord Aurelius” Nano said quietly. “They have stopped and you are with me.”

Aurelius looked at Nano. He relaxed, feeling less pain and a peace came over him as Nano held him.

“Nano, are we going to have more conversations you and I? Am I hurt bad Nano?”

“Yes, we shall talk and see one another again and yes, you are hurt bad. You are dying Lord.”

“I am?”, he looked down at himself and saw the great flow of blood from his deep wounds. “I am undone”, Lord Aurelius said, hearkening back to ancient times. “Is this where I say, ‘Etu Brutus?'” He laughed, grimacing in pain as he quoted old Caesar.

“I tell you this Lord Aurelius” said Nano.

“Such is the fate of simple Bard,
On life’s rough ocean luckless starr’d.”

“Who wrote that?” ask Aurelius.

“Robert Burns” answered Nano.

“Ah, I like him. I used to …. read him when …. I was young”. Aurelius began to pass. “Nano, I …. I’m scared.”

“Be not afraid, for you go whence you came from good man. I shall visit you shortly there and we shall talk of many things.”

“Thank you Nano” and then Aurelius shivered and left this world.

Nano smiled at him for a few moments, then set him down gently. He rose and faced the still unmoving attackers. His demeanor was not obvious, but a strange light increased in his eyes. Intense blue light burned there in a moment, his body cast a feint blue glow, became slightly insubstantial. He touched lightly one attacker, then the other. They laid themselves on the ground near Aurelius and fell deep into sleep.

The next day was bright with sun and Nano sat inside the Warehouse eating cold cereal, a paltry, bare breakfast. In the distance the sound of police sirens was heard complementing those that had been heard for the last half hour now. A shelter ‘guest’ sat near Nano. He’d been telling all who strained to hear about the commotion in Aurora that he’d seen that morning first hand.

“Marcus Strong is dead. Bubba Washington and Leroy Johnson did it. They found them sleeping right next to Marcus. The killed him with knives and then they laid down next to him and fell asleep the police are saying.”

“Why would they go to sleep next to him” said another guest. That was the mystery, at least for a few days. Two days later Podum and Two Lunches were found in their respective jail cells, hanging from the bars.

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My Kingdom For A Bed

“To be shelterless and alone in the open country, hearing the wind moan and watching for day through the whole long weary night; to listen to the falling rain, and crouch for warmth beneath the lee of some old barn or rick, or in the hollow of a tree; are dismal things–but not so dismal as the wandering up and down where shelter is, and beds and sleepers are by thousands; a houseless rejected creature.”

Charles Dickens – Barnaby Rudge

Something rare happened at the warehouse, Raccoon Man, that is Jimmy Smits, was put out for a single night. He was a peaceful man, but a trouble maker named ‘Loudmouth’ Leroy Crumb involved him in an argument threatening violence and they both ended up thrown out to the night. The only justice was that Loudmouth was out for a week, which was a blessing to many. Not only was Raccoon Man a peaceful person, but a simplistic, honest, very likable person. He never insulted, hurt or caused trouble and to no one’s knowledge had he ever been put out before. There was nothing to be done about it. Once staff made a decision it was like one made by a baseball umpire. As he prepared to leave out into the cold winter day already dark and hostile, Nano got up, grabbed his small pack and met him near the door out of the warehouse.

“Where are you going?” said Raccoon Man as he noticed Nano come up behind him.

“I’m going with you”, Nano smiled.

Now they were friends and Raccoon Man understood why Nano might come. But he felt a bit concerned for Nano in a similar way. “It’s cold out here Nano. You’ve never been put out. You sure you want to go with me? It could be unpleasant.”

“Yes, he’s sure” said Coke Bottle, Ben Lines. He was another friend of Nano’s who wore about the thickest glasses you could imagine in frames. He was lanky and prone to be gone for long stretches when averted by his own devil, an ill addiction to drugs. But Nano knew him for the good heart he had. Raccoon Man and Coke Bottle knew each other, but didn’t tend to hang out together.

“If I don’t go with you and Nano, you’ll both be miserable some rotten place. I know a lot of places to sleep outside. Are we ready?” Nano and Raccoon Man nodded, letting Coke decide where they were headed. Would it be under a bridge, in some spot of trees and bushes away from legal eyes, some ditch, abandoned building, a park bench or bus stop or inside some building they could sneak into. All were possible and much more, especially with Coke along for a guide. They left and staff watched them leave. There was some wondering why two volunteered to accompany the first out. No one went with Loudmouth who poked around in back of the warehouse by his locker, trying to cheat his penalty as long as possible till staff threatened to call the police.

It turned out Coke lead the trio to a pretty remote spot, given it was in the middle of Aurora and on an island not usually of use to anyone. There were signs of other previous use, but no one was there now or would be this night. It was a cleared dirt area amongst trees and showed marks of previous campfires. There was leftover trash around, but on the whole it was clean, meaning no nearby piles of human excrement, a thing which often came with spots like this. They settle down, spreading the one blankets they had brought with them. It was only 8pm and a long ways to dawn, not that the morning sun would bring much warmth. It was below freezing already and would be nearer to zero much before dawn.

“Well, one way to stay warm is build a fire and stay up most of the night, moving around, making the night shorter by conversation” said Coke, who’d many times been ejected, the pro in this otherwise rookie group.

“You guys don’t have to be here” said Raccoon Man. “It’s cold in the warehouse, but it’ll be better than here.”

Nano nodded in agreement. “Yes, it would be, but I’ve kinda wanted to do this to see what it’s like, so I’ll stay. At least I won’t be alone and have decent company to experience it with.”

“Absolutely” said Coke, “and it really does help to have company, though it usually amounts to more than one bad guy being ejected together. It was wrong to put you out Raccoon Man. You never cause trouble. But Loudmouth is an idiot and got more days out than you. Anyway, we’re here now. Let’s build a fire. Let’s find some dead wood.”

That didn’t take long and soon with a cigarette lighter a pleasant warming fire was going, though a bit countered by a chill breeze. While they were inside the city of Aurora, it seemed more countryside due to the nature of their camp. Nano gazed up, but in the city lights few stars could be seen. While they gazed at the fire, Nano excused himself and went into the woods not far from camp. He stood still for a bit looking up at the sky, he seemed to say something brief. A brief shimmering took place in the air, like a transparent dome around the camp area. He returned to the camp and sat again. The wind calmed, the fire blazed a bit more merrily, more stars appeared in the sky and there was less noise afar from traffic, the immediate area became warmer.

“I’m not really tired” said Raccoon and Dave threw a stick from their pile into the fire as he smiled. “What can we talk about?” said Raccoon Man.

“I don’t know”, said Coke Bottle. “Nano, tell us a story. You’re good at making things up.” Normally that would be prelude to a string of jests and teases, but Nano’s sense of humor wasn’t human and the nuances of it weren’t ready for him to try.

“Okay” he said with no preamble. “Any particular type you’d like to hear?”

“Yeah, one that is warm and contains a good meal. That ham sandwich supper of one with beans and water and chips… I’m still hungry.”

Nano took out of his small backpack three small packages. He handed one each to his camp mates who opened them. They removed fried chicken, potato salad, corn on the cob, a cold bottle of coke, a brownie, napkins, a plate and some plastic utensils.

“Nano, we didn’t have chicken at dinner. You could get in trouble bringing in food and stuff from outside the warehouse. Christ Nano, you could have major time out”, exclaimed Coke Bottle. “I didn’t even know you had a link card.”

Nano didn’t have a Food Stamp card. He had a backpack and he smiled at them, but averted his eyes upward. Looking at the stars Nano pointed to Betelgeuse, the large red star in the constellation Orion. “I have a story for you”, he said to Coke Bottle and Raccoon Man. “Do you see Betelgeuse up there in Orion?” They nodded after he told them which star it was.

“On a planet near it lived a young boy with his father. His father was a magician of average ability who made his living though his craft, helping people live happier, better lives. Many people of his civilization had interesting abilities that together were usually beneficial for all. But as the father grew old his magic grew feeble while his son’s skill grew. The boy was young and inexperienced in his magic, so there came a time when the father’s skill had mostly gone and they could no longer live in the home they had and provide for themselves.

They moved to a place of high mountains in far woods and a cave located there. The cave was cold and damp in winter and hot and dirty in summer. It was far from the city. The boy did what he could to take care of his father and he practiced old crafts like hunting, but after a few years his father died. The boy buried him in the cave and vowed to make people pay for all those years his father had served the community faithfully and beneficially, yet was ignored and left without help when he was aged and helpless. The boy became a lowly servant of other mages who derided him for in him they saw great power forming and were jealous and threatened by what seemed an unusual and unidentifiable skill. In private places the boy practiced on his abilities, trying to identify them and use them, learn and grow.

After years he had become very skillful, yet still his skill continued to grow. The young man, now tall and serious hid his skill while pretending to be still confused by his possibilities of magic. He did not let anyone else know that he was growing to a great magician with an unusual ability. Still, there came the day when he choose to leave his master and the association of other mages. They could no longer help him only hold him back unknowingly. He returned to his father’s grave near the cave where he had lived and took up residence there. There he grew to his full power over the course of a few more years.

One summer day he came walking into town where the young mage and his father had lived. He was not dressed to show his power, not in mage robes with runes and family symbols. He stood near the town center, near the town wells and fountains. All around him were those people and families that his father had faithfully served as did other mages, but whom had done nothing to keep his father from suffering his final days in misery and poverty. The powerful young mage then cursed his fellow citizens, far and wide. He wanted to show them why they had been wrong.

Within a year, most people had lost their homes to carelessness and slothful decisions. The people of the area became poor and homeless. They had little to eat, suffered diseases that magic could no longer cure, crops went unblessed by magic, eaten by bugs. Fish left the local river, domestic animals failed to breed. People became haggard, weak, ill and resentful of anyone who had more than they did. To the people it seemed as if some great god had turned his hand against the people. But there was no great god in this society and the powerless mages who could not undo the unknown curse were held responsible for their lack of help. The mages for their part blamed their lack of solutions on people who had long taken for granted their magical powers and now had weakened it.

One day a man noticed the young boy and how clean and well fed he was. He recognized him and approached him with inquiry. Soon a crowd gathered around with many questions while the boy stood stoically with silence, not answering the questions put to him. Finally as the crowd grew resentful of his apparent prosperity, the boy responded.

“When my father and I were in poverty, father having spent his whole life providing his magic for all at the cost of those things he found necessary to live a simply, humble life, the people of this city, his acquaintances and friends, gave him nothing to ease his pain or show respect or to feed him. He died poor, dirty and sad in a wet dark cave. He died ill and sick with no one to help him. Now comes to you the same thing and you feel mistreated and angry, righteously indignant and unfairly compensated and treated by those who’s beneficial powers you have long taken for granted. I have given you the life my father knew when he had to leave his home. It is time for you to suffer as he did, with no chance of getting out of such trepidation and returning to what you are used to till you have learned what you should know and should have done. When you have learned the error of your ways then shall my curse on you be lifted. Generations might go by before this curse is lifted, but we cannot be so barbaric and self-centered this way again.”

The the people threatened him. That was of no consequence. Other mages now poor and disabled, threatened him, but his skill was unaffected and the young mage was much superior to their powers. They cursed him uselessly and despite all the things said to him, he was immune. Many years of hardship passed till finally the people learned the error of their way and promised to change. They promised to never treat anyone poorly, to not take help for granted, to honor service to the aged, poor and defenseless. So, the young mage released his curse. On the next occasion that the mighty and still young mage returned to town amongst new houses and all the other mages restored to their power, he was suddenly and with surprise attacked. So, sudden was the attack, so furious with hate that despite his great power, he could not counter all the magic and non-magic and was slain. But that was not the end of the story.

What he hadn’t said to them was that if they didn’t keep their promises, the nature of the curse would resume of it’s own design. So, the curse was reborn, stronger than before and with no way to be rid of it. The people became poorer than ever, struggling to survive, to eat, to counter the elements of the world in which they lived. Animals became infertile, diseases rampant and all the land was filled with sorry and suffering. Eventually they all perished from their world, leaving behind ruins of sorrow, hate and their great lie to the great mage as their only testament. Even today you may visit the few ruins still present from that age far past. The very land seems depressed. Some say one day another race will come to settle and thus the curse will finally come to an end with the innocence of new life. But today the wind whistles in sad notes where no birds or animals live, only trees, lakes and rivers empty of sentient life for that world refused to learn by intelligence.”

Nano finished with a glance up at Betelgeuse and then at Coke Bottle and Raccoon Man.

Raccoon Man laughed, “Well, that isn’t going to happen on Earth” he said, his gap-toothed grin showing the humor of Nano’s tale and the entertainment that it provided.

Coke Bottle smiled but wasn’t sure what to say, so he said nothing, but left for a smoke distancing himself a few steps from the camp fire. When he returned he said, “You know, it’s much warmer than I would have expected near our camp and the wind is less chill, not even really here, while a few feet away just past the first trees, it’s really cold now and windy. And for some reason, the stars are much dimmer in the woods nearby. It’s really weird.”

Raccoon Man shrugged and laid down to sleep, maybe thinking to himself the story again in his mind. Coke also settled himself onto his blanket on the ground and soon they were both asleep. Nano turned his eyes toward Betelgeuse and sighed quietly.

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The Evolution of Homelessness

‘When he is best, he is a little worse than a man, and when he is worst, he is little better than a beast.’

Shakespeare – The Merchant of Venice

‘Da Vinci’ Jack Jones, ‘Lord Aurelius’ Marcus Strong, and Admiral Nano sat in a Mexican restaurant eating tacos, fried rice and frijoles. Nano had invited them at his expense. The twosome had it’s perks. Not all homeless folk were of average or less education or capable of sustaining only trivial conversations of shallow nature. Some had quick minds and their life experiences were adding up to wisdom. That didn’t mean homeless like Da Vinci and Aurelius were immune to suffering problems that lead to homelessness, but that despite personal dilemmas some facets of introspective nature periodically were philosophically considered. In other words, Aurelius while being a drunk, could when sober very adequately converse about ideas beyond most other people, even ‘normals’. Da Vinci could easily consider carefully most any subject and give relevant and thoughtful insight and had no drug or addiction to alcohol. Da Vinci was homeless thanks to divorce.

“These are good beans” said Da Vinci. “I’m going to stuff myself silly here.”

“Frijoles” corrected Aurelius. “Do you think we can take a plate with us when we leave” he half joked.

Da Vinci continued, “This beats the sloppy-joes, small handful of messy potato chips and water we’d be having back in the warehouse.” Nano nodded emphatically while biting into another beef taco with hot sauce.

Nano swallowed, looked at his acquaintances and ask bluntly without introduction, “Have you two ever considered the evolution of homelessness?”

“Well, that didn’t take long” smiled Da Vinci. “I knew you wouldn’t make it past the first taco before making us pay for this meal, if not with money.” He smiled at Nano.

“Is it too late for me to have a plate prepared and leave before this conversation starts?” inquired Aurelius. Then he turned serious, the intrigue of the question stabbing his mind with curiosity. The two paused before Aurelius turned to Nano and defined the conversation more to be sure he was focused well on the subject.

“Are we talking evolution in the normal Darwinian sense or more psychological like mental evolution?” Aurelius was trying to wrap his mind around the topic.

Nano clarified the initial question. “Mental evolution as it pertains to concepts which advance a species’ social order. Or in this case, the evolution of homelessness over the history of mankind and how it affects human advancement toward a better society.”

Da Vinci started the subject off, most willing to participate in an interesting debate. “Nano, the first thing some might say is that evolution is a physical thing, not a mental thing. That is incorrect of course. Apes evolved into humans we believe, both physically and mentally over time. They evolved larger, more complicated brains which could support more knowledge and higher order thinking. In fact, the physical evolution probably wouldn’t have happened if the mental evolution wasn’t requiring it.”

“Right”, agreed Aurelius. “There is definitely mental evolution required in order to become more physically advanced. Mental evolution would also be required to develop more sophisticated societies and technologies. You can’t keep your thoughts the same over long periods of time and expect your culture to advance to a higher state. So, now the question is does something specific like homelessness evolve.”

Da Vinci thoughtfully spoke, “It would seem perhaps at first thought it wouldn’t, being not a physical thing. But we ought to make sure we are all on the same page when it comes to what homelessness is. My simple definition of homelessness would be a person without a place to live. I mean, today we’d say a person living in a cave is homeless, because they don’t own a normal home. But then some people still live in caves and have electricity and all the modern amenities in them. So, there are exceptions.”

“Lack of income could be a definition of homelessness, but it’s not a very good one because lots of people have no income but have a home to live in. Children for instance make no income but aren’t homeless living with their parents. People who live in wooden cabins in the woods might not live in a house with electricity from a pole or have a TV, but aren’t homeless. Poverty is a part of homelessness, but not everyone who is poor is homeless. So, probably is best if we kept it to just those people who have no shelter of their own.” Nano nodded at Aurelius in agreement.

Da Vince paused to see what Nano might say, but he remained quiet. Nano had posed the question to Da Vinci and Aurelius to see what they came to, plus in these types of conversations, he tended to be silent to think about what was being said.

Da Vinci, “Okay, then homelessness is defined, mental evolution is agreed upon. So, now we can think about whether homelessness is subject to mental evolution during the history of mankind.” Da Vinci paused to think about it as did Aurelius. After a minute he continued slowly.

“If there has been no evolution of homelessness during human history, then what we think of it is the same now as it always has been. I’m actually wondering right now if mankind has always had homelessness.”

“Good thought”, said Aurelius. “I think there has always been homelessness, because there has always been poverty and people who had no place to live. No wait! We decided poverty wasn’t a good basis for homelessness. A factor of course, but not the definition.”

“Well, maybe not ‘people who had no place to live’ either”, said Da Vinci. When we were all cavemen, there were a lot of caves to choose from. What Neanderthal wouldn’t be able to find a cave to live in? Neanderthal weren’t homeless. In medieval times if you wanted a home, all you had to do is build one. A peasant would know how to build a hut and just had to get the materials from nature, maybe couple tools.”

Aurelius, “Yeah, but then in medieval times you often had to live wherever your liege lord told you to and do whatever he told you to do. But your basically right, it wasn’t like peasants weren’t housed. The huts might have been very nasty, but it wasn’t hard to have one. Lords had to have peasants to work the land and peasants had to live in something, so lords provided materials or at least some tools I think for peasants to build their huts and villages.”

“So”, Da Vinci followed up Aurelius comment with, “there was little homelessness during the hundreds of medieval years. And certain cultures have never been homeless that I’ve ever heard of. You don’t hear about homeless Eskimos, Arab tribes, Native Americans before Columbus, Amazon tribes, most of Japanese culture and lots of others. Aborigines and Bushman and many other people were not homeless. That tells me that homelessness is a matter of the kind of society a group is living in. It seems to me that homelessness probably wasn’t much of a problem till the Industrial Revolution and people started moving into cities in mass in industrialized countries. Then there were more people than houses, so homeless people.”

Aurelius smiled, “Yeah, that sounds right. But we still haven’t addressed whether or not homelessness evolves over time in human history.” They paused again to consider the next logical part of it all.

“Well, if the way we think of homelessness doesn’t evolve, won’t we be stuck with it for as long as mankind is around? And if that is the case, how far can mankind be expected to evolve himself and his mind?” Da Vinci drew back as the thought of what he’d just said sank in.

All of a sudden the evolution of homelessness became much more clear in Da Vinci and Aurelius’ minds. They looked over at Nano, suspecting now what he had been trying to contemplate for himself. Nano straightened up a frown as he nodded.

Nano appeared solemn now. “That is the same point I’ve come to. If mankind doesn’t evolve his notions of homelessness, his attitudes related to dealing with it, the tacit acceptance of treating each other according to their prosperity or property, the class versus class struggle along the lines of self-centered greed, then this will stall human society. Given other cumulative, major problems, the burden of apathy and unwillingness to change could potentially result in the extinction of mankind, because mentally they quit evolving new cultural ways to deal with their problems.”

Aurelius said sincerely, “Well, we’re homeless and I’d like to see attitudes about homeless people change. It’s hard to believe not changing them might bring an end to modern society though.” Aurelius wasn’t quite prepared to accept that possibility as a potential extinction point.

Da Vinci got in the last point. “It’s already agreed on Aurelius it could happen.”

“How so”, ask Aurelius.

“Because we already agreed in our debate that if there isn’t mental evolution, there is no species’ evolution. If there is no species or cultural evolution then extinction is only a matter of time. No part of our minds can fail to evolve without eventually being such a problem as to threaten existence. If that were not so, then dinosaurs and dodo birds would still be around, not to mention Neanderthals.”

Nano said, “Then let’s hope that this homeless attitude society has changes soon.”

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To Sleep, Perchance To Dream

 

“Hidden in plain sight lie many treasures and answers not wanted or heard.”

Admiral Nano of Omicron IV.

Amongst the homeless that were at the Aurora Shelter that Admiral Nano had met and had some affinity for was Jack Jones, nicknamed Da Vinci, named after the famous inventor and painter,. His nickname was flattering, but it was a recognition by his friends of his knowledge and skills. He was not the first man to be at the shelter who had a good education or advanced skills but whom life had turned into a poor and homeless man by some method. Da Vinci’s main asset was not his educated mind or his knowledge of history or his diverse background, but his imagination. This was the main reason Nano liked him. It is one thing to be well schooled, but that normally dulls the mind, producing a man dependent on employment and addicted to a paycheck. Da Vinci was a rebel of sorts. He viewed life philosophically, not a matter of his circumstances, but of opportunities to grow.

This morning Da Vinci had invited Nano to come relax with him in a nearby park along the river close to the shelter. Having some curiosity and desire to break up their routines with something approaching an intellectual possibility, Father Pope and Lawyer Joe came along too. They found the cool shade of an elm tree to comfort them on the dry green grass. The morning blue sky promised a good day and mild temperatures with a pleasant breeze. They sat down and for a bit they all stared at the lazy rolling river below them near at hand. Ducks glided on it, the weight of a world not upon their shoulders. Nano lay down and inhaled the green life under and around him, distant sounds coming to ear. His mind skipped over similar remembrances of times past and future.

Lawyer Joe lighted a cigarette and gazed out across the river toward a nearby baseball field now empty of the smack of a bat on ball, the crowd of parents yelling encouragements to children as they pursued the ball and ran bases. Father closed his eyes, laid his head on arms folded behind him and seemed prepared to sleep more this morn. An enchantment was upon them none dare break for a short while, each to his own thoughts, but in harmony with one another as those who suffer together in some toil are likely to have. Da Vinci turned from gazing at the white clouds and looked at Nano for a time, staring without staring. Nano was aware of it, but said nothing. Finally the short eternity of peaceful silence ended like a bloom noiselessly opening itself to the sunshine.

Now Da Vinci said to Nano without looking at him, “Nano. Have you considered death?”

That is quite a potential subject and there is much that could follow in many directions. Many poets and authors have given much of their lives to such subjects for their fame. Admiral Nano did not pause to answer though.

“Yes, I have considered death.” That was typical of Nano, just answer the question, no ambiguity or evasion. To some degree, Da Vinci was like that, but he wanted … another insight, for his own consideration.

“Nano, are you afraid of death?” ask Da Vinci. Lawyer Joe turned and Father was still with his eyes closed, you just knew he was listening.

“No. I don’t fear death, but what you really want to know is why not, for you suspected I did not fear death already. I don’t fear what doesn’t exist.”

Lawyer Joe, “What makes you think there is no death?”

Before Nano could respond, a voice was heard. Coming toward them from behind them, from an area of nearby woods from along a nature trail, a familiar voice was heard. It was ‘Lord Aurelius’, Marcus Strong. With him was Jose ‘Cuervo’ Gold. Lord Marcus Aurelius had been the sixteenth emperor of ancient Rome, a leader of vision and successful general. Nano himself had nick-named Marcus Strong for the man’s face reminded him of the august Caesar. Cuervo was often seen in Lord Aurelius company as they drank themselves to oblivion. Now they approached, unaware yet of the foursome under the elms. Aurelius and Cuervo talked loudly of some recent trivial subject, laughing in good spirits. As they came on, down a cracked and littered way due to lack of maintenance and the night storm which had littered the wet ground with wet leaves and branches, Cuervo stumbled over an unnoticed limb. Going down, he threw out his arms, but inebriated as he was, he was slow and bounced his face off the rough path even as he fell into a puddle of muddy water alongside the narrow path.

Lord Aurelius stopped, an exaggerated expression of concern on his face as drunkenness will do. He reached for his friend and in the effort to help the stunned man rise, he too took a tumble and fell atop Cuervo and into the muddled, muddy puddle. They struggled to disentangle themselves from each other, sluggishly. Finally they sat next to one another in the puddle, laughing aloud. Blood dripped from the face of Cuervo, his face torn and scraped. The blood dripped upon his shirt, already dirty before he’d fallen, now much a mess.

“Cuervo” said Lord Aurelius, “you’re bleeding. You’re face is really bad.”

Cuervo moved a hand over his face inspecting it, found it bloody even as blood dripped from his nose to his shirt. “Yeah, I hurt myself” They laughed at each other. “But at least I didn’t fall on someone like a drunk moron.”

“No, you tripped on … that limb”, said Aurelius, spotting the object. “You tripped on a limb. Are you blind? Why did you do that? You trying to make yourself uglier than you already are?”

More laughing, despite the winch Cuervo gave as pain set in. “I need a drink.”

Aurelius took from his backpack, which he plopped in the puddle, a small bottle of vodka, half full. He passed it over to Cuervo. The bleeding man took a drink and said, “I feel better already.”

“You still look like crap” said Aurelius. “Let’s go to the shelter and get some bandages.”

Succeeding in struggling to stand without falling again, they started. It was then Cuervo and Aurelius spotted the foursome a short distance away that had observed the whole event quietly. Well, not quite quietly. There had been some laughing under the elms too.

“Hey guys”, said Lord Aurelius, victor of battles many against Roman foes like the Huns of what would become Germany one day. “We fell”. An epic understatement and not quite realizing yet in his stupor that would have been plainly observed by Nano, Da Vinci, Father and Lawyer. The twosome smiled sheepishly at the foursome. Aurelius and Cuervo continued along the nature trail toward the shelter, dripping blood, mud and water.

Nano looked at the other three, ending with Lawyer Joe. “Let me remind you of something Shakespeare said in relation to death and perhaps considering our just now passed friends. It is Hamlet speaking.”

To die, to sleep–
No more, and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to–’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep.
To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil
Must give us pause.

It could be assumed Lawyer, Father and Da Vinci had heard those lines before at some point in life. They thought, nodding as each realized the connection between pausing uncertainly to consider the implications of death and what comes after as though a dream to be wished for or not.

“Nano”, inquired Da Vinci, “How do you think of things like that?”

“Much have I seen and known–cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honored of them all–
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met.”

“Who said that?” ask Father for the first time speaking. He rolled upon the ground to look at Admiral Nano. They all looked at him, Lawyer grinning in expectation of something silly to be said.

“Ulysses” answered Nano. “Then Lord Alfred Tennyson the British poet said it.”

“Wasn’t Ulysses at the Battle of Troy when they fought for Helen?” said the educated Da Vinci.

“Yes he was” said Nano.

“How does Tennyson know Ulysses said that?” ask Lawyer Joe.

“I told him” said Nano.

Skipping the obvious question, Lawyer continued. “How do you know Ulysses said that?”

“I was at Troy. So, I tell you there is no death.” Such can be the conversations of friends at a shelter.

 

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