segunda-feira, 25 de maio de 2020

Version 2.021

The highlight of today was going to Burke's Books to pick up my order of three John Grisham books: Camino Winds, Ford County: Stories, and Theodore Boone: The Accomplice; the latter one is a signed copy that I intend to give to my nephew. I may be able to FedEx it, since the regular mail has been iffy, to say the least. Last year, the USPS failed to deliver a box of books that I had mailed myself when I was in Boston, then over Christmas, a friend in Portugal tried to mail be a gift and it managed to find its way to Prague, but not the U.S. One of my friends works at FedEx and about a year ago told me that their CEO's expectation was that, within a couple of years, the post office would be out of business. Seems about right.

After having the books dropped off in the backseat of my car, I parked on a side street and went for a walk along Cooper St. to the old Galloway Methodist church where Johny Cash gave his first performance. I took a photo of the statue of the singer and the plaques explaining the significance of the place, but Julian was restless, breathing heavily from the heat, and a woman who walked by pointed at him saying that he was cute.

She seemed odd, dressed in a stretchy dress showing her full figure. She looked like a prostitute, but then I thought I was being crazy. I have never seen a prostitute in the U.S., well, I probably have, but I have never been able to tell that they were prostitutes. I don't think I could even give directions on how to find one. Anyway, all these thoughts went through my mind, but no conclusions were attained.

As I finished taking the photos, the woman started talking to me. She asked if I knew Memphis well. I told her well enough. Memphis is a bit hard to know, it's very spread out and some roads are windy and not on a grid, so sometimes you take a turn thinking you're going one way and end up way out of where you intended to go. She started to tell me that she was looking for help. She was from out of town and was staying with a friend who needed to go to a hospital, but the trip crossed state-lines and she couldn't find someone to take her friend.

Hmmm... I played dumb and told her that the best way would be to call the insurance company of her friend and have them arrange for transportation. Of course, she did not look like her friend would have health insurance. She carried on with her story. Someone had told her that she could take a bus to her hometown, but she only had $4 and the trip was $17 and they did give her a cigarette and a Metro pass to go to the long-distance bus station, but what those people did not realize was that she had grand-babies, whom she could not leave alone. It defied logic, but the point was that she either wanted me to volunteer to give her a ride somewhere two and a half hours away or, most likely, give her some cash.

The first time I came back to Memphis after moving to Houston, I was riding with a friend on Ridgeway Rd, right next to the railroad overpass, where a lot of homeless people would hang out. There was a wooded corner full of tall bushes, that they would use as a bathroom, that much I figured out during the many times I drove by on my way to and from work. As we passed that area, my friend, who was in her seventies, told me to never try to help a homeless person. She had given a ride to a homeless woman once, and it turned out that the woman had a mental disorder and pulled out a knife on my friend. Duly noted.

Sometimes, at intersections, I give money to the beggars. I know we're not supposed to because it could be used for drugs and we're basically allowing them to remain homeless, when they could seek actual help instead. But, today, I gave almost all the cash I had to the man that sits in the intersection near my house selling the Sunday paper for $1. I was sorry that I did not have a $20, so I gave me a handful of dollar-bills. I think I still had $2 left, but I decided that it might not be safe to give it to that woman, since there was nobody else on the street if things did not go well. So I started to walk away as I told her that I was sorry, but I could not help her. She stayed behind and I continued walking.

In Memphis, the border between being in a safe and an unsafe part of town is very easy to cross and I suppose that now with the pandemic, things might be slightly different and parts that used to be safe have become less so. At least, I had a dog with me. And my dog gets really wacky when people get too close. The woman was wise to keep her distance.

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