By Richard Kroll
Seriously, that wouldn’t be too far-fetched as the colleague is the former publicist for America’s first family of entertainment the Osmonds and good friends with Larry King’s wife, Shawn who has her own TV network, Ora.
So as I sit watching this homeless man eat his first meal, bought by my colleague, Trish Brown, founder of Tipping Point Education, who asked me to attend, I begin to wonder if either is us is going to make it out of this discussion alive as the 29-year-old homeless man talked of the largest Detroit drug runner and many other stories that seemed scandalous and dangerous.
Where was my colleague going with this? Did she really think we could save him or find a story for her national online news mag TPEPost.com?
That’s how I found myself searching the heart and mind of a homeless man in a Big Boy near the airport. Trish wanted to see how we could give “J” a voice- whatever that meant. We were there to find out.
At first it was hard tracking with “J’s” conversation. He was talking passionately about meth labs secretly being run in downtown Detroit’s morgue one minute and then about political corruption the next. He shared how certain shelters were used as fronts to scam unsuspecting homeless people into giving up their welfare and Social Security checks. And then on to different motorcycle gangs working both sides of legitimate and illegal businesses and how they confided in him. He dropped names of very powerful business owners and politicians; again implicating them into complex illegal schemes that he was willing to expose through TPE Post.
It was obvious that “J” was very intelligent, creative and passionate. He confessed his battles with anger, drugs and alcohol. And how he got “talkative” when he was drunk and that his stripper girlfriend would post things on the Internet implicating him in things like the Columbine massacre and other crimes he was made privy to through his multitude of connections “Downtown”.
As his slipped in and out of conspiracy theories and paranoia, there were things he said that people would be interested in. So I asked if he’d be interested in writing articles about the day in a life as a homeless person. Answering questions like: How do you make money? Where do you sleep? How do you get food? Where are the best shelters? Who treats the homeless the best?
For example, did you know that you could dumpster dive behind the Medical Marijuana Dispensaries and find enough pot to bag up and sell in smaller quantities for a profit? I never knew that. But “J” did! So if you ever find yourself homeless and in need of money you can find free drugs, bag them up and do drug dealing and make about $100.00 for the day.
Wouldn’t YOU be interested in things like that? I know I would! (Even though I don’t think I would become a drug dealer-even if I was homeless. Just sayin…)
I asked what “J” wanted that he currently didn’t have. What would cause him to give up his homeless lifestyle for a traditional life with responsibilities, a job and all the demands that came with it. He said he wanted a family. That having a wife and children would give him the drive to give up the street and become a productive participant in society.
So we offered him the chance to write an article about a day in the life of a homeless person. But then the excuses started. He started to get edgy and nervous again.
I told him that he didn’t have to write huge articles. Perhaps he could take “baby steps” like in the movie “What About Bob?” starring starring Bill Murray and Richard Dreyfuss. I suggested taking a baby step like texting some ideas to Trish on a friend’s phone. Then taking another baby step and finding a library that would let him use a computer. Nothing big or overwhelming…just baby steps…like Bob.
After my “What About Bob” diversion, “J” had just about finished his food and said he needed a cigarette. Did you know that Big Boys don’t have cigarette machines anymore? Didn’t they have them when we were younger?? Any way… they don’t now. So how could I get “J” a cigarette? (I know…it’s not nice to contribute to a person’s unhealthy habits, but I know what it was like to want a cigarette after a meal, so I thought that could be MY contribution to “J” for being willing to talk to us!)
I saw an older guy who looked like he stepped off a ZZ Top poster and probably smoked paying for his bill at the cash register and followed him outside. I asked him if he smoked, and since he did, if I could buy a cigarette from him for “J”. I told him that Trish and I were trying to help out a homeless guy and didn’t have a cigarette to give him for the road home. He graciously gave me a cigarette and refused to take the dollar I pushed in his hand; despite my insistence that he take it and “pay it forward”. He told me to give it to “J” with the cigarette and that is how he would pay it forward. So I took the cigarette and the dollar bill into the restaurant as Trish and “J” were getting ready to walk outside.
Outside “J” broke off the filter from the cigarette, put the filter in his pocket, lit the Camel-like leftover and started puffing it like a rich guy enjoying a fine cigar after a steak dinner. Then the excuses started again about why he probably wouldn’t be able to submit an article to Trish. Not even using a friend’s phone to text or using the public library’s computers, etc.
Knowing that our efforts to help “J” get on the road to starting a family were being thwarted by the very same man who minutes earlier said he wanted them, we started to say our good-byes and make our way to the car. But “J” had one more favor to ask.
“Could we drop him off closer to his brother’s house? And stop by a certain party store that sold cigarettes individually. (I guess that is how he was going to use the dollar that I… I mean that my “ZZ Top friend” had given him).
On the short drive to the party store the conspiracy theories and name-dropping started to flow again. As we said our last farewells to “J” and started to drive back to my car, Trish and I wondered, “Would he find a way to start writing about homeless life?” Would he do what it took to get that family he said he so desperately wanted? Or would he simply slip back into the life he had become accustomed to for these past 10 years…dumpster diving, scheming and conniving, and begging again in the Motor City?
Or would he take Trish up on her offer to give him a voice. A chance to be an “everyday person” with great ideas and thoughts that people might like to hear. Trish Brown isn’t just talking about this culture changing idea, she is MAKING it happen!
What’s YOUR story? Do you have great thoughts and ideas? Have you been heard yet??
“We believe in the everyday man, woman & child. We believe there are everyday people with the greatest ideas, and thoughts that are never heard of, or read about. We plan to change that.” Trish Brown- TPE Post Publisher