In Praise of Survival, from an Unviable Man

In the latest post in the GABFRAB blog, entitled “Prescription Teeth,” the peripatetic author talks about various hitchhikers he’s picked up while driving along western US highways. His specific examples are of people who I didn’t think existed any more: hobos. Not the inert homeless I see here on Toronto streets, sprawled gauntly on the banking district pavement, sleeping their lives away while smug fatcats in expensive suits step around them. No, the people he describes are proud and resilient in their transience and homelessness, people who do very well without even the most basic security net and live lives that, despite frequent hardship, are odysseys of romantic freedom.

An unviable guy like me gets charmed out of his undies by stuff like that.

What do I mean by unviable? I mean exactly what the word means: incapable of survival. While I’ve always had a decent level of book intelligence, my practical intelligence is zilch. I can’t problem-solve my way out of a wet paper bag. My few experiences with homelessness, including deliberate ones, have lasted mere hours and ended with me igominously begging for rescue from birth family. Without my father, late mother and brother, i would long ago have been slain by the elements, or at least by thirst, because I wouldn’t have been able to find a way to get a drink of water on the street. Sure, I can write in many styles, but that’s the only thing I’ve done even passably in the half-century since my birth. I don’t even wipe my ass all that well.

These hobos of GAFRAB’s are my idols and heroes, those who have the intrepidity to remain alive and even prosper in the absence of support from the strangling apron-strings of those who inflicted them on the world. They are, in my biased view, the finest examples of humanity, those rare people who would be just as good staying alive 200,000 years ago, in the forager age, as they are on city streets today–even though our 21st-century world is significantly more hostile to their way of life than the world of 200,000 or even 200 years ago was. Gone is the opportunity to walk all day through the wilderness and stop at a farmer’s house to shovel hay for one evening in exchange for a meal and a place to sleep in the hayloft. What is not gone is the human spirit as embodied in these amazing individuals I’ve always aspired to be like: in a world of strangling confinement and raincloud credit ratings, they remain free.

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