Friday, January 11, 2008
A giggle of young teen girls loudly entered the drug store behind me. I went about my business and a few minutes later, while I was in line for the checkout counter, they were escorted to the front of the store and delivered to the sidewalk. Meanwhile, several boys of about the same age came running out of a store across the street and jumped into a waiting SUV that was double parked with its engine running.
As one of the drugstore employees said tersely, "Don't ever come back here. We've got your picture," the girls also ran to the SUV, which took off much too fast for a busy street.
All I can think of is that a modern-day Fagin is running a school which teaches children to rip off stores instead of picking pockets.
It was a stunning little vignette, over much too fast to process. I'm not sure what was going on there, but the little angels were not selling Girl Scout cookies.
The drugstore always has a selection of panhandlers outside, most of whom I know by face if not by name.
Today, the man who sits next to the man with the "Just 23 cents" sign who sits next to the "Why lie, need a beer" man who sits next to the woman with the grungy stuffed animals was talking on his cell phone but flashed me a peace sign as I dropped a dollar into his cup.
How can you not support someone who is in thrall to a wireless phone provider? Maybe that's why he's homeless.
The man who wears a gold crown said, "Hey! What about me?"
The two shopping cart gentlemen whipped their heads back and forth like a tennis match and grinned at me toothlessly.
The last time I donated to the king's cause, he complained that it wasn't enough. I'm sure he's forgotten, but I remember. I won't make that embarrassing mistake again.
There is also a man with a sign that says "Fuck you" who yells threats at passing pedestrians. I suspect he doesn't make a very good living.
My neighborhood is also home to many trust funders. There are probably more Ferraris and Maseratis per square foot here than practically anywhere on the planet, most of them driven by people so young that it is highly unlikely they earned them themselves.
Two worlds exist within the same couple of blocks, two worlds so different that it is almost impossible to comprehend that the highly privileged are in fact of the same species as the totally unprivileged.
Meanwhile, a mere four blocks away, another street of luxury shops exists which used to be exactly the same, but which retains its rarefied atmosphere while the one nearby is beginning to look like a slum.
The other street has no panhandlers and also no bars or police presence, while this one has seen several break-ins in recent months and several storefronts smashed by drunks on New Year's Eve.
"The area is changing," said the clerk at a GNC store next to one that lost its front as he swept up broken glass from his own doorway. "There's some really bad energy here now."
I think the neighborhood is expressing entropy, the inevitable and steady deterioration of a system or society.
All matter and energy in the universe tend to evolve toward a state of inert uniformity. It seems that such polarity cannot continue indefinitely. Something's gotta give.
The panhandlers and the drunks are the engines of change and interestingly, they will probably be the survivors. When the neighborhood declines below the level that is acceptable to the Ferrari people, they will leave and the transformation will be complete.
As long as some people have far more material goods than they need while others have much too little, the life force will strive to equalize things.
Until the haves no longer feel more entitled than the have-nots, there will be no lasting peace in the neighborhood and in the world's neighborhoods called countries.
Such disparate entities will never play nicely together.