Series: travel March 24, 2017
I wrote this a very long time ago. It’s a story from my backpacking days that a particular friend loved to hear. So I wrote it down.
The streets of St. Kilda in Melbourne, Australia are lined with trendy cafes, boutique shops and palm trees. The sidewalks bustle with pedestrian traffic as streetcars jangle their way down the centre of the street. As with many trendy nooks of a major metropolis, there is an interesting blend of characters: the well to-do hurry in and out of expensive clothing boutiques, the homeless take up cardboard box residence in recessed doorways and those with nothing to do sip coffee and become part of the charm. I’ll admit, I was at a strange intersection of all three that bright cloudless Australian morning when a yuppie couple passed me by.
They weren’t out of the ordinary for anyone else in that area - or anyone else living in a western society for that matter. After all, it was the 90’s. The dot com bubble was bubbling, materialism was trendy and Seinfeld was the hottest show on TV. As a result T-shirts expressing yuppie hyperbole were all the fad.
You know the ones which boasted slogans like:
He who dies with the most toys… wins.
In fact, it was the man’s T-shirt slogan that caught my gaze from behind my oversized cappuccino mug. It read:
Rich is beautiful. Poor is ugly.
I remember briefly thinking about beauty, poverty and wealth as a bum in a dirty overcoat pick up a cigarette butt behind the couple. But my attention quickly faded to more important matters - like, where could I stay for under $20 that night…
The bum called out. I looked up. He wasn’t yelling at me. That’s good.
Hey! You two!
Ah, he’s shouting at the yuppies. I scanned the street for the nearest beat cop. Just in case.
The couple turned around. Their facial expressions drew somewhere between utter disdain and fear for their lives as they came to realize it was a vagrant demanding their attention.
With the couple skittishly watching the vagrant bends over and picks up another cigarette butt.
He takes a few steps forward and stops directly in front of them.
Tucking the butt behind his ear he begins:
Sometimes I’m rich.
And sometimes I’m poor.
He stretches out his arms and with a toothless grin:
But I’m always beautiful.