The Bum Couple of Inwood Farms

Published October 22, 2012 by Sandee

*My friend calls this neighborhood Inwood Farms – hilarious.

The bum couple in my neighborhood think they’re the neighborhood’s honorary bums.  People coming home from work stop to have forty-five minute conversations with them.  During these conversations they pause to wave or to say hi to people.

I think people talk to them for a cheap show of magnanimity.  Look at me everybody. I don’t have problems talking to bums.  I talk to Frank the bum but never this long.  I dare these people to invite Mr. and Mrs. Bum to their homes.

The man said hello to me once because I made eye contact.  It irritated me.  He looked wounded when I didn’t continue to speak to him or his wife.  I think they silently scolded me with their little puppy dog homeless faces.  Nothing against bums – I love Frank, and the other bums are cool.  Hell I might just be a bum myself at the rate things are going in this country.

For a long time they lived in the 207th Street subway station.  Transit workers played chess with the husband by the elevator.  People stood around watching.  I love chess.  I played naked chess with my computer, listened to death metal and ate olive oil toast every night before blogging.  But never would I play chess with that bum.  Number A:  on the subway station benches he had biblical placards.  And Number B:  one said Halloween was the devil’s holiday.  So you take up space in the subway station, proselytize AND put down my favorite holiday.

They live on the benches by the park now.  The husband plays chess on the park wall.  Sometimes there are two or three games going at once.  You’ll find the wife waddling back home sweet home with a cart full of groceries during the games – maybe she’s got hors doeurves and crudite in there for the boys.

Sometimes when it rains they’re hidden behind rain slickers, garbage bags and two gigantic umbrellas.  If you didn’t see two pairs of feet underneath you might think there was just a heap of crap on the bench.  They must get along really well to be able to sit so close.

But I’ll bet that husband could show me some mean chess moves.  He reminds me of a guy I was infatuated with who also played chess.  He and his wife are tall and heavy.  This guy was too, with a deep voice and big feet.  I joked that the bum couple reminded me of me and this guy.  He was in financial trouble and I had taken this job making half the money I used to make.  I had some strain myself.  So we’d be together – broke.

I said to someone, “I think I hate them because I’m afraid I’ll become them.”  But no, I just don’t like them.  Sue me for not liking a downtrodden married bum couple.  It’s far more evil to use bums to demonstrate your bullshit magnanimity.

39 comments on “The Bum Couple of Inwood Farms

  • The couple you are speaking of are “homeless” on purpose. They find
    ‘the church’ reprehensible and believe they walk in Christ’s footsteps – homeless, in sandals, with no possessions, they are very prayerful people. The chess games are to teach some of the downtrodden teens in this area critical thinking skills and keep them occupied and out of trouble. They do not drink or smoke, like so many, they are not schizophrenic, like one, and they are cared for by many in the community. His wife has given me clothing that no longer fit her and offered to introduce me to someone who can help me find a job. No matter what anyone might think of them, they will pray for you.

    • And I will pray for them. However, I don’t discriminate about not liking people. I don’t like them, the same way I don’t like some people who have homes. It was kind of them to give you clothes. But I wonder about the thought process of people who choose to live in that manner. Do they inhabit the same mentality of cult leaders who believe they are chosen by God to lead the people, sometimes into death by their own hands? What kind of delusion do they suffer from where they are inspired to live in such an extreme manner? I find their method of spreading the message intrusive and offensive. Those huge placards that litter the area where they live are unsightly. I think people are afraid to say anything negative about them because they are homeless.

  • I for one hate the whole PC thing so of course I’m gonna say if those bums give you a reason to dislike them, you go right ahead. No apologies. I can see through phoney people when they’re trying to look cool in situations like that. Creepy, jerky people come in all sizes, shapes, colors, and economic backgrounds.
    The title of this makes me laugh! Haha!

  • I was going to delete my post since it seemed to upset people but since I couldn’t, I decided to add this. Actually, the “bum couple”, have been in my home, a room I rent from someone who knows them. They live in her car in the winter and in exchange, they move it for her which she can not do during that time of year. They are not delusional and are pacifists. Whilst the placards may be unsightly so is the garbage, the gangs and dog shit that permeates this neighborhood not to mention some of my nasty neighbors. So are the drunks who keep going into the hospital (at the expense of the public) and coming out to drink again and fight with someone else today. People like DD and Y, it’s that simple. No one has to like them, or have them over for tea, but it’s helpful sometimes to know people’s story before we crucify them.

    • I’m not crucifying them. I just don’t like them. Even that metaphor implies that they have some kind of saintly status — which is PRECISELY what rubs me the wrong way about them. I group the dog shit, garbage and their placards in the same pile that needs to be scooped up by the sanitation department. I wouldn’t have a problem if it were just their bags and stuff out there, like some of the homeless people who live in the subway who have a million suitcases with them. I don’t like the subtle implication that we need to be preached to, and that I should feel guilty about my lifestyle. I have a right to not like them and now I think I don’t like them even more. Unfortunately a lot of those drunks suffer from alcoholism, a legitimate disease, which I can sympathize with.

  • “Sue me for not liking a downtrodden married bum couple. It’s far more evil to use bums to demonstrate your bullshit magnanimity.” This is why I think you are awesome! It’s okay to not like bums, but no one will ever admit this out loud except you

  • Sandee, you have such a gift. This story made me laugh — am I not supposed to laugh at the way you’ve described these homeless people? I do agree that some people probably do what you say — look how forward-thinking I am because I’m talking to the homeless people. But you eating olive toast and playing chess on your computer and all the other wonderful things that come out of your brain when you describe your day-to-day occurrences just slay me. In a good way. You’re so talented as a storyteller.

    • I’m glad you appreciate it Brigitte — at least I have a nice audience. I’m especially happy that it made you laugh. Of course I wondered about being offensive. I’ve seen worse! I guess there’s an art to writing about the way you really feel that reaches people without the larger percentage thinking that you’ve crossed the line of decency.

      Hope you enjoy your day.

    • Thanks Fish! There’s a subtle line in my head that distinguishes the place that should never see light and the place that yields the greatest relief at being revealed from it’s area of constraint — and this is my pompous thought for the day 🙂

  • I love your honesty and I have to say that I have a tainted view of bums because one time I tried to give a blueberry flavored yogurt to a bum and he THREW it at me because A. it wasn’t money and B. he didn’t like that flavor.

  • Frank, the alcoholic who lives on the bench or in Presbyterian hospital (at our expense) has made no effort to confront this addiction – I have compassion for him too but you should know Frank is ‘not cool’. For no reason, he once was having what he called a ‘bad moment’ when he JUMPED out of wheelchair, while my back was to him, put his hands around my neck and started choking me, pushing me to the ground where I smashed my head against the pavement. None of the other decent people or ‘bums’ helped me out.

    According to Webster’s Dicitionary a bum n) is a person who sponges off others and avoids work. That would be Frank.

    Everyone has the right to not like someone, to not care for what someone else does, but if I wrote that I hate gay people, I can’t stand some of their affectations, their cliques, people would jump all over me. Because that’s a different rule of PC I’d be breaking.
    I have been taught that we should live and let live. We realize we are powerless over others – so we should just let go of our resentments and worry about healing our own selves.

    • Dear Annie,

      I’m not going on and on about this. I’m not a saint and you aren’t either, so I don’t appreciate you judging me for my opinion. I know these people are your friends but I still don’t like them.

      I would absolutely not try to force you to see a positive view of Frank simply because I feel a certain way about him because that would be ridiculous. What Frank did to you is between the two of you.

      You’ve entirely missed the point of my post so at this end it makes no sense to discuss it further. You know I’m crazy about you Annie, but any further attempt that you make to force some opinion on me, I will ignore.


  • Homeless groups have the same social hierarchies and personalities the sheltered world has, so it’s not surprising there’s a few who rub you the wrong way. I just wish there were adequate care and facilities for these folks. They’re not getting what they deserve from society.

    I’m pretty sure you won’t end up a bum. I get the feeling you’re a little too resourceful (and resource full) for that.

    • Thanks for the vote of confidence about me being resourceful — gee I hope so!

      We were talking about social stuff today at lunch. It’s a shame so many people are left out when there are more than enough resources.

      It’s true that homeless people are people too, and aren’t rendered saintly because of their disadvantage.

  • You, my friend, have one colorful neighborhood. It isn’t easy to find a bum chess master!

    If I was homeless, I’d probably hate Halloween, too. You always hear about how those poor guys are tormented by jackass teenagers on mischief night.

    • “Colorful” indeed! But really, it is quite a nice neighborhood, sited in the NY Times a few years ago as the spot for the latest Manhattan migrations. There are a lot of artists and musicians up here, and young professionals, and bums 😆

      I do hate the idea of these people being harassed on Halloween, whether I like them or not.

  • OMG Sandee, I’m so with you on this. I see asshole hipsters talking to homeless people a lot, and you KNOW they’re doing it because they think they’re being all cool and egalitarian, “Hey, look at me, I’m so awesome I even talk to bums, dude.” But there’s nothing about being a bum that makes someone a nicer or more interesting person, necessarily. I can feel sad for them and sorry for their circumstances, and want to help them in some way, but that doesn’t mean I would like them or want to hang with them.

    That being said, you really do encounter an interesting lot of people!

  • Would you marry me? — Oh right you’re already taken…

    Oh shit yeah! — “asshole hipsters talking to homeless people a lot, and you KNOW they’re doing it because they think they’re being all cool and egalitarian, “Hey, look at me, I’m so awesome I even talk to bums, dude.”

    What a relief to hear you put it exactly this way. I wish I had because this is right on point! — Yay! Hahaha!

  • I loved this for a lot of reasons, but that one that stands out is the one about you playing computer chess before you started blogging. My husband does this too – albeit fully clothed – and I have to wonder whether he’d challenge the bums to a game.

  • I was hoping we’d get a story about this couple. I don’t mind bums if they’re cool. We’ve got a couple “bums” (and I use that term because they fall into that broad category of normally-invisible people) here that are actually townies. They’re friendly, but keep to themselves, and largely provide for themselves.

  • I love you Sandee but this is too harsh… I have no idea who these people are and how they present themself. I always feel as if God gives us all free will, and therefore we map out our own life/future. At the same time God has control over all things and we never know what the future brings. Love everyone, it’s not our job to judge.

    • I really do appreciate your honesty. But I view them as just people like everybody else — I know saying ‘bum’ is irreverent — but I was trying to go for ‘dark humor’ by including the possibility that I’m just like them, as when I say “I might just be a bum myself” and admitting that part of my dislike has to do with my fear of our similarities — I was trying to share honestly. By putting us on the same level I was hoping that I could get away with it. But wicked humor is a risky thing and I know some people find it offensive. It’s also risky to say out loud what we all might be thinking.

      I do have agape love for them, but I can’t help the way I feel about them personally — there are several homeless people in my neighborhood and they all have different personalities, some I like, a couple I don’t care for, just like people in general. I’m trying to be egalitarian in that I see them as I see anyone else. Their being homeless doesn’t render them saintly, or free from character flaws.

      I certainly hope that they aren’t suffering. My friend Annie says that they’ve chosen to live this way so hopefully they’re not. I’m not judging them for their lifestyle either. I know I could very well become homeless too. I probably still wouldn’t associate with them. But I do wish them well. I don’t judge them, I’ll just say my personality doesn’t click with theirs. I’m sorry I’ve gone on so long about this but your comment did give me the opportunity to think about my approach.

        • I know this kind of writing isn’t for everyone. I think also that I might not be so skilled at attempting this kind of ‘absurd’ humor — haha! I was going to slip you a note saying this in your comment section because I didn’t know if you’d necessarily come back to see if I’d commented again.

          But I wanted to also tell you that I had watched that film in your last post a while back when you first posted it. I had been meaning to comment for eons — I was riveted by it. What a life this woman had. It was funny because I watched it after work and I was tired so I sat in front of the computer, watched quite a bit of it then dozed off, woke up and turned it back to where I’d left off and finally finished watching it. There was so much I wanted to say about it but I was too tired to speak — hahaha! But now since I have your attention (hopefully — if I haven’t run you off with my long-windedness) — wow — I really appreciated seeing that film. Her transformation was amazing. Thanks Shauna!

          • Oh cool, I’m glad you did. She is amazing!… I know how it is, I follow over a hundred people, sometimes I read from my phone but get too tired to comment, I always put it off for next time. Plus you guys go way too fast for me. 🙂

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