Saturday, December 17, 2016


Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number - from "Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall"

Second Avenue Upper East Side - William's home
I have decided to write a journal. My blog days are over.

It is just too difficult to get a single theme per post, and in any case I have been inspired by Helen Garner's "Everywhere I Look" - a collection of her essays and journal entries spanning fifteen years.

Haiku-like they evoke a period, a point of view, a piece of news, a family memory, with the last line or paragraph giving the reader a feeling of edginess, of a thing un-finished or a counterpoint. Always something more to think about,  to ponder.

Well I am no Helen Garner, but I think a diary or journal is more appropriate for me, at this stage of my life, and at this stage of society's devolution in the Divided States of America.

So today I want to write about William.

I only found out his name today, when I brought him a cup of hot chocolate from Starbucks.

I'd gone outside to see if he was still there, homeless at his home outside the Chase Bank on the corner of Second Avenue and 93rd Street Manhattan - worried as the city was under a weather advisory. It had snowed all night. William lives on the sidewalk 

I didn't expect to find him there this morning, with the snow and all, but there he was.

I asked him what I could get him today and he said, "Hot chocolate." Well I knew other people, neighbors, often bought him breakfast from McDonald's so I asked him where from - dreading to have to trudge up to McDonald's in East Harlem through the snow-laden footpaths. But he said he would like Starbucks hot chocolate - only two doors away.

I didn't know his name, though I have been stopping by regularly. William is a Reader and is particularly fond of John Grisham thrillers. I have given him some novels, but whatever I give him he has already read. There's an admirable honesty about William. Some people would just say "Thanks", but William always says, "Oh that is kind of you, but I have read it." He is specific in what he wants. And why not?

Today, when I brought him his Starbuck's hot chocolate, I asked him his name. It is William. "My dad was called William," I said, but he was too busy opening up the lid of his hot chocolate.

I thought of my dad as I walked back home. I remember being told how he - always a heavy smoker - unemployed and walking the streets of Collingwood in Melbourne in the 1930s - would look for the buts of cigarettes.

I don't know how my William survived the Great Depression. But he did, although the cigarettes killed him in the end.

Two Williams - decades apart. But the times, they aren't a-changing.