I have found that when you live in the big city, it's best to have a comprehensive bum policy in place. This way, you know what to do each and every time you're panhandled. You really can't be wishy-washy about these things. My bum policies are as follows:
1. Kick down the cash periodically.
2. Treat with cautious respect.
3. When there is a bum sighting, decide in advance whether or not you will be kicking down today.
4. When not kicking down, avoid eye contact, say nothing, keep walking.
5. If contributing, keep a safe distance. Do I really need the risk of-Almighty Jesus Lord-God in frickin' Heaven above-having one of their spit drops landing into my eye membrane and exposing me to any of their 28 strains of flesh-melting syndromes?
6. Whenever annoyed and feeling the urge to say, “Get a job asshole,” always remember: there but for the grace of gonzo go I; remember these are the downtrodden; remember that most of these people can't get a job. Sure, some bums are just wretched hippy-kids trying to see the world on somebody else's donkey. But how do you distinguish them from the heroin-addled runaway children of abusive parents?
I don't even try. I just treat them all the same-with kindness and dignity and sympathy; if for no other reason than because it's what the peoples of evolved societies are supposed to do.
Which brings us to “Bumfights.”
“Bumfights” is exactly as it sounds. The producers paid homeless men to brawl on camera and sold more than 300,000 copies of the video. It was partly filmed in La Mesa.
Sound bad? Well the idea of it is nothing compared to the reality. Watching Bumfights is a disturbing, repulsive, unnerving, gut-grinding experience that I shamefully enjoyed the hell out of.
There is blood. There is pus. There are broken bones. There is crack smoking. There is street defecation. There is tooth extraction with pliers. There is Roofus the Stunt Bum who rides shopping carts down cement stairs. There is the Bum Hunter. And there is a sex-oozing, stripper-model named Angela Taylor sprawled on a bed and removing her Bumfights tank top.
Of course the La Mesa Police Department was going to arrest the producers. The violence is one thing, but that Angela Taylor gal? She's dangerous.
But I kid the La Mesa Police Department. Actually, they arrested the producers on grounds that the homeless men are too mentally deranged to legally consent to these videos and that the producers are violently exploiting them.
Which could very well be true.
But... If an evolved society is judged by how much dignity it affords its unfortunates, then it all comes down to a question of which is more dignifying: passing laws that protect the homeless from exploitation; or allowing them to make their own choices about their own lives?
I don't know. You don't either. The city of La Mesa certainly doesn't know. How could anybody really know? The whole thing is a toss-up and our toss-up policy should be this: Let us err in favor minding our own damn business. Let us err in favor of personal liability. Let us err in favor of hacking off the bulging, sweaty arm of moral intrusion. Let fate or God decide. Let the mommies call their boycotts. Let the consumer buy or not buy. Let the holy throw their hissy-fits-let the civil lawsuits fly.
Besides, “Bumfights” may very well be the first real solution to the homeless problem. Just think, if the courts allow the producers to continue earning the millions and millions they were clearly destined to earn-all kinds of video copycats would emerge. Not just “Bumfights”-but “Bumsurvivor” and “Bumfucks, too. VH1 will air Vagabonds on the Run and the Travel Channel will hire vagrant writers to rate the dumpsters of California. The whole thing will become a billion-dollar industry. Winos of the world will have jobs, and finally, finally become what every participating American is supposed to become: a relentless, mindless, voracious, consuming machine.
Then a whole new bum demographic will emerge and new products will saturate the market. Products like “Syringe Wipes” by Endust; or “Dr. Scholl's Dumpster Gloves”-and all endorsed by celebrity hobos:
“Hi, I'm Roofus the Stunt Bum, star of Martin Scorcese's new bum film called, “One Tooth Left.” So, are you tired of explaining away all those unwanted junky scabs? Well cover it up with Johnson and Johnson's Bum Cream!”
And everyone in the world would be happy happy because now when a beggar rudely rattles his cup in your face, you could say, “Get a job pal”-and know that they actually, really, truly could.