I visited Montreal recently. It’s a nice city: very cold, very clean, and conspicuously lacking in career panhandlers. Every other city I have visited I’ve been asked for money within minutes of stepping off the plane/train/bus. My first time in New York I must have had “Country Rube” tattooed on my forehead, because a woman asked if I was from Upstate and when I answered yes, told me that she too was from Upstate (even named a city half an hour away from my own!) and needed money to get a ticket back home. I hope she at least scored some good dope with the $5 that I, like a fuckin’ Idiot, decided to give her.
The woman in New York was gaunt and wiry; she was vibrating like a just-plucked guitar string too from what I can remember, obviously jonesing pretty hard . She needed her fix more than a fuckin’ train ticket anywhere besides maybe detox, that’s for sure. I’m fine with enabling and financially supporting habits and enjoy drugs more than travel, personally. I hope she went to a familiar place nearby, tied off, and went to town rather than travel back upstate where the best “drug” you can buy is shitty brick weed.
In Europe they really have their begging game down. There’s a whole class of beggars/thieves. I think I once lent a little boy a few Euros for a calling card to get in touch with his parents only to see the little fucker give me a shit-eating grin and scamper away like he just egged my house on Halloween. I can reconcile the money I lost to that slimy little piece of afterbirth because if his family are indeed profesional panhandlers or petty criminals, the stolen money is all going towards food, drugs, or booze, all of which I fully support.
I guess I’ve got a little more street sense now because I avoid eye contact with people I suspect will hit me up for cash like rich women avoid eye contact with service people. However—and I’m getting to the point here I promise—I made an exception when I saw a kid with a cardboard sign making rounds in the Montreal Greyhound terminal on Berri St. He was wearing a down jacket, clean jeans, and Nike’s. All his shit was name brand too—he could have just as easily stepping off a Cessna in Vail as begging for change in Montreal. By the time he made it down the line of people sitting by the terminal for the New York bound Greyhound I was still loquacious from drinking last night and well into the morning, so I told him I spoke English and he seemed relieved.
Cardboard Sign: Can you spare a few extra dollars? My friend and I need a few dollars for a bus ticket.
Me: Where are you all going? (re: his friends sitting in the corner to the side, and one other guy making the rounds with a cardboard sign too)
Cardboard Sign: New York. We saw you were going that way and thought we’d ask if we could get a little help.
Me: Are you from New York?
CS: No, bu—
Me: Do you know anyone there?
CS: No, but we’re just—
Me: Are you going to see a band or something? Why are you headed that way?
CS: We’re just bumming around, man. We’re just trying to see as much shit as possible. Doin’ it like Jack Kerouac.
Me: Call your parents, man. I’m broke.
CS: Can I have some money to make a call?
Me: Ask to borrow someone’s phone. Mine’s dead.
I closed my eyes and pretended to try and sleep on my luggage. I didn’t give him any money, even though I was fingering a Toonie in my pocket hoping he’d at least answer one of my questions right. Alas, it was done for me as soon as he mentioned Jack Kerouac. His books have inspired a whole new generation of On the Road douches.
I sick as fuck of the Kerouac idolizer. I hate Jack Kerouac and his would-be protegées because people have been sucking on his dick for the past fifty years when all he did was bum rides across the country, then write a three hundred page diatribe about the moochfest all the while demonstrating a command of the English language that would make most 5th grade ELA teachers self-immolate.
This kid was in the 1% of beggars: nicely dressed, well mannered, sober, and confused. The other 99% of people waving a cup at you on the street or in traffic actually look like they’re going to ask you for change, a common courtesy that allows you to altogether ignore them. They also have some air about them that suggests they’re not quite all there, or are on/in need of intoxicants. Finally, they’re secure in their position, have a clear goal for their money, and are undoubtedly already visualizing the crack rock, dope bag, bottle of Thunderbird, or double cheeseburger they’ll buy with your charitable contribution.
The 1% beggar is none of these things; he wants to use your generosity to fuel his travel plans, maybe even his upgrade to business class where the seats are leather, the power outlets work, and there’s only a 12% chance you’ll be sitting in gum. If you want to travel that badly, man, sell your coat and luggage and travel light. You never heard of the Beats carrying luggage that you’d have to pay an extra $50 to check on Delta. If you wanna travel, get a job. Then you won’t want to go anywhere other than down to the store to get a six-pack and a sandwich because, fuck man, work is hard and you’re tired. But when your three vacation days a year come, at least you wont have to ask my fucking ass for money to fund your dumbass shenanigans. So fuck you and fuck Kerouac, get a job buddy this is 2012.