July 4, 2016

It's only a ban on sleeping on the sidewalk and on lying down on the sidewalk.

It's not a ban on sleeping while sitting on some higher surface, and it's not a ban on sitting on the sidewalk. And it only applies 7 a.m. and 10 a.m.

After seeing a TV teaser report, I looked up the details of Madison Mayor Paul Soglin's plan, but not before thinking of a hundred problems and rereading this passage in George Orwell's "Down and Out in Paris and London."
When we got into London we had eight hours to kill before the lodging-houses opened. It is curious how one does not notice things. I had been in London innumerable times, and yet till that day I had never noticed one of the worst things about London — the fact that it costs money even to sit down. In Paris, if you had no money and could not find a public bench, you would sit on the pavement. Heaven knows what sitting on the pavement would lead to in London — prison, probably. By four we had stood five hours, and our feet seemed red-hot from the hardness of the stones. We were hungry, having eaten our ration as soon as we left the spike, and I was out of tobacco — it mattered less to Paddy, who picked up cigarette ends. We tried two churches and found them locked. Then we tried a public library, but there were no seats in it. As a last hope Paddy suggested trying a Rowton House; by the rules they would not let us in before seven, but we might slip in unnoticed. We walked up to the magnificent doorway (the Rowton Houses really are magnificent) and very casually, trying to look like regular lodgers, began to stroll in. Instantly a man lounging in the doorway, a sharp-faced fellow, evidently in some position of authority, barred the way.

'You men sleep 'ere last night?'


'Then — off.'

We obeyed, and stood two more hours on the street corner. It was unpleasant, but it taught me not to use the expression 'street corner loafer', so I gained something from it.


Michael K said...

The Midnight Mission in Los Angeles has open doors from 7AM to 7 PM and homeless men can sleep there and get meals. At 7 PM the doors close and are locked until the next morning.

The rules are very strict inside. I used to have this black man who was a recovered crack addict give my students a tour every year to teach them about the homeless. He worked for the city. One night he invited us to go with him while he gave a talk at the mission for "Cocaine Anonymous." He was a spellbinding speaker. We were the only whites there. It was a very powerful talk.

He showed us his spot on the sidewalk in downtown LA where he lived for ten years. It was right in front of a mural showing Florence Griffith Joiner running. He told us that he would lie there and watch her run when he was high.

Michael K said...

I should add that you can go in and out all day and you can go out after 7PM but not in.

gpm said...

In its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, beg in the streets and steal loaves of bread (La majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues et de voler du pain).

The summer after law school I went to visit one of my college roommates in grad school at Berkeley and we went up to Canada, eventually hiking around Banff and Lake Louise. We spent two nights (and, in one case, about 24 hours) walking the streets of Vancouver because we were too cheap/poor to get a room and the train station closed over night. I remember zoning out in the fog in Stanley Park around 3 a.m. Probably haven't done anything nearly as adventurous in the forty years since, although prior to that, one summer night in the early 70s, while still undergrads, we had once ducked around an empty downtown in Chicago around midnight before heading back on the el to my parents' house on the South Side. Another was taking the Metro to some sketchy places in Paris, though nothing compared to today. Growing up, I used to take the el all over Chicago in the middle of the night without much of a second thought, though my friends' parents tended to frown on it, so public transit doesn't phase me much.

I was at a conference in downtown LA about ten years ago and, is my wont, I walked around a lot. It was very bizarre to me that, just a couple of blocks away from the hotel, there were places where homeless people had their regular places on the street at night (probably similar to what Michael K was referring to). And the hawkers up in Beverly Hills who would get offended that I didn't speak cheerily to them, because we don't do that in Boston, where people accosting you on the street are almost certainly looking for money (as, indeed, these people were). It was weird running into the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, longtime (though no longer) hope of the Oscars, while just walking around in the dark.


Michael K said...

"Growing up, I used to take the el all over Chicago in the middle of the night without much of a second thought, though my friends' parents tended to frown on it, so public transit doesn't phase me much. "

I did too. I wouldn't even think of it now.

When I was a senior in high school, my buddy and I used to hang out at an all-black tavern on the south side called "Ella Mae's Hideaway." They had a bumper pool table and we got to be very good at bumper pool. We would play the guys in there for beers (which cost a quarter). The next group challenging us would put their quarters on the side of the table, meaning they were next up to play winners.
'Since we almost always won, we would be there until 1 AM and often never had to buy a beer. We were 18 year old kids.

I never felt any hostility and we were all friends. I could not imagine doing that now.

Sixty years of progress under Obama et al.

Humperdink said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carol said...

Reminds me of my trip from Pasadena to the Shrine Auditorium (in south LA somewhere) to see Jimi Hendrix in 1968. I didn't realize, then, you can take the LA bus to a concert like that, switching buses downtown at the depot, but you can *not* do the same thing coming back late at night. It's not like the subway in NYC or even the buses in San Francisco.

So there we were, stuck at the downtown depot and yeah you could not sit on the floor or lie down anywhere. We sat in the coffee shop as long as we could and waited on the benches but God how I wanted to lie down. Finally tried to lie down in the rest room but someone chased us off. I understand now that it's to keep out the bums. And stupid kids.

Funny, years later a new friend told me the same thing had happened to her in London, at Charing Cross or Victoria or some place. She was stuck there all night...oy.. A bobby told her, "you can't sleep 'ere luv."

Michael Fitzgerald said...

I found an old paperback of this book and read it a few years ago. Great descriptions of the jobs in Paris hotels and kitchens, and stories of the mad characters he meets. There's something Celine and Henry Miller about the book, in the writing and the take on the world around. Maybe, because books like Journey to the End of Night, and Tropic of Cancer/Capricorn were also written around the same time, there was a zeitgeist that these artists were channeling in their work.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Blogger Michael Fitzgerald said...
I found an old paperback of this book and read it a few years ago. Great descriptions of the jobs in Paris hotels and kitchens, and stories of the mad characters he meets.

Orwell thought that the Paris chefs used copper pans because they were difficult to clean, when copper pans were really used because they transmit heat more responsively. They heated evenly and predictably, and any change in heat input was quickly reflected in the heat of the pan surface. Orwell was really bad and wrong when he got away from anything that he had immediate experience of.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty suspicious of anyone who leans, loafes, and invites.

Anonymous said...

I'm also going to lie down in the comments here until I get the plural of 'loaf' right.

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

It's not the plural you want, it's the third person singular present tense.

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

I got rousted once for sleeping at the airport. I came in on the redeye from one trip, and I had another trip three hours later. The airport was an hour from home, so driving home and back seemed pointless to me. I found an out-of-the-way corner, lay down with my carry-on as a pillow, and was soon asleep. I woke to a rather irate sheriff telling me I had to leave.

I showed my ticket, and he moved on. I was traveling pretty casual, and I'm sure I came across as a vagrant. I understand his position, but I still remember years later the feeling of just needing sleep, no matter where I was. If the sheriff had carted me off to jail, my first concern would've been could I sleep in the squad car.

John henry said...

I once hitchiked from Albany to Laguna Beach. Slept under bridges a couple of time. Stupid me, I went in October and froze my ass off. A gas station in Shamrock Texas let me sleep on their floor one night.

re Orwell, many people, including my son's 8th grade English teacher, swear up and down that Orwell only wrote the 2 books. He wrote a bunch of books some fiction some semi-fiction and some non-fiction. I have read them all, more than once, including 4 large volumes of his collected letters, essays and journalism.

He was one Hell of a writer.

My favorite book of his is "Coming up for air" I've probably read it 50 times.

John Henry

Owen said...

John Henry: I share your esteem for Orwell. Superb essayist. Christopher Hitchens wrote a fine short book about him, "Why Orwell Matters."

Char Char Binks said...

We can still sleep while standing downtown, can't we, and sleepwalk? That's pretty much why I go downtown; to eat, shoot, and loaf.