Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Huckleberry Finn Option?

The Seattle Times weighed in with yet another hard-hearted and one-sided editorial last Wednesday loving the Mayor's campsite clearance policy and characterizing those homeless who are camped outside in the rain and cold as exercising the "Huckleberry Finn option."

What cold and dark planet do these people live on?

To illustrate, at left is Huck Finn. What a scamp! He probably just conned some kid into painting a fence for him. All day, he's romping through the woods, shooting small animals, constructing rafts, lying lazily in the sun, and avoiding work. At right is Grimes Poznikov, a once wildly popular San Fransisco street performer who was recently discovered living in a garbage dump during the homeless sweeps in that city.

One morning this week at Poznikov's campsite, the former Automatic Human Jukebox crawled out from under his piano when he heard his name called by a Chronicle reporter. He seemed dazed by the sunlight and oblivious to the stink of urine and trash around him. He was dressed in women's clothing.

Pointing to a missing front tooth, which he said police knocked out during one of his many contacts with them, Poznikov said he can't play the trumpet anymore. He hawked the instrument at a pawn shop in 1996. Instead, at age 56, he now plays chaotic chords on a waterlogged piano with broken strings for other homeless campers and resident rats. Of course, he said, he misses the crowds at Fisherman's Wharf. "Well, it's sad," he said, turning his head away to hide his watery green eyes. After a long pause, he added, "But what can you do?" To his homeless neighbors, he's part crazy and part genius, he's a little bit generous and a little bit confrontational.

He recently fished a turkey out of a trash can and gave it to a neighbor for Thanksgiving, and he gives piano concerts at midnight. But he also drinks, says he smokes some pot and calls passers-by "Nazis."

Who wouldn't want to be this guy? Free food. Nothin' but the stars over his head. Livin' in the great outdoors. Sweet!

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