Friday, November 03, 2006

Man with Shopping Basket

In Center City Philadelphia lives a homeless man with thick eyeglasses, who pushes a shopping basket covered with cardboard signs. Other signs and notes are pinned to his clothes and even his hat. The signs are lettered with word screams about current events: "Lies," "Katrina," "Alarm," "Wake Up," and so on, from every available space; a blaring profusion of letters and words. If one follows the words around the corners of the basket they add up to some kind of narrative. He's a little guy-- no taller than five feet high; wearing a shabby gray-green coat and stained baggy trousers. (At least, this is what I can see of his clothes beneath the verbiage.) The man never strays far from the shopping cart into which he's poured his belongings. I've seen the cart standing alone-- then notice the man on the ground scrounging for cigarette butts a few yards away. At night when I walk city streets unable to sleep, I've spotted the literary shopping cart parked at the entrance to a doorway of a vacant building. Behind it, beneath signs-- covered with them-- the mad sign maker lies sleeping.

As he makes his daily journeys downtown, displaying the cart at strategic locations, accompanying his message by speeches to nobody, not a person goes near him, as he's obviously crazy. Obviously!

Yet in his screaming maladjusted intensity, is the man really so different from a Sean Hannitty or Ted Kennedy, though with less glamorous trappings? I ask myself if he's really much different from me.

I can't say I've ever fit into bourgeois society. My family couldn't. . . .

I became interested in literature on one of my down cycles; began producing a mad couple-page newsletter on a manual typewriter bought in a resale shop in Detroit's Cass Corridor, at a time in the early 90's when I was knocking down a bottle a day. "New Philistine." Angry bedraggled literary crank-- I was that, which didn't mean I had nothing to say.

Much has been written about the outsider in art and society. ULAers are literary outsiders-- true outsiders carrying a profound alienation toward society, and toward today's corrupt literary system which is a reflection of society. Our mad noise, like the noise of the homeless man with the shopping basket, comes from the streets, is the sound of anger, pain, outrage, alienation, and reality.

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