Tuesday, September 14, 2004


At Umeda Station in Osaka, whenever I go by in the morning on my way to the office I see the same homeless guy standing over on the side of the way so as not to interfere with the traffic flow or with the business of the other merchants around there, he stands quietly for hours, not shouting out like the other merchants can (he has to be unobtrusive to be accepted there), neatly dressed, holding up copies of the Homeless Magazines he sells and rarely selling one. The vast crowds flowing by at that hour hardly even notice him; as we all stop and wait for the green light to cross, I watch the crowd to see if anyone is looking at him or notices him or is thinking about buying a copy. They aren't. At that hour of the morning, Japan seems a particularly heartless place to be homeless.

Yesterday I was at home having lunch when I turned on the tv and there in a documentary was the Homeless Guy himself, close up, being interviewed at length. One of the networks was doing a whole segment on Homelessness, and he was the star! They followed him around with the camera through his day and week, asking him questions, interviewing him (he looked very good on tv, quite photogenic and personable) went with him to his location by the street crossing and filmed him selling (the cameras attracted a lot of customers), they went to the office of Homeless Magazine and to the kind of meetings all the sellers go to and talk about the business, the Homeless Guy eating lunch, the Homeless Guy speaking on the economy, the Homeless Guy was a tv star!

This morning when I got to Osaka, there he was in his usual obscure place beside the crowd waiting for the green light, but every head in the crowd was turned to look at the Homeless Guy! He was famous! He was a media star! He had a new charisma! There was an aura of renown about him! He'd been on tv! Fame is a fickle lady. Folks were coming up to him and bowing and buying the mag one after another. On the tv program, they said he sold an average of 30 copies a day, but he would sell a lot more than that from now on. If things keep on this way, he could be in real danger of becoming homeful; then what will he do for a living? TV's a big possibility.


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