On many occasions, I've written that I'm terrified of bums. I'm not joking. The way I see it, bums are the most dangerous people in the world because if they commit a crime, they actually receive an upgrade in living conditions. Would you rather spend time in a cardboard box, or an area where you get free meals and showers, and are allowed to play basketball and lift weights every day?
I really don't know why all bums don't commit as many crimes as possible. If I were a bum, I'd mug hundreds of people. It'd be a win-win situation. If I could get away with it, I'd steal lots of money, and my new-found wealth would eliminate my lowly bum status. If I get caught, I'd actually have a roof over my head and meals served to me on a daily basis. Sure, I'd have to take it up the anus whenever I'd drop my soap (not that there's anything wrong with that), but that's better than not eating at all. Hey, I'm a big fan of food.
Bums are the No. 1 reason I hate going downtown. There are bums everywhere in downtown Philly. Whether you're walking down the street, strolling through the train station or entering the lobby of a big office building, you will get accosted by a bum pleading for spare change.
I was asked to speak at the Philadelphia Writer's Conference last weekend (you can see the back of my head on the left side of this picture as I ate food NOM NOM NOM NOM). Unfortunately, this conference was downtown at the Holiday Inn at 4th and Arch.
While getting off at the Market East station around 5 p.m. on Friday, I noticed a bum sprawled out on the 10th street staircase. His head was on the top step, and his body covered about six steps or so. He was yelling stuff in his sleep, and it sounded like he was shouting, "Milkman! Stop the milkman!" Apparently the milkman had tons of change in his pocket.
I laughed it off and proceeded to the conference. It was over around 8:15, at which point my friend Larry and I walked back to Market East. As we entered the station, guess whom we saw still passed out on the same staircase? The same bum was still yelling stuff in his slumber, only this time his rants were even more incoherent and indecipherable.
No wonder this guy is a bum. Friday evening is his busiest time of the week because everyone who works downtown is hurrying to get home. Yet, instead of taking advantage of this opportunity to pocket a few extra dimes and quarters, this jerk spent his prime hours napping.
This guy has to be the laziest bum in the world. Seriously, at least other bums were hustling and working their butts off to make a few extra nickels. This loser didn't even try, opting instead to dream about coin-carrying milkmen during the most crucial part of his workday. If this bum isn't a jerk, I don't know who is.
JERK OF THE WEEK NO. 2: The Laziest Agent
I actually spoke at the Philadelphia Writer's Conference last Sunday. I went there that Friday (the same day I saw The Laziest Bum) to meet some literary agents at a banquet. I'm writing a few books right now, and thought it'd be a good idea to talk to some agents about it.
The banquet was great. The food was awesome, and I was able to see my first-ever journalism professor from Penn State, who works at the Philadelphia Inquirer. The only downside was that I was the youngest person there. I saw some cougar women in their 30s, but as you can tell from that picture above, most of the audience was comprised of writers in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.
The agents there did a good job of answering all of the questions, though the older people constantly inquired about how eBooks, Kindle and iPad were going to affect the sales of books. Seriously, I heard "Hey shonny whatsh goingsh to happensh withsh the Kindlesh?" in my dreams that night.
All of the agents were great - except for one. I won't name any names, but this hot chick agent (in her late 20s or early 30s) went to the podium and said, "I didn't really prepare anything for this."
Oh really? If you didn't prepare anything, why should anyone prepare to listen to you? Seriously, how unprofessional is that? What if your dentist told you, "I'm not really prepared to fill your cavity; I don't have half my equipment with me, so let me just wing it?" Or what if a professional football player didn't study any film, opting instead to spend his entire offseason eating Cheetos, hot dogs and Skittles? Oh wait, that's JaMarcus Russell.
This chick spoke for another minute or so - she obviously had the least to say out of the eight or nine agents who were there - but I didn't really pay attention to her. I had already made up my mind to make her a Jerk of the Week, and I was in the process of trying to figure out what to write.
She sealed the deal later on during the Q&A portion of the banquet. I purposely paid attention to her just to see if she answered any of the audience's questions (every inquiry was open to all of the agents), but she just sat there in silence the entire time. She finally spoke up toward the end when someone asked what sort of genre they preferred as a manuscript submission. Her response? Not a mystery. Not science fiction. Not non-fictional. Her favorite type of submission: "Mash-ups."
"What the hell is a mash-up?" I thought until I suddenly realized that everyone was also confused. In fact, the entire room was buzzing, each person asking their neighbor what a mash-up was. A woman in her 50s sitting to my left turned to me and asked, "You're a young man. Can you tell me what a mash-up is?" I just shrugged my shoulders.
I then listened to the crowd, trying to pick up an answer. Instead, I heard these random responses from several confused elderly people:
"Shonny, what the worldsh ish a mash-upsh?"
"Did that woman just say mashed potatoes?"
"Mashed potatoes? I love mashed potatoes!"
"Where are the mashed potatoes? I missed them!"
"Mash-ups are books about the show Mash!"
"When I was her age, there were no mash-ups, and we walked to the Philadelphia Writer's Conference uphill in the snow both ways for 15 miles!"
"Shonny, my hearing aidsh didn'tsh worksh can you repeatsh what she shaid!?"
"Heh? Where am I? Who are these people? How did I get here? Who am I?"
Not only did this chick agent come unprepared to the conference, she also failed to recognize her demographic when she gave her ever-so important one-worded contribution to the Q&As.
Now, does this sound like someone I'd like to work with in the future? Umm... yeah, it actually does. I did say she was hot, remember?
JERK OF THE WEEK NO. 3: Josh
Josh has been my best friend since we were both 5 years old. We first met when we played freeze tag on his cul-de-sac in the summer of 1987. Josh cheated during the game, prompting me to call him "selfish" right to his face. I didn't even know what the word "selfish" meant; it just seemed like the appropriate thing to say.
Josh lives downtown now - apparently he's not as terrified of bums as I am - so we decided to meet for lunch after my speech at the Philadelphia Writer's Conference was over. I called Josh around 11:30 on Sunday, and he told me to walk down 9th street so we could meet halfway.
We met up about 10 minutes later. He asked where I wanted to go, but I told him to decide since I'm not familiar at all with downtown. He told me about a place called Sarcone's, which according to him makes the best hoagies in Philadelphia. "Sounds awesome, NOM NOM NOM NOM," I thought.
Unfortunately, what Josh failed to mention was that Sarcone's was like a million miles away. We seriously walked for 20 minutes in extremely humid 95-degree weather, and it was worse for me because I had dress clothes on. Oh, and a painful blister on my right heel that I developed from walking around on Friday wasn't helping either.
Josh noticed that I was struggling. "I knew you'd be pissed off from walking this far, but trust me, the hoagies are awesome. Do you like tuna salad hoagies?"
"No, I don't like tuna salad hoagies!" I yelled incoherently, trying my hardest not to pass out.
"Well, do you like sesame seeds on rolls?" Josh asked.
Josh laughed. "Uh oh, looks like you may not like this place!"
I tried calling Josh "selfish" again, but my throat was parched and no words were able to escape my larynx.
We finally arrived at Sarcone's. Of course, it wasn't air conditioned because downtown sucks. But I bought a bottle of Pepsi and ordered an Italian hoagie. Ten minutes later, I took my first bite and... well... it was decent. It was a little watery, and the roll was difficult to chew. It's not what I'd call the "best hoagie in Philly" (that would be Primo's) and it certainly wasn't something I'd like to walk 20 minutes in super humid 95-degree weather for.
I ate most of my meal, but was forced to throw an eighth of it out because I had to catch my train. Unfortunately, I lost track of time, and I realized that the next train was coming in just 21 minutes. If I missed that, I'd have to wait for another hour at Market East with all of the bums. I hate bums!
**Side note: Another thing I hate about downtown is that the trains run only once per hour during the weekends. Philly income and business taxes are so high, yet they can afford to run the train just once an hour? What kind of crap is that? Of course, Philly would actually have the money for a decent transportation system if our mayors didn't hire their friends to "work" for the city at $500,000-plus salaries and take a portion of that income for themselves. Seriously, mayors John Street and Michael Nutter should be thrown into prison for all of the money they've stolen over the years. (End angry rant.)**
In order to catch the train, I had to run back to the station most of the way. Remember, I had dress clothes on in ultra-humid 95-degree weather with a nasty blister on my heel. And I just ate seven-eighths of a hoagie.
I don't know how I did it, but I made it back just in time even though I had to make a slight detour because police blocked off a section of the sidewalk for the 2010 Philadelphia Gay Pride Parade (not that there's anything wrong with that). I was actually so pissed off that I yelled "straight pride wooo!!!" as I ran by people who had their faces painted in rainbow colors.
So anyway, the train door was actually closing as I walked down to the ramp, but the ticket lady was nice enough to wait for me. I thanked her and plopped down onto my seat, exhausted as hell.
From that point on, things were pretty fuzzy. I remember paying for my train ticket. I remember checking the Band-Aid covering my blister to see that it was soaked in blood. I also remember some lady a few rows in front winking at me and talking to an older man about steak. I'm pretty sure she rattled off the price of steak at every restaurant in Philly, but I may have just been delirious at that point. I'm almost positive I was suffering from sunstroke.
I don't recall getting off the train, but the next thing I knew, I parked my car, walked into my air-conditioned house and passed out.
God knows what happened on the car ride back to my house. For all I know, I got pulled over for swerving. Perhaps I joined the Laziest Bum for a nice mid-afternoon nap. Or maybe I drove back downtown to run Josh over for making me suffer. Nothing would really surprise me at this point.