My Life as a Bum at 62

My Bum Bucket List

The first time I met David Little, the esteemed editor of the Enterprise-Record over a couple of years ago, he asked me why I referred to myself as a ‘bum’. He asked a lot of insightful questions.
I’m not sure what I said, probably something along the lines of preferring it over ‘homeless’ as well as ‘crazy’ over mentally ill (i.e. ‘Crazy Bum’) and that I was carrying on the time-honored (think: Jack Kerouac) tradition of writerly bumdom.
Because he is ever-polite, David tried using the term in our initial dialogue and I distinctly remember his discomfort with it, as if he were using a discriminatory epitaph stumbling, “…b-b-bum…”.
He charmed me right there and then.
Today is my 62nd birthday. I spent my last birthday with the Popps, Heather and Eric, a young couple who befriended me in a fantastic way. Originally from Virginia, they’ve since moved from Chico to pursue their careers as organic farmers in Southern California.
Sitting in their kitchen I was explaining the time I spent sleeping under a bridge with a friend on a mattress of questionable cleanliness.
“It wasn’t very pleasant,” I said, “but it’s one more item ticked off my Bum Bucket List.”
“I can’t imagine anything on a Bum Bucket List is very pleasant,” Heather said.
Trolling under a bridge is a standard Bum Bucket List item. One of my other goals was accomplished last winter when I slept at the front entry to Bidwell Mansion during a driving rain. We had nothing but the clothes we were wearing (and a bottle of Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joes), a friend and me pressing our backs together unsuccessfully for warmth.
Today’s birthday had a rocky start. A man I know peripherally accosted me on the street regarding my last post for portraying Tim, a chronically homeless man who regularly sleeps in downtown doorways and smells really badly in a humane light.
“See,” he said pointing at me and raising his voice to the woman he was with who was obviously uncomfortable with his confronting me, “he’s just one of those sensitive writers.”
My protocol in such situations is well-honed: don’t engage, get away.
“I’m very uncomfortable,” I said firmly, walking away.
A long string of profanities interspersed with ‘sensitive’ and ‘writer’ followed.
Such encounters go with the job of a writer, most people are kind and polite.
Downtown at Mr. Kopy where I often type my posts in on one of the computers, the staff – Samantha, Carlos and George – came up behind me singing Happy Birthday. George had a lighter in one hand to substitute for a candle and a foil wrapped, liquor-filled chocolate to substitute for a cake in the other.
Blowing out the lighter, I was touched and a little shy.
In awhile I’ll go to Madison Bear Garden for my free birthday burger which was a delight last year. To my relief, there was no cupcake with a pyrotechnic candle brought to my table, but the service and food were superb.
And no one treated me like a bum.

Love and Peace,


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