Walking along South Miami Avenue this evening on my way from Dr. Smood to Batch Gastropub I saw a guy who was wearing expensive gym clothes and he was in great shape and had a very neat haircut but he was sitting on the pavement for some reason, his back against the sidewall of a bank, eating Chipotle out of his lap. Just looking around. Thinking.
It reminded me of this news story from a few years ago talking about Richard Gere going “undercover” as a homeless person in New York City because he was about to play a homeless person in a movie. In the article he was talking about this harsh new reality he discovered in which nobody recognized him because nobody was looking at him. There were pictures in the news story but I don’t remember if they were candid photos of Gere pretending to be homeless in the actual streets of New York or if they were shots from the movie. His cheeks were a little sooty and he was wearing lots of mismatched layers.
A little hammy, but it was convincing.
When I think of somebody going “undercover” as a homeless person, though, just to see what it’s like so that they can better embody a homeless person on screen, I think, Well, what’s the daily life of a homeless person? What’re some of the salient things this actor will be exposed to, in his first day on the street, that’ll give him a solid idea of what it’s like?
The thing I finally settled on was actually the first thing I noticed about this dude in his fancy gymwear eating Chipotle on the sidewalk, looking around while he chewed, pensive:
It’s all the time for thinking.
That, I imagine, is the harshest reality a celebrity could confront in going “undercover” as a homeless person.
You’re a star in the world, people are always stopping and stimulating you, and now suddenly, not only do you have no toys, but nobody wants to speak with you.
If you’re living on the streets then you probably don’t have much to do or many people to speak with and so what ends up keeping you company is your own mind. Your own imagination. And, if you’re lucky, you find rich company there. You’re forced to confront certain thoughts that you might otherwise avoid with stimulations that you can no longer afford.
If you’re well-to-do and everybody loves you and you’re recognized everywhere you go then I’m inclined to think that
- You don’t have much time for deep, difficult, introspective thought.
- Such thought would be really horrible if you achieved it because you’d realize that you cannot be a three-dimensional human being and command the affection of so many people. You’ll realize their adoration is vapid and it’ll bring you to question the loyalty and motives of everyone around you.
We see this happen in Hollywood biographies all the time. Literary ones too, especially from the days when writers got famous.
So if you want an idea of what it’s like to be homeless I would suggest you just go stand outside without shading on a particularly hot day and then just stare at the pavement and ask yourself horrible questions again and again and again without anybody who loves you coming up and saying, “Hey. Stop that.”