I had dinner with a fine gentleman named Bread last night, under the 14th Street bridge. Ironically, our three course meal had no bread in it! We had rice served in dutch paper, some chicken hock and a sack of peppered eggs. Delicious!
Talking deep into the night, Bread and I had some great discussions, most of which centered around this blog and what I hoped it might accomplish. The topic that kept recurring was the fact that I ought to kick off the discussion with a little bit of insight as to the different types of vagrants, and what makes a man transient and what doesn't.
The transients reading this can probably snooze through this part, as the audience for this post is going to be the average carpet-walking layman.
I have nothing against 'homeless people', but that being the case I want to make a point to say that I am not homeless. I do not have a proper address, no, but my home is everywhere. My home is the earth. I am not in this situation because of unfortunate circumstance...this is how I choose to live. That is the postmodern definition of a vagrant, especially one who lives a transient lifestyle.
Webster's defines transient first as an adjective, in being "not lasting, enduring or permanent; transitory", and as a noun in being "a person or thing that is transient, especially a temporary guest, boarder, laborer or the like". I fully subscribe both of these definitions.
As a rule, a homeless person is there by circumstance. The loss of a job or other means of income, perhaps a mental or physical health issue. Again, not to sound callous, simply to differentiate: We transients are not homeless men. We simply live a life between front doors instead of behind them.
It's a beautiful lifestyle and I hope through these writings those of you unfamiliar with the term will grow a deeper appreciation for what we are discussing here.
A transient man will not sit on the street corner begging for money. Rather, he will come into town for a short time, find some sort of seasonal or other sort of gainful employment, will live off the land, will sleep under the stars, will share stories and songs and music with others like him, and then will be on his way to the next town. We vagrants are not afraid of work, our hands are calloused for a reason. We may be "poor" in a sense, but many of us are skilled laborers who do earn money. That money may be spent collectively ('hobo feast') or on one's own makeshift meal.
We are foragers, urban gatherers. You wouldn't believe the delicious meal you can make at no charge simply by skimming through an average city block. We live off the land. We don't earn a lot of money because we don't need a lot of money. Nearly everything we need to survive can be found or traded for.
So please, know a true vagrant from a homeless person. Give the homeless man your change, your compassion...they're the ones that need it. We vagrants just appreciate a warm smile and maybe a can of beans if you have it to spare, so we can make a nice pot of chili to share with our brothers.