No Alms for the Unworthy

At times one feels besieged by human wreckage in Las Vegas because it seems one is besieged by them here.

The common questions that should cut across all social, economic, class lines are “Who doesn’t have a hand out? And why is that grimy hand always in my face?”

Last week was typical. Every day at least several homeless wretches disturbed me with appeals. It’s become so frequent, my refusals which once needed some effort now kick in automatically. Not only reflexively but bloodlessly at that.

The best thing about this is being accosted by experienced supplicants. Unlike the new deadbeats, they anticipate backhands and are readily prepared to shuffle off. Those who’ve been derelict over long periods of the wastrel spans of their lives have learned to cast wide nets. They use blunderbusses to scattershot attempts that’ll pluck the sympathies and pick the pockets of soft-headed saps.

See the vagrants as human blowout cards. These are reply cards publishers insert in periodicals. They offer teaser rates to lure new subscribers. At best, responses are in the low single digits. Yet that’s satisfactory. Profits are realized.

Same practice pertains to shitbirds saturating passersby.

And throughout Las Vegas there’s no shortage of pigeons. As I’ve remarked elsewhere, I think people here are more susceptible to such appeals because they somehow extend the realms of possibility that it could be them someday begrimed, hair matted, sunburned, hollow-eyed, and tenuously involved in reality. How that occurs who wants to know?

Who can or wants to imagine an indulgence so severe social position and propriety are surrendered to booze, meth, coke, smack, or gambling? Which one of those highways doesn’t lead to job loss into eviction? Even the densest misadventurer who enters the cave only intending to “dabble” in highly addictive substances or sampling bad habits ought to know any exits off those highways flash by early then never again
Yes. “Dabble” is a good word. How many “dabblers” have I met and immediately disdained in the Big Mayberry? They always started by taking a little bite – or so they confess – then are themselves devoured after the shortest measure of time.

Now that the Mojave is heating up into summer, it is apparent even greater percentages wretches will be circulating among us. As usual.

Given human nature to adapt, seeing those among us who live rough by sleeping on pavement, jibber-jabbering to themselves or imaginary friends/enemies, dumpster dive, or scare ordinary people via their walking, mumbling visages of hell, stopped registering as being unusual sights. With so many so many becoming common sights, didn’t we just start accepting them as part of our “everyday” scenery? As if filthy multitudes added themselves to the wallpaper.

If one lived through this spring season in Southern Nevada, I think most residents would agree it has been enjoyably pleasant. Milder than any in recent memory. Absence of 100° days was a gift. Once daytime heat lessened at sunset, nighttime temperatures nearly dropped into early autumnal lows.

Naturally such wasn’t going to last. In fact, pleasant living ends with July when true summer will erupt like an angry dragon. What will belch and burn us portended with the obvious increase of shitbirds. As if Las Vegas’ wallpaper had gotten so crowded, they needed to peel themselves from it. Similar to robins heralding spring, regard them as vultures announcing months of conveyor cloudless days averaging the burning 100s into singeing 100-teens.

After who knows how long of being somewhat oblivious to the city’s chronic homeless, the worsening of their states makes them visible again. Imagine that. So accustomed to their self-destruction we ceased seeing them.

But now a new bottom of their misery begs our notice.

As stated about the climate, “hot” verges on bypassing “warm” directly into “scorching.” Yet even during “mild” stretches what’s about to be imparted next was notable.

Polo shirts and shorts weather as it has been, the chronically homeless who could muffled themselves in gear best suited for working in meat lockers. Knitted caps. Hoodies. Jackets. Long pants.

Ignored as they had been, such attire during days epitomizing temperate conditions couldn’t be overlooked. An equal number went around less bundled. Instead of layering themselves for the rigors of gentle spring, they simply walked barefoot. The willpower to summon belief the unyielding Mojave terrain we all stand upon – natural and poured – can be likened to lush grass in glens, glades, and dells must be fantastic.

Because, really, strolling around here too long in thin-soled footwear taxes feet, much less piling steps barefoot.

Adding to the pitiful human states witnessed are the placards the wretches hoist. Scribbled in black marker or crayon upon scavenged pieces of corrugated board are pleas. Always for help. Preferably through cash of the “spare” kind.

Too often veterans, or knowing how the local populace generally regards active, honorably discharged, or retired military personnel, beggars purporting to have once served, will give that past prominent placement in their pleas.

Rife as lids bearing military branch insignia are on heads throughout Las Vegas, healthy skepticism pays when some down-and-outer professing to have in his time marched to Uncle Sugar’s beat asks for a handout. If the needy party seems young enough, there have been occasions when vets of our Iraq-Afghan excursions make the sort of soft inquiries others claiming the approximate background ought to answer reflexively – but don’t. Or can’t.

It’s quite a sight watching an act as simple as mooching a buck develop into an inquisition.

In a way some of the more unhinged, okay, crazed, who lurch along sidewalks or loom on street medians are as crafty as the phonies looking to rake in dollars off others’ service. But the formers’ calculations derive from chemical overindulgence, not rank opportunism.

Doesn’t much of the debate concerning the chronic homeless center on mental illness? Agreed. However, what portion of their having abandoned civil society and its standards doesn’t stem from drug abuse?

Yet honestly, when I see some cored-out rage monster respond to the yelling between his ears, a shout demanding he smash glass bottles on the street, his mental defect isn’t the first thing on my mind. Car tires are.

By the way, this is the same sort of wreck who’ll also smash bottles in my complex’ parking lot after he’s excavated through the dumpsters. Done, or chased off, he’ll leave garbage tailings scattered on the asphalt once unearthing – or coming up a cropper – for who knows what.

Anyway, the mental schism suffered by street wanderers is an effective dodge. This serves two purposes. First, it offers easy explanation. Oh. To some having all our marbles. Apologetics who rationalize those behaving irrationally. Won’t that shit stop when glass shards puncture their car tires deep enough often enough? Or waking up the next morning to a parking lot transformed into Modern Art by dumpster detritus?

Second, it lets the wretches truly avoid facing the states into which they’ve plummeted.

In some farthest corners of their minds each and everyone of them knows he or she has hit rock bottom. Falling was easy. Quick, too. Contemplating rescuing one’s self would be arduous. Climbing sheer walls? A superhuman effort.

Delusional as street living has rendered them, any derelict with even the slightest grasp of what remains of reality understands successfully reintegrating into our world precarious at best. And almost certain failure would drop him or her further – to a level Milton would’ve found unimaginable.

… And Satan would’ve said, “Hey. You’ve gone too far.”

Face it. Though we find them discomforting, most of the human specters among us are comfortable in their Dys. Bad places are now their favorite haunts.