Hunting for the Homeless on Thanksgiving

Hunting for the Homeless on Thanksgiving 2012

by Cliff Mazer, Ph.D.
Part One

We have a special tradition on Thanksgiving. After we (the Mazer clan of Atlanta) pig out into a near comatose state of pure gluttony and uber-sloth, we all get together on the following day (Black Friday) not to “shop until we drop” but to help the homeless. We know we cant provide them with tidy new homes or expensive clothing, but we can feed them with tasty leftovers from our Thanksgiving feast.
Instead of a normal sized butterball turkey, I purposely buy a mutant bird from Costco that is so large it barely fits in the oven and often has to be tied to the roof of the car when I leave the Costco parking lot. Maybe its a conjoined Siamese turkey since everything at Costco is sold in multiples and in bulk. By cooking such an unusually large bird which has to be marinated using a standard size kitchen mop and Octomom’s mega-turkey baster syringe, we have enough leftover white meat and stuffing to make around 40 sandwiches for the hungry homeless.
To be honest, the rest of our triple plastic bagged gift packages for the homeless are mostly “filler” items, ie. cookies, cakes, crackers,etc. purchased from one of my favorite nearby stores, Big Lots.
In case you didn’t know, you can get a lot of cheap but fancy sounding European foods there that either have small dents on the package or are obscure brands that European people know not to eat. In contrast, Americans such as myself consider these  same items somehow “exotic” and therefore, possibly gourmet. Feeding the homeless requires not only great compassion and generosity, but also supreme confidence that none of them have been former contestants on Top Chef or were previous employees at Big Lots.
Cut to the chase…literally. We loaded up the Ford Expedition with enough turkey sandwiches, apples, distilled water and Keebler cookies (the ones apparently only sold in Belgium) to weigh down the back end to minimum clearance. We looked desperately for a Homeless Person Phone App (HPPA) to link to my smart phone’s GPS, but none exist, even tho I know for a FACT that certain enterprising start-up companies are currently utilizing the homeless as advertising platforms and human billboards for their worthless Chinese made products.
Instead we decided to forego social media and technology all together and do it “old school” style. We went “cruising” for the homeless. In other words we decided to use guile, logic, and gut intuition to track them down. Since man, regardless of his social status is a very social animal we deduced that groups of homeless people would tend to hang out together or “cluster” in small tribal bands, somewhat like Native Americans before we nearly exterminated them. My cousin Donna, who used to be homeless was visiting from Boca Raton, so we used her as a kind of special advisor and urban “scout”. After all, we wanted to be relatively accurate in who we accosted as well as time efficient. Charitable human beings dont want to drag this whole “pay it forward” stuff out unnecessarily, at least not to the point of missing an important football game on TV or something. Unfortunately, what lay in store for us this year was something that nobody, not even Nick Nolte would be able to predict.

Part Two:  Hunting for the Homeless
Normally when you think of Atlanta, Georgia, what do you tend to associate it with besides the Redneck Olympics, titty bars and horrible downtown areas devoid of urban planning and management?
You think of the homeless. Normally there are tons of homeless people out milling around, begging, offering to wash your car windows with a homemade squeegee, or even trading random biblical verses for dollar bills. That’s right. On any given day there are dozens of people without homes panhandling on the city streets of Atlanta, lying in makeshift cardboard tents or standing outside of liquor stores trying to stay warm. Suddenly, however, on the day we show up laden with fresh Thanksgiving leftovers and overflowing with self-righteous goodwill they are nowhere to be found. Ok, it’s not exactly correct to say they were unable to be found. It’s just that they were already completely full from about twelve other well organized “feed the homeless” events that offered a higher quality and better culinary fare.
Apparently some local church or bunch of goody goody non-profit organizations had already put together a number of barbecue and smoked turkey buffet stations in the parks downtown. Every time we thought we found the “jackpot” or “motherlode” of homeless people to offer up our (by comparison) measly looking Big Lots brown bag turkey lunches, the toothless,disheveled but bright eyed homeless person would politely say, “No thank you sir. Happy Thanksgiving”.  Then they would walk off carrying two or three stacked white styrofoam boxes stained with thick barbecue sauce, sweet potato pie crust and giblet gravy. Honestly, like Jimmy Carter admitting to sinning in ones heart, I caught myself considering getting in line at the buffet table. It looked that good. I even considered “trading” two of my turkey sandwiches and two Dasani water bottles to a homeless person for one small carton of ribs. That seemed reasonable… at the time. I’m sorry, but I was hungry.

We did manage to drive around aimlessly for about two hours and unload about ten or fifteen sandwiches in total. Maybe they were just being nice to us and took pity on our plight…I cant really say. We did notice two other cars full of desperate looking suburbanites also trying to give away free food and drinks. One of the cars seemed to actually be “competing” with us in finding new untapped and unfed reserves of homeless people. I may have imagined it in my mounting frustration, but I could have sworn this BMW with two well coiffed 40 something blonds and a teenager wearing an Abercrombie hoodie cut us off and dumped about a half pallet of free soft drinks next to a homeless looking guy sitting on a bench reading a book. Well, the jokes on them because I’m pretty sure the guy was a grad student in electrical engineering at Georgia State or Georgia Tech. Still, I suppose with his mounting student loans anything free of charge would be very much appreciated.
Eventually we drove to Little Five Points where hippies and homeless people intermingle and make the accurate assessment of homelessness virtually impossible. We retreated to Starbucks and Junkman’s Daughter for caffeine and spiritual renewal. Of course, on the way back to the car the privately employeed Vortex police had booted my car for “exceeding the maximum allowed parking time of 15 minutes” and “leaving the premises”. I didn’t even know that was illegal, nor did I know they could charge $75 for such a fascist parking policy.  Still, staying ever mindful and keeping my wits about me, I asked the “rent-a-cop” who gave me the ticket if he wanted a fresh turkey sandwich with homemade stuffing and fake Belgian cookies. Predictably, he declined, but like all the homeless folks we encountered, he was very nice about it.
On the way home, in a car full of crabby family members, I began to silently calculate how much I would have to charge for each sandwich to make up for the parking ticket, gasoline and labor expended on behalf of the homeless. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t regret the original intention. It’s just that my mother taught me to never throw away any leftovers that are  still “decent food for someone who needs it”.  I think I ate four turkey sandwiches for dinner that night, not counting leftover shrimp dejonge, mashed potatoes, stovetop stuffing with gravy and a small plastic bag of cheapass Big Lots Keebler cookies. Anybody still hungry?
Cliff Mazer, Ph.D. is a Clinical Psychologist and humorist living in Sandy Springs, Georgia. He is originally from Highland Park, Illinois and likes Chicago the best.
Contact: 404-932-7193

About captaincliff

Psychologist by day, insomniac Pirate blogger by night, this Child of God likes to share sarcastic social commentary as well as topsy-turvy observations about life, love and the pursuit of zaniness, a functional form of insanity in an increasingly insane world
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