In yesterday’s blog, I was talking to a man who had decided to see what it was like to be homeless for one day on the streets of Manchester.
Now 85-year-old London-based American comic Lynn Ruth Miller gives her own views on homelessness and being stalked in Glasgow…
Here she goes…
I was so successful using my college Spanish in Barcelona (blogged about here) that I decided to give myself the acid test and go someplace where I REALLY could not understand anything anyone said.
Last week I went to Glasgow.
I headlined at the Allsorts Cabaret in Katie’s Bar. This is a burlesque cabaret hosted by the Markee de Saw and Innocence Bliss, both regulars on the burlesque circuit.
And that was when I got stalked…
It was really very thrilling.
A very young man came into the club while I was waiting to go on stage. He sat very close to me and smiled significantly.
I smiled significantly back.
What else could I do?
I couldn’t SAY anything because there was a show going on.
At the interval, I left to put on my costume and his eyes followed me right into the dressing room. This was a brand new experience for me. I found it very awkward to get down to my undies knowing his eyes were right there in the room. After all, we had not even been introduced.
I returned to my table and there he was looking more significant than ever!!!!!
I managed to haul myself on stage and he was right there with a hand up (to the stage, not my costume). I finished my song about being old just in case no-one noticed (but I think they all did). I sat down next to my stalker and he spoke his first words to me.
I think he said: “Would you like a drink?”
But it was hard to catch what he said because, by this time, he had had several shots himself and the music was very loud and he was having a difficult time forming a coherent sentence.
I think that’s a Glasgow thing.
In seconds, a large glass of white wine appeared as if by magic and the young man fastened his eyes on my bodice. I think he was trying to find my cleavage, which resembles an elongated pleat these days. But his brain couldn’t process what that was.
I finished my wine and I think he said: ”Would you like another?”
So I nodded (significantly, of course).
I was obviously right because another glass of wine appeared before me.
And then my stalker took my hand in his and looked even more significantly into what was left of my eyes.
He tried to stand and failed.
I was having a bit of trouble focusing myself, but I took his arm to help him up and that was when the bartender threw him out of the bar.
I was still glowing from this romantic encounter when I boarded the train the next morning to return to London Euston.
My hosts and I walked to the station. It was supposed to be a 30-minute stroll but, partly because my legs are now approximately the size of a chihuahua’s and partly because my thoughts were still locked into memories of the sexiest night of life, it took us an hour to get to the station.
We only had ten minutes to get to the train.
My host said he would dash to Sainsbury’s and buy me lunch: a banana, a tangerine, a croissant and a small yogurt.
As I toddled to my coach, he galloped toward me with a huge bag and thrust it in my arms. When I opened it, I realized he must have thought I wanted to feed the entire coach. I discovered a quart of water, a bag of tangerines, a large bunch of bananas, two croissants and a tub of yogurt ample enough to feed 400 starving Armenians during their revolution.
I managed to eat one of each thing and a few spoonfuls of the yogurt and then pondered on what the hell I would do with all this food because I am Jewish and we do not throw out food.
Meanwhile, the discussion in the coach drifted from Brexit to the homeless problem.
The woman sitting across from me waxed eloquent on the outrageous way people were pretending to be homeless and fooling us by wearing tattered clothing when, as soon as their day was over, they ran around the corner and jumped into their Mercedes to motor to their luxury flat in Kensington.
I pointed out that some of them really do need our help and she said: “Really? I know for a fact that most of them earn at least £300 a day and they spend it all on heroin or cocaine.”
“Perhaps,” I said, “it would be best to give them food instead of money so they do not spend that 20p we thrust in their empty cup on drugs.”
“Absolutely not,” she said. “They won’t take food anyway. They just want to finance their disgusting habits.”
As she waxed eloquent on the sins of the charlatans sitting on our street corners, I remembered my friend Kevin who reminded me that, if I give money to someone, I have no right to tell him what to spend it on.
“Did you ever think,” he said, “that drugs might be their only escape from a life too horrible for us to contemplate in our warm comfortable homes with our tables laden with food?”
The train pulled into Euston station and I took my huge bag of food and water along with my suitcase and my backpack with me on my way to Kings Cross to catch the Piccadilly line to go to Covent Garden.
As I trudged to the station, I saw one of these very homeless people we were analyzing on the train.
He was a young man in his twenties, shivering in the cold, with an empty cup sitting forlornly at his feet.
I stopped and handed him the bananas, the bag of tangerines and the water but, before I could manage to throw a few coins in that empty cup, he was halfway through the first banana.
I thought of that woman sitting in a comfortable coach sipping her wine and nibbling at her gourmet salad.
I thought of the comfortable place I go home to every night and the refrigerator stuffed with more food than I need and I wept.
I wept for that poor man sitting before me so desperately hungry. He could not wait to eat that banana.
I wept for that woman and all those like her who cannot see the hunger and the extreme need of people forced to subsist on the paltry coins we throw at them as we hurry from our warm homes to our comfortable offices or to the theatre or to a posh dinner that costs more than they will get in a year in that paper cup that sits at their feet.
One missed paycheck, one lost job, one debilitating illness… that is all it takes to put every one of us on the street, begging strangers for help.
I do not have answers for how we can stop this growing homeless situation.
I do know that my giving that boy a bit of fruit did nothing to solve the bigger problem.
But what else could I do?
So I hurried on to Covent Garden to judge an LBGTQ heat in a club.
I laughed a lot and drank some wine, but I couldn’t get the memory of that hungry boy out of my mind.
When I got home that night, all I could think of was the people I walk past every day on the street and how little we all do to help those who are not as lucky as we are.
And then I ate my dinner and began to plan for my trip to Amsterdam.