Have You Ever Been Homeless? I Have.

And I’ve Been Desperately Hungry, Too

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Decades ago, in between various moves, back and forth, between Los Angeles and my hometown of Rochester, New York, I was homeless for three days and desperately hungry on several occasions.

Although “occasion” is not really the appropriate word to describe either of those situations because, as you may imagine or maybe even know first-hand, being homeless and/or desperately hungry are not uplifting experiences.

For starters, let’s start with the “hungry” part.

In the 1980s, I doubled as a front-desk/waiter of an upscale private club in L.A., where membership was approximately $10,000 per month, plus various daily expenses, many of which involved three gourmet meals per day.

I loved the job, really. I was fascinated by the constant interaction with the extremely wealthy, many of whom were gracious and kind, while others, well, not so much.

Two instances stick out in my mind:

One year, at a Christmas party I was worked as a waiter, a young colleague of mine, a waiter-in-training, as it were, accidentally spilled an entire tray of several lobster dinners all over the bright red dress of a female partier that evening.

Besides the irony of watching a bunch of red lobsters being sprayed over the same-colored dress of that poor rich woman, I was more fascinated with the absolutely look of shock and horror and disgruntled demeanor of that unfortunate club member.

She glared so intensely at that so-very-apologetic waiter-in-training, as ready to lunge at him.

Fortunately, instead, she retreated to the ladies' room with a fellow patron, who helped her through the ordeal.

It was not a good experience for anyone, and I’m not sure if that new potential waiter was ever fired (I hope he wasn’t). But the woman certainly never made him feel better about the situation. I mean, come on — it was Christmas. He was a young dude struggling through that time in his life to make ends meet, and she was a prosperous established high-roller who struggled to rid her dress from an alternate form of red meat for one night.

But I digress, though I will tie all of this together somehow under the cover of homelessness and hunger.

Here comes the hunger part. Honest, this time.

One night at the same club, while I was working the evening shift at the front desk, I was broke. I didn’t have a dime. And I was hungry. The evening shift lasted from 3:00 PM to 11:00 PM, and this one particular evening was a Monday night following a weekend of festivities similar to that Christmas party I mentioned earlier.

And that meant that I was alone at the front desk, and there were no parties scheduled for that Monday evening, as there were usually not any such gatherings scheduled for a weeknight. Like everyone else, the very rich save their reveries for the weekend.

So, come 6 PM, after not eating anything all day, for not having anything in my fridge at home, and not having any money to buy myself dinner at the club, on my ironically-titled “dinner” break,” I journeyed to the back of the club, in the kitchen to scavenge for food. There were usually all kinds of now stone-cold-and-hard buns that were scattered in the kitchen before the kitchen staff would throw them away the following morning.

Fortunately, I found a basket of buns, if very stale, to serve as my dinner.

I was ravenous after not eating all day (and not even the day before, as I recall), and chowed down on those stale buns like a vampire sucks blood.

It was not a good sight to see. I was mortified with myself.

But I was also starving.

And I promised myself that I would never again place myself in that situation.

We can’t always keep our promises, however, and sometime later, when I couldn’t pay the rent for my apartment, let alone buy a whole lot of food, I found myself on the street.

Homeless, as the landlord/owner of the building, kicked me out of my apartment.

Fortunately, he owned many other buildings, and he was at the very least a stand-up enough of a human being to allow me to stay in various empty-apartments of his until I found my way to a friend’s house for shelter — and food…which my landlord was generous supplying until then.

But for those three days, I slept on the cold floor of two different empty apartments over a three day period — with just a blanket to keep me warm and a radio to keep me entertained.

Not too shabby?

No. It WAS SHABBY.

REALLY shabby.

And HORRIBLE.

I’ll never forget those three nights sleeping on the floor of those cold, dark empty apartments.

I’ll never forget that unforgiving, crabby look on that wealthy woman’s face at the club when that poor young waiter spilled those lobsters all over her dress.

And I’ll never forget the faces of the homeless people that I now make every effort to somehow serve at least once a month on Skid Row in Los Angeles, to help them, and also to help me keep in all in perspective at just how blessed so many of us are — and just how unblessed so many others are not.

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