Sunday, April 17, 2011

17 APR 11: Begs on Broadway

The Saturday night plan already had me heading for downtown Columbus. That was true even before this e-mail came Friday:

I just heard on the radio that the Downtown Night Life Association is hosting a Bar Crawl Tonight. Seems like they would have had enough of the crawling around after last weekend.

I didn't come across any crime on Broadway Saturday night. But I encountered something nearly as controversial, which soon could be a crime - and the only "crawling" involved an animal with four legs.

BLOGGER BEGGARS #1-2 (of 2011): "WOOF!" exclaimed a large dog as I walked by Saturday night at 11th and Broadway. I stopped to make sure it was on a leash, and heard a young man sitting on a bench correct it. The last thing he wanted was a violation of the city noise ordinance.

I started on my way - but now the young man had a question, which I had to hear three times to understand. "Can you help us get something to eat?" The man had a girlfriend alongside him, along with the dog. Was this animal trained to be a "first alert" warning system?

I held something to eat in my hands, having walked out of Momma Goldberg's Deli moments before. This was my first-ever trip to "Momma G's," and it was a busy spot at 9:15 on a Saturday night. But the sauce on my Turkey Delite sandwich seemed overdone - as if I needed to be reminded of the rainstorm at 5:00 a.m.

But anyway: I didn't have the cash to go back to Momma Goldberg's and buy dinner for two more people and a large dog. But help was waiting in my car trunk, so I motioned the group toward my car one block away. I parked on First Avenue, presuming it would be easier than searching for an open space on Broadway - not to mention fewer blood stains.

"My name's Gideon," the young man said as he caught up with me, leaving the girlfriend and dog back at the corner. "We just got to town." So much for my theory that the dog was a response to last weekend's violent crimes. It wasn't even a pit bull, which would have impressed the nightclub crowd.

"Do you know of any shelter which serves dinner later than the Salvation Army?" Gideon asked me. I admitted I didn't know the meal times for Valley Rescue Mission. I'm thankfully not that desperate for an extra-extra-low value menu these days.

Gideon correctly guessed I'd been exercising earlier. "You're a fast walker," he told me. That actually was by design - because I know from experience that helping one beggar tends to bring others out of hiding. For all I knew, Gideon's gal back on Broadway could have been sending signals to a network of friends.

(One memorable late Thursday night in Atlanta, I helped one man who said he needed transmission fluid. In the process, nine more came to me within 15 minutes -- needing everything from a quarter for a pay phone to drive-through food at Taco Bell. Even before "Fourthmeal," I was providing fifths and sixths.)

"I don't have anything for your dog," I admitted to Gideon as we reached my car. "I've never come across a beggar with a dog before."

"I have plenty of food for the dog," Gideon answered. This brought the walk to a sudden screeching halt. But after thinking a moment, I realized Gravy Train probably isn't recommended for grown-ups.

"You have food for the dog, but not for you?!"

"I make sure my pet is fed." Even if he and his girlfriend have to beg like animals for other people's crumbs....

"If you can't afford dinner, maybe you should give up the dog," I told Gideon. "Do you think animals are more important than humans?"

"Of course not," Gideon said -- thus proving he wasn't a member of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Gideon explained he couldn't give up the dog because it's willing to be a companion and show him love. I decided not to pursue that reasoning any farther. But somehow I don't think the House of Mercy keeps a kennel on the side for people in this situation.

Longtime blog readers know I keep "beggar bags" in my car for cases such as this. I pulled out two of the three in my trunk and gave them to Gideon. Then we both went on our way -- and I drove home without going back to Broadway, to see if someone else had smothered the girlfriend with "Momma's Love."

Under the proposed Columbus panhandling ordinance, what I encountered Saturday night would become illegal. Gideon asked for help well after the 8:00 p.m. nightly deadline, and his girlfriend made it an illegal "group beg." I hope these rules are posted in plain sight at the Greyhound bus station, so all the other newcomers know.

But I'm only counting Gideon as one beggar, since the girlfriend never spoke up. The first beggar to cross my path this year actually happened three weeks ago near the bus station. A man crossed Veterans Parkway as I walked home after leaving my car at a repair shop. I suppose I should have disqualified him on the spot for jaywalking....

That man said he needed 85 cents for bus fare, to get to the Veterans Administration clinic on 13th Street for a ride to Tuskegee. Trouble was, he stopped me at around 9:30 on a Sunday morning - and METRA doesn't run on Sundays. He wanted the money on Sunday for a Monday morning bus ride. Considering he was walking, he could have reached the clinic in a day.

Since I try to avoid giving money to strangers without accountability, this situation required some long thought. I finally offered to give the man a ride to the clinic, if he showed up at my door several blocks away at sunrise Monday. The beggar seemed to accept that -- but he never showed up on Monday. Maybe he received 85 cents from someone else. Or maybe he already was working on Tuesday's excuse.

An e-mail candidate for the Sunday Soapbox had to be held, because it requires verification calls. So in the meantime, let's check the weekend news....

+ A confirmed tornado hit the Harmony Church area of Fort Benning, damaging cars and ripping the wall off a vacant dormitory. WXTX reported severe weather even delayed the second day of the Best Ranger competition. Aw, c'mon - I thought these were tough soldiers.

(Tornado sirens sounded in Talladega - and NASCAR fans camping at the Superspeedway reportedly cheered. Those fans are not only sick, but lacking in smarts. An EF-1 tornado has winds as high as 110 miles per hour - nowhere near as fast as the stock cars in today's race.)

+ The line of storms left the field at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn covered with hailstones, only hours before the "A-Day" spring football game. I assume the baseball team was summoned to toss them all into trash cans....

+ The Atlanta tabloid "Creative Loafing" presented Rep. Kip Smith a "Golden Sleaze Award" from this year's Georgia legislative session. Smith was, uh, honored for proposing a three-percent city or county "tourism tax" to bring in new attractions. The idea died in committee - so the old rumors about Disney taking over Callaway Gardens will linger at least one more year.

+ The Columbus Lions mauled Mobile Bay in indoor football 106-35. Apparently the most dramatic moment of the evening at the Civic Center occurred before the game - when Columbus State University theatre students presented "Charlotte's Web."

+ The Atlanta Hawks surprised Orlando 103-93 in the opening game of the N.B.A. playoffs. How sneaky of Hawks coach Larry Drew - having his team go on a losing streak at the end of the regular season, to throw the Orlando scouts off the track.

+ Instant Message to the person who used the severe weather in Columbus to post the online question "WWKD?": Ooooo -- shame on you. But I would think Kurt Schmitz had a basement in his home ready.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Our next post will not occur until our annual Serious Spring Cleaning is completed. We hope this will occur at our scheduled time Monday, but we make no guarantees.)

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