Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Soloist in Sarasota

Let's talk about coincidence. 

1. We put new windows in our house on Friday to help both us and the economy move along. New windows give one a cheerful disposition about the outside world.

2. Saturday evening, Pam, Cheryl, Liz and I went to see the movie The Soloist, a true story about a homeless man, a musical genius, who pushes a shopping cart around and lives on the streets of Los Angeles. 

We stopped for a commemorative snapshot in front of the box office.

Our faces were not quite so smiley as we exited the movie, so we went to Il Panaficio, a local pizza shop, for a light dinner and conversation.  

3. The proprietor of Il Panaficio told me he had lived in Florence for 12 years and the olive and pickle vase (below) was an Italian tradition. The olives were encapsulated and they would never be eaten. My companions ate vegetarian. I had a big slice of pepperoni and jalapeno. Hot!

Before we left our outdoor table, I discovered that the proprietor regularly employed a homeless man to gather and secure the heavy metal chairs in his outdoor dining room. So I know at least one homeless man eats delicious food, thanks to one Sarasotan. 

4. I found Morris Siegel (below) on the streets of West Los Angeles in 1968. Morris told me he picked up street litter around Farmers Market daily because he was so happy to be living in the USA.  Note the political portraits of Eisenhower, Nixon, and Kennedy (not showing, left), on his shopping cart. Morris also fed the local pigeons who knew him so well that they ate seeds out of his mouth.  Morris lived in an abandoned car.

5.  Twenty-one years later, on Christmas eve of 1989, I'm sitting in my in-laws comfortable home in Rochester, NY and I find a newspaper article about Morris. Click to enlarge.

I'm don't think of myself as wealthy, but I live in a wealthy city that has more homeless people than we would care to acknowledge. In 1968 Morris Siegel was an anomaly, a rarity, in West Los Angeles. Meanwhile, a credit line at the end of The Soloist declared that presently there are 90,000 homeless people living on the streets of Los Angeles. 

6. We know that there is a strong correlation between poor mental health and homelessness. Thanks to Steve Lopez (LA Times reporter and author of The Soloist) it is no coincidence that we all have new windows of opportunity to change the future.

1 comment:

Chris said...

My initial reaction to stories of homelessness is always one of sadness, and to some extent pity. But then I hear or read stories about people like Morris Siegel who seem to have made a decsion to live that way. It shows the power of the human spirit, how resiliat we are, and how little we really need to live. For me it strengthens my conviction to live more simply and cherish the important things in and friends.