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Ueber den Obdachlos in der Naehe des Amazon.com (auf Deutsch)

Commuting by foot to work everyday, I’ve gotten so that I can recognize around a dozen of the International District’s homeless population. They identify themselves as homeless chiefly by three indicators: 1) their unkempt appearance, 2) the fact that they aren’t working at 10:30, which is when I normally roll in, and 3) their nonchalant urination in an alleyway in plain view of the sidewalk, generally towards pedestrians. Any two of the above signs identify a homeless person with 99 percent certainty. The urination alone leaves little room for error.

One of the more memorable members of this cast of characters is a balding middle-aged man I often see hanging around the plaza outside my office. I call him Larry. Larry is disconcerting at first because he continually talks to himself, but not under his breath like your garden-variety crazy. Larry projects his nonsense missives towards whomever happens to be in the area, staring intently at them all the while. The first few times I encountered what appeared to be an enraged man clad entirely in denim bearing down on me and shouting about how the government had taken everything from him, I was a little frightened. Once I learned to politely avert my gaze and let him storm past, I began to take interest in his babble, which is remarkably complex. The general theme is paranoid conspiracy, but he’ll back up his theory on the cover-up of Atlantean spacecraft by citing the precise year said cover-up took place (1965), how much it cost the taxpayer ($100 million), and what percentage of the GDP this figure represents (35 percent). He gets tremendously worked up over these numbers, sometimes accosting passersby to insist that they know exactly what he’s talking about before wandering off, shouting his monologue just as loudly and as quickly as before, but this time to thin air.

To my knowledge, I’ve only made one mistake in my appraisal of the denizens of the plaza. I saw him several mornings in a row, and he matched indicators 1) and 2) perfectly. Plus he had a pronounced tic that seemed begin in his face and jolt down through his torso with some violence. I persisted in the belief that he was homeless / a meth head until I noticed that he worked on my floor. Oops. Apparently it was just a garden-variety tic.

I bet you can’t do any better.

Posted in Musings.


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