Homeless stories

These are a few musings I had that were unconnected except by virtue of the fact that they all have something to do with the homeless.

My favorite game or segment on all the radio shows I’ve listened to is homeless karaoke on the Regular Guys show, based out of Atlanta. I listen to them at RegularGuys.com. They are now the Rock 100.5 morning show, but I knew them as the 96 Rock morning guys in college. Back then, their producer and whipping boy, Southside Steve, would go around to the homeless people on the streets of Atlanta and get them to sing songs on his portable karaoke machine in exchange for a warm, home-cooked meal. Now Steve is one of the Regular Guys and so they get their new lackey/producer/audio getter, Sebastian, to record the homeless karaoke segments. The way the game works is that Sebastian will play the voice track of the homeless person without the music, and Larry, Eric, Steve, and Tim try to guess the song based on his/her aimless mumbling and humming. They are surprisingly good at it. It is so hard to make anything of the homeless person’s attempt at singing, but eventually something gets through that gives one or more of them a clue. Sometimes I guess right first, and once I even knew it from the very beginning and was yelling at my computer that they should have gotten it long ago (Blondie, “Heart of Glass”). Here is the most recent example of homeless karaoke, but it is definitely not the best one. (I wish I had downloaded one or two of the really good recent ones, but they disappear after one week.) I don’t know what makes one segment better than another&#8212difficulty, coolness of the songs, multiple songs where multiple people all guess at about the same time, songs I would do well on if I were competing, I don’t know&#8212but it’s still entertaining.

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Interestingly enough, their segment recorder, Sebastian, or “Sebas”, is homeless. He lives out of his car and the radio station. His mail and his driver’s license have the radio station’s address on them. He sleeps in his car, in the station, at friends’ houses, in a ditch once or twice, and on random strangers’ front porches a few times. Larry and Eric bring this up occasionally and, justifiably, give him a good ribbing for it. Larry is convinced that Sebas wears his homelessness as a badge of honor, a kind of rugged, urban, free-living, anti-yuppie, street cred–earning lifestyle. Sebas says he accumulated a lot of student loans and credit card debt during his four years at Georgia Tech, so he is being responsible and working and paying off his bills before he goes wasting money on rent. Well…I guess that’s one philosophy…but, like Eric, I think that’s not the best way to get your life together.

Speaking of homeless people, the street beggars in Ann Arbor are very nice and polite. It doesn’t engender a lot of pity. There’s this one guy I pass on Main Street occasionally who speaks very good English (not at all like the homeless karaoke participants) and says, “Excuse me, sir, can you spare a few cents for a hungry homeless man?” or something similar. I shake my head or look down and mouth, “No, sorry,” and he says very politely, almost cheerfully, “God bless you.”

When my dad visited San Francisco for conferences a couple of times, he said he loved the city and that even the homeless, of which there were many, had a lot of personality. He encountered one kind of unbalanced lady who would hold out her cup or her hand and say, “That’ll be 25 cents, please,” or, “That’ll be 50 cents, please.” I feel even worse for the crazy ones. It makes you think very little that happened to them is their fault.

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