Invisible Faces, Invisible Places

December 31st, 2008

This colleague of mine is well prepared – fiberglass reinforced polypropylene tarp, heavy wool blanket, synthetic fill quilt. Organized. He makes camp after the homeful have left for the night and is up before the homeful come in the morning. I was a little later on New Year’s Day. I saw him breaking camp. We must be invisible to the homeful.

The homeful let a lot of us sleep late on New Year’s Day. That’s a luxury. Usually, if your sleep get’s screwed up – by the weather, some ruckus among colleagues, or the ire of the homeful – there’s no way to get caught up until the next night, if then. There are those among the homeful who will feed us, but no one will let us sleep during daylight – except on a holiday.

Sleeping upright on the main landing of the Harvard Square T station

Madonna and Child

December 22nd, 2008

She looks to be late 60’s, but is only 53. The street can do that. She has a round face and white hair. He’s young – perhaps twenty. They’re always together. One night they came into the terminal and stopped by the other end of the bench I was on. She meticulously laid down newspapers then sat down. The young man rolled their upright carryall up to her left arm. She got out a roll of toilet paper and placed it behind her neck. He sat down to her right and curled up to her with his head on her shoulder. Family.

They kept me awake one night. They were arguing – loud, passionate. They were circling each other on the platform. Spiraling in to make a point – retreating when overmatched. I overheard only one thing other the throbbing of the diesels1. The woman said, “who told you to stay outside.” Your guess is probably as good as mine. Staying out as it gets colder requires increasing amounts of insulation. At 20 degrees you need almost 3 inches. More as it gets colder. They don’t have enough gear. There are blankets – good ones for outside, dacron, stays warm when wet and dries quickly – waiting for them. If the young man won’t go in, he has to take the gear.

“Don’t need no ticket. Just get on board.”a

1“All you need is faith to the hear the diesel humming.” a

a‘People Get Ready’ Curtis Mayfield 1965.

Play it. Play it again Sam!

August 27th, 2008

Cambridge feeds the homeless through a loosely woven network of volunteer organizations. Community dinners are done by the churches. Tuesday night is at the Unitarian across from Harvard. Last night got off to an untidy start with a loud profane argument at the next table which continued when the self appointed ‘peace-keeper’ continued to swear and fuss after the original offender was removed. But after that brief interlude, the customary calm prevailed. Then an unusual blessing. A mother and son team took over the grand piano.  Ann guided her son through a number of classics. When they got to boogie-woogie I asked for more. The son’s name is Sam.