About a month ago, I had just jumped off the bus from Mexico City to Mazatlan.
On arriving, at 11pm at night, with no money, I spotted a local Policia right across the street from the bus terminal.
“Senor, necesitas comida y dormir para un noche, donde es bien?” I asked.
It was my bad Spanish attempt to ask for food and housing for a night before continuing my sojourn north back to the states.
Without batting so much as an eyelid, he directed me across the street down one block to a shelter, where within 30 minutes I had a quick medical exam, was being offered ON THE SPOT blood pressure medication from an attending physician, and was then given a towel, a shaver, and soap and a full meal and a bed. Free.
ALL this WITHIN 30 MINUTES!
In the last year, I have lived without money in almost all of Central America, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras – and the reception has generally been very similar. While there’s no ‘long term’ stays, there’s certainly an attempt to treat you – as a person – humanely.
Most people I have met on this trip have been beyond amazing. I’ve eaten things I would never have considered eating before, slept in places I would have turned my nose up in in disgust and/or disdain at not 5 years ago, and as a result I feel like I have gotten to know what humanity is truly about.
And humility as well.
There is absolutely nothing more humbling than having had a nasty cold going on 3 days when I was greeted by 10 giggling farm kids on a remote ranch in Guatemala who learned I was sick and they went running to get their parents who brought the family to meet me and some of the best damned chicken noodle soup I had ever had.
To those in Latin America. I’m a traveler, quickly invited in to everywhere because they want to learn English, or they want a picture with the funky offbeat American with a tent and sleeping bag who camped on their land because of it’s protection from the elements.
And while I have had my share of absolutely amazing people in the states. It’s a different world in Los Angeles and in particularly – Hollywood.
People are giving – don’t get me wrong.
But a conversation I had the first night I camped in the park across the street from Universal Studios is – a key example of how… perverted.. the minds of the Ugly American is:
Mark a resident across the street from the park, and I can’t remember his friend’s name – come directly to my tent, and says “Sorry. This isn’t going to work. There are FAMILIES in this area. With small children. This is a FAMILY area. We have too many of you type coming to this park, and this affects our housing values.”
Seriously, here I was in Guatemala, sleeping ON someone’s land and they HELP me, where here, in PUBLIC land I’d paid for with my taxes, I was now a ‘you people’ who’s image wasn’t fit for consumption by small children and families?
“Mark, “ I responded, “I have no money, no place to sleep, and I have had a rabies check and don’t bite small children. The Shelters are full, and not only that cost $5 a night, so I am all ears or suggestions on where to go.”
Mark got flippant. I expected that.
Now here’s my perspective. Mark’s a slave. He’s quite likely more in debt for his house than he owes, so he’s – as far as I am concerned – a spokesperson for the bank attempting to preserve an overvalued asset. He has two nice new cars in his driveway, so chances are he’s in debt for those. Overall, it’s quite likely his net worth (assets – liabilities) is sub zero, which makes it quite likely that the man sitting in front of him in the tent is worth more than him financially.
Now I know something he doesn’t. He’s bought on to the fanciful delusion the consumer based system has sold him that the more stuff he has the more important he is, and therefore this faulty system has erroneously led him to believe if he fails to observe the same reverence to this retarded system in others, then this justifies his arrogance.
These are all assumptions, coming from my own past I was escaping, which may or may not be faulty assumptions. So I responded to Mark accordingly.
“Mark, I didn’t choose to be homeless, but I will leave tomorrow,”
And I left it at that.
A night not long after, the police found me camping elsewhere.
Los Angeles has a no tolerance policy towards homeless. That is, you are not allowed to sleep in public areas, and if caught you can actually be thrown in jail.
Now keep in mind this legislation is by the people of Los Angeles, in an effort to retain housing values.
But it’s delusional. I heard one lady tell me ‘Los Angeles has great services’.
I responded with. “Ma’am. Every Shelter within a 15 mile radius is full. The state will feed you, you get $200 a month, and cash rewards are not available until you’ve been here 30+ days, and to stay in a shelter – which is full – they require $5 a day – which will chew through that entire stipend. Now keep in mind these shelters have a large contingent of drug addicts who are fine with this arrangement, but I myself, when I do finally receive that money, I prefer to keep clean without the influences, so for someone actually wanting to get back on their feet and work for a reputable company like Universal – do the benefits at all align with ‘help’, or are they merely a slap in the face as you and the politicians take the former tax money I paid that should be going to help people like me and instead it goes to continue artificially padding your property value without regard for the lives of others?”
In any case, I’m content. I have been through 40 countries in my life, most with no problems financially, and it’s been a hell of a journey the last year spent in Central America, and I have gotten to see the wonderful side of people – both rich and poor.
But there’s something SERIOUSLY amiss about America today.
My cardboard sign I will be standing with on the curb tomorrow is both a local statement as much as it’s intended to be a humorous take on the fanatical obsession America has with image at the cost of interpersonal relationships:
“Is you a zombie? If you chase money like you do brainz. Then yes, You is zombie.”
Most won’t get it. Hopefully I can turn them on to my BLOG.
But this is weird folks.
The guy wit the backpack in America is to be eliminated.
While abroad. he’s respected. Even admired. Because people know.
He’s the traveler.
When they lack the courage to try it out for themselves.
Yep. I envy your warm bed and wheels.
But I prefer my integrity and respect for life more, thank you very much.
Enjoy my work?