Heigh-ho the holly, this life is most jolly!

Lee, one of the lesser lost souls who lives in the house next door to this one, brought to mind a little Shakespeare I was surprised I could still quote to myself the other day.

Lee is a closet alcoholic, a heroin addict, as heavy a smoker as he can beg, or afford after he’s taken care of his other addictions, and not a bad guy if you can put up with him.    He’ll try not to steal from you if he can help it, manipulate you and play on your sympathy to trick you into giving him rides to feed the drug, booze or cigarette hungers, and ignore you, or scowl at you when he doesn’t need anything.

Because deep down, Lee is a white hater.    If there were black robes and hoods and a black KKK he’d be out burning crosses in the front lawns where white folks live.   But he can be fairly personable most of the time if he’s thinking he might cadge a ‘loan’ or a ride somewhere.

Anyway, the first few months I moved here, being one of the lucky few who own cars, I hauled Lee to the food pantries a few times, let him con me into taking him down to KC because ‘there was a guy down there who was going to pay him some money owed him’.   And one day I was dropping some of my better history library off in grocery bags on the porch of James, [another history buff the next house down] when he braced me.

“What you leaving groceries on James’s porch for?    I need groceries!”

Well, I wasn’t about to loan nor give any money to Lee, but I went to the grocery store and picked up $20 worth of food for him I knew he couldn’t resell.   Basics.

But I digressed.

The other day I was playing chess with a couple of buddies in a waiting room up at the hospital.    We meet over there because they’re smokers and they can’t smoke in that waiting room.

Coming down after a few games I ran into Lee in the hallway.    We gossiped about how cold it was and I thought he was coming to my car with me for a ride home.   But his other lost-soul-mate was parked next to my car.    So he got in a moment, then came back out and leaned over conspiratorial and cagy.

“Hey man!    Do you have a few bucks you can give me?”

“No.”

“Well,” he muttered.  “Next time you need someone to run around with you, find someone else.”

I was dumbfounded.  The only time Lee and I have ever done anything together we were taking him somewhere.     Between times he barely speaks to me unless he’s begging money and I’m refusing.

Which somehow brought to mind who?    William Shakespeare.    Who else?

 

Heigh Ho, The Holly

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh ho, sing heigh ho, unto the green holly;
most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
That dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remember’d not.
Heigh ho, sing heigh ho, unto the green holly:
most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.

William Shakespeare

Sounds as though old Lee’s not going to give me the benefit of his company as a consequence of me not giving him some money.  If you want good friends it’s going to cost you.

Best offer I’ve had all year.

Old Jules

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6 responses to “Heigh-ho the holly, this life is most jolly!

  1. What a jolly life you lead. Sounds like you lost a moochship instead of a friendship. Have a feeling you don’t find too many in your neighborhood who can quote Shakespeare!

    • Likely they could, but it just doesn’t come up in everyday conversations is what I figure. Most of the guys I know here have done hard time in a penitentiary so they almost certainly know some Shakespeare. What else is a guy going to do in prison but memorize Shakespeare?,

  2. Sounds like you live with a most motley crew.

    • I wouldn’t say that….. there are some lowlifes, as there are in every community in the world. And there are some good folks. We’re just a community of a few hundred men and women who span the extremes of human failures and flaws, and probably have as many virtues as you are likely to find in your own community. The main difference is that the people living here are on the absolute bottom of the socio-economic scale, and we are almost universally veterans. And the road to the bottom of the socio-economic scale naturally includes the spectrum of human behaviors that can carry a person there. Vehicles. Higher on the economic ladder people tend to hide their flaws and human failures better because they haven’t started the downward spiral yet. But here, alcoholics and druggies and thieves can all find their brothers in failure.

      You have been following this blog a long time. You can easily go back on the pages, or your memory of my road getting here and see it was fairly innocent, probably also inevitable. I was a man who wasn’t doing what everyone else does to avoid getting where I am now. And when the heart attacks hit, I was either going to die on the street, or move closer to where I am now by accepting Jeanne’s offer to die on her couch.

      And when I didn’t die I became officially, a ‘homeless vet’. Here I am surrounded by other ‘homeless veterans’. They’ve all got their own stories. And I’m going to tell some of them. But don’t get the idea they are all as you probably categorize people because they aren’t.

      The guy across the hall from me has two bronze stars from Vietnam, 75 percent service connected disability, and spent 13 years in prison for drugs before he got out on appeal. And he’s a good man, a worthy person, and someone I’m glad I have for a neighbor. Guy upstairs has been to prison too, white collar crime, and is struggling to stay alive and pay the rent. Good neighbor, too. Life isn’t as simple as we tend to wish it were.

      • It makes me sad that most of the people in this situation are veterans, who have served our country during some very difficult times. Even those with a rough appearance have some goodness within. Sometimes we just have to look a little harder to find it. Life isn’t simple.

        • Thanks for the observations Bev. I can honestly say I’ve never known a veteran, [nor anyone else, for that matter] who ever made the country a better place as a consequence of anything he or she did. But I’ve known plenty of veterans and non-veterans who managed to make the county a lousier place as a consequence of their actions activities and behaviors. No, life definitely is not simple. Old Jules

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