Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur


The Homeless Guy on 1-80 (Part 1 of 2)

Filed under: Kathleen Bennett,Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Cory and Kathleen moved to San Francisco so long ago that I couldn’t tell you when it was. Let’s see if I can pin it down. They moved after the release of the Bare Naked Ladies first album because I remember sitting in their basement apartment in West Valley singing, “If I had a million dollars?” They moved before the release of Mike’s first book because I remember bringing a copy of his book all the way to San Francisco for them. So, sometime between July 28, 1992 and November 1995. That’s the best estimate that I can give you.

I remember the first time Mike and I visited them in their San Francisco apartment. They lived on Shrader Street, which was just two blocks from the Golden Gate Park and four blocks away from the corner of Haight and Ashbury. My parents weren’t hippies. They were very square, but even my mom believes that everyone should make a pilgrimage to the corner of Haight and Ashbury. I have actually gotten a parking place there. I would have taken a picture, but it was a rental car.

After only a few months living there, they had sold their VW bus. It was too hard to find a parking place and the public transportation was amazing. For the truly awkward treks, they bought a motorcycle, but mostly, they walked everywhere. While we were there, they expected us to walk everywhere, too. I was appalled.

It wasn’t the physical activity that appalled me. Even though I was severely obese at the time, I wasn’t going to let my fat get in the way. I was appalled at the homeless and pierced youth on the streets asking me for money. I was scared that they would attack me. I was pissed that they spent at least twenty dollars apiece for each of their multiple piercings. Why would they ask me for money if they had enough for a pierced tongue, two eyebrow piercings and that stupid thing right above their chin?

Kathleen and Cory couldn’t see them anymore. By then, she was stone thin, training for a bike race that spanned from San Francisco to Los Angeles. She hadn’t shaved her head yet, but Cory had. “It helps if you look like you belong here. You guys look like tourists.” I nodded my head. Damn straight. I AM a tourist. When do I get to see that wharf thing that everyone thinks is so great? I didn’t say it out loud, but I’m sure that my face told them exactly what I was thinking. I’m just that kind of person.

I remember Kathleen trying to comfort me. “I don’t give them any money. I used to when I first moved here, but they just remembered me and bugged me every day. Now, they’re just part of the city? you know?I see them every day so I’m used to them.” What she was trying to explain to me was so complex that I couldn’t have possibly understood it at the time, even if she had been able to find the right words. “I’m used to them” is about the closest she came to this feeling.


The Homeless Guy on 1-80 (Part 2 of 2)

Filed under: Kathleen Bennett,Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

Mike and I moved to Sugarhouse last July. Sugarhouse isn’t as urban as the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco, but it’s very similar. It’s the closest thing that Salt Lake City has to The Haight. We live within walking distance of over fifteen restaurants and as many stores. When the weather isn’t below fifty or above one hundred degrees outside, Mike and I walk everywhere.

The homeless have been kicked out of the metropolitan areas of Salt Lake. It happened a few years before the Olympics, but just because they can’t sleep in Pioneer Park anymore doesn’t mean that they left our town. No, they moved to Sugarhouse. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the homeless from the hippies. Point of reference: the homeless usually hold up a cardboard sign and the hippies are usually carrying a paper bag from Wild Oats. Don’t give hippies money. They just get pissed.

Life is different now that I walk everywhere. I see things that I would have never seen if I had been driving. I find things on the ground. I dodge dirty snow and dog shit. I look the homeless and the hippies in the face instead of zipping past them. I see all of this on a regular basis.

There’s a homeless guy on the corner of 7th East and I-80. I see him every day. He’s tall and thin. He wears a crocheted blue cap. He didn’t used to wear the cap. It was bright blue the first day I saw him wearing it. Since then, it has grayed in color. I suspect that it  eventually will be the same gray that everything that survives a Utah winter becomes. The other day, I gave him money. I don’t know why.

I was in my car and he was crossing the street. I’m usually on the right lane, waiting for the light and he is usually on the left side of the street. This time, he was crossing, so I beeped my horn. He thought that I was beeping for him to get out of the way, so he jumped. It was only after I was able to get the window down that he realized that I was trying to give him money. “God Bless.” I didn’t bother to tell him I was an atheist. I just took the blessing and left when the light turned green.

Now comes the awkward explanation. Now I try to put into words what Kathleen was unable to describe to me so long ago. That clumsy grappling for words to describe what it feels like to live in Sugarhouse. What it feels like to see that blue crocheted cap every day. What it feels like to walk on 21st South past the other homeless. What it feels like to mingle among the hippies and the yuppies and even the puppies. Dogs and humans and dirty snow the color of coal. All of it is mine. The dirt, the sky, the homeless, the home bound, the stores, the parks, the vacant lots, the vacant real estate, the vacant stares: all of it is mine.

I am filled by it all and all of it surrounds me. My day isn’t the same if the guy in the blue cap isn’t there. My day isn’t the same if my walk is missing the slight tremor of fear when I walk past the tattoo parlor. “I’m used to them” isn’t enough. They are part of me and I am part of them. Even if I never speak. Even if I never pass a dime. Even if I walk quickly with a light step. They are mine and I am theirs and we belong to this land.


Deseret Industries

Filed under: General,Kathleen Bennett — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

In other parts of the country, people donate their used items to the Salvation Army. We have some Salvation Army stores in Utah, but a much more prominent and influential monopoly has control of the thrift market here in Zion. It’s called Deseret Industries, but the populace calls it The DI for short.

The DI is sponsored by the LDS Church (you know, the Mormons), so it has a stronghold over this area. Plus, it’s so darn easy to donate. There is a DI within walking distance of my house. There was a DI within walking distance of my last house, too. They are everywhere.

Their prices are good, too. It’s not like some thrift stores which mark their items high and then systematically keep marking them lower until they finally get to a price that someone will buy them. If it’s a pair of jeans, it’s going to be six bucks whether they are Calvin Kleins or Wranglers. Shorts are three bucks, no matter what. Just like their new billboards say, they have “Bargains to DI for.” Imagine me yuck-yucking and slapping my knee right now, please.

Growing up Jehovah Witness in this city, there have been so many times when I have felt antagonistic toward the LDS church. The Klingon within me says that I shouldn’t donate my old clothes to The DI because that is aiding the enemy. This Klingon has no problem with me shopping at The DI because I’m just taking advantage of their incredible prices, which makes no sense because in that scenario, I’m actually giving money to “the enemy.” Go figure. The Vulcan inside me reminds me of how convenient it is to donate to The DI. I just swing by the place and drop the stuff off. They even give me a receipt for my taxes if I’m willing to wait for it.

Kathleen Bennett, my friend who lives in San Francisco, always goes DI shopping with me when she comes back to town. She used to live here and it’s one of the few things that Salt Lake City has over San Francisco. We have DI thrift shopping and lots of flavors of Jello in our grocery stores. Last time she was here, she was looking for a pair of Lucky Brand jeans (remember, for only six bucks!). We didn’t find any in her size that time, but we did find some cool things for her, namely a bitchin’ pair of shoes (only six bucks). I’m always excited when Kathleen comes to town because she is one of the few people who have the stamina to DI shop with me.

Since I’ve been losing weight, the DI is a blessing to me. I can get a whole new wardrobe every few months on very little money. I don’t have to swim in my “fat” clothes and I can get rid of those oversized clothes as soon as they start to hang on me. There is no temptation to gain the weight again because those clothes are gone back to The DI from whence they came. When I get to my final goal weight, I’ll buy myself all new clothes, but until then, I’m hitting The DI every couple of months for clothes I can shrink into.

I don’t know why I feel the need to tell you about The DI. This entry is almost like a commercial for them, which is really making the Klingon within me boil. I guess I just wanted to make sure that you knew what the hell I was talking about if I say something like, “I’m going to give that away to the DI” or “Stacey and I are going DI shopping for some skinnier clothes. I’m too small for those size 7 jeans I bought a couple months ago.” That sort of thing.

If you ever find yourself in Salt Lake City, the two best DI’s are the one on 45th and Main and the one in Sandy on 7th East by the Sandy Mall. You are pretty much guaranteed to find really good brands there like Calvin Klein, Old Navy, Gap, Mossimo and I’ve even found the illusive Lucky Brand jeans there before, but they wouldn’t have fit Kathleen. They were way too big.

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