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Cooking in a Coffee Pot
and Other Useful Tips for the Homeless
By David Glenn Cox
I write this for the millions who, like myself, are holed up in basements, garages, empty houses, fields, culverts and what have you. Guilty of being Americans and homeless, trying to make it through just one more day in the land of Fuck You and the home of the slave. I am at the top of the homeless pyramid; I still have internet access and a toilet.
The one thing to remember about the homeless is that they never have a day off. They are homeless every day; it’s easy to forget and difficult to understand, but the homeless face the world without a buttress. They are toe-to-toe with the heat and the humidity, the rain, the mud, and the bugs.
They have lost their basic building block of society, a home, a place to lay down their heads. A place to lie in comfort, a simple retreat from the world. I consider myself among the lucky; I have a leaking air mattress and a roof to keep myself dry and a box fan to keep me cool. I don’t sleep in a bed but on a floor, and eat on a table salvaged from a dumpster. But it is not a home, it is a garage. It is a refuge and I am a refugee in modern America.
Brought up in another place, I feel myself an alien in this land. This is not the land of my birth. Where did it all go? How can we get back there? Our goals, motives and principles become polluted and reverse reclamated, blurred and obscured by the lack of a home. We live like cave men and women, targeted and dodging the monsters in squad cars or just avoiding the looks of disgust from those who believe themselves invincible.
But we know better and we look back with “see you soon eyes,” and we dream a dream of beds with clean linen or a hot bath or a shower. A job with decent wages and maybe even a front door and a window with a screen. But if I had one wish it would be to play the movie “The Grapes of Wrath” on every TV channel for twenty-four hours, because I am living every line of it every day. “Don’t take no nerve to do something when you ain’t got no other choice.”
It’s my dirt, it ain’t no good but its mine!”
We are looking for our California, our promised land, a place to start again. Because, just like Tom Joad, we are getting angry. “They’re working away at our spirit, trying to make us crawl” feeding us promises, programs that, like the rain, sound good but never reach us here on the ground.
I laugh myself through the want ads each day at jobs that make promises that are either sucker gambits or flat out frauds. Come work for free! Learn Grant Writing, only $200. “I never should have come on this trip. You remember that coupon in the spicy Western stories magazine? Learn to be a radio expert.” Jobs that aren’t jobs at all, promising good work and good wages but paying a nickel a box when they promised a dime. “An’ you fellas will have to take it cause you’ll be hungry.”
I traded my truck for a 1987 Paseo and $1,500, but I don’t drive; it is merely a vestige of who I once was. I don’t drive because I don’t have insurance, but it is like an escape pod. Just knowing that I could go if I had somewhere to go, it is my last redoubt. I’m down to about $250 dollars and still looking for work, foolishly, pointlessly. I applied to a popular website that was seeking in depth journalism on the subject of homelessness but they never replied. Typical American media, they just want anecdotes about homelessness, they want to hear about it but don’t want to know about it.
I watch the body shop next door meandering towards oblivion as their work dries up. Friday, they had six body men working on three cars and you can’t keep the doors open like that. The cabinetry shop on the other side is working four and a half days a week.
I buy groceries according to what I can keep in a mini fridge, more like an icebox really. It keeps food cool, not cold. For soup you measure a cup of water in a plastic cup and place the soup in the coffeepot. Then you let the water pour through and wait for the warmer to warm the concoction. It’s not piping hot, but it’s hot enough and beggars can’t be choosers now, can they? Because of my culinary limitations I buy the same foods each week; two months ago it cost $45.00 and last week it was $65.00.
The money is rapidly loosing its value, which also explains why gas prices are rising even as demand sinks. I know that more of you are coming to join us in the time that the land forgot and you will have questions just as we had questions. But there are no answers for them, you just do and try and make the day. You wait anxiously for the Georgia sun to go down to offer some relief from the heat. As the sky turns red, the box fan again begins to offer some relief, the only relief available.
The kitties, Moxie and Blackie, still visit me each night and it is peculiar because I’ve joined their society more than they mine. When I wrote about them before, some people, well-intentioned I’m sure, suggested that I capture them and turn them over to the humane society. You don’t understand, we are equals in this life. I don’t rat them out and they don’t rat me out. If I turned them over maybe they’d have a better life; maybe they’d get gassed.
But, like the Joads, “We had meat tonight, not much but we had it.” The kitties are free and for the time being happy. I feed them and welcome them but they are free to go as well. They are not mine, merely night visitors who befriended me without qualifications. It would be too hard on my conscience to turn them in without knowing the outcome. Maybe you understand, maybe you don’t. Tom said it like this, “Seems the government has more interest in a dead man than a live one.” Or in this case they have more interest in picking up kitties than in finding them homes. Besides, the government has done nothing to help me; why should I expect more for cats that will never vote?
The cool and the stillness of Sunday night are a comfort to me and I must take my pleasure where I can, because the air mattress still leaks and the hot sun will return again tomorrow. So I will lay my head on the floor and dream.
“Fear the time when the strikes stop while the great owners live - for every little beaten strike is proof that the step is being taken … fear the time when Manself will not suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is the foundation of Manself, and this one quality is man, distinctive in the universe.”