Hobo Handbook: Memoirs of a Homeless Poet in New York (Excerpt #32)

By Daniel Canada c.2010


COAT AND THE COAT SISTERS It's summer time! It’s August! The heat wave is on with a vengeance, and the temperature's skyrocketed above 100 degrees! And guess what? There's homeless people walking around in full-length, wool, winter coats, some of them two coat's deep. This incredible scene may be mistaken for the filming of a movie with extras, but it's not. 

If you happen to run across this scenario, chances are you've seen “Coat” or “The Coat Sisters,” if not, some other certifiable lunatic of their ilk. It's rather obvious why I gave them such names, but you just got to see this for yourself. During the summer of 2008, at the peak of the season, when it was sweltering hot, I happened to stop by a crowd of tourist and passersby, who were being entertained by one of the many live performers you’ll encounter along the New York City streets.

That's when I spotted "Coat."

By the way, "Coat" is a male. There he was, checking out the scene, with his over-sized, wool, coat partially opened, fanning himself with a magazine! Was he trying to air out his body or what? What puzzled the Be Jesus out of me is why can't he just take his doggone coat off, if he's so damned hot?   

I can only shake my head.

As it turns out, I had a psychologist girlfriend, who was trying to convince me that schizophrenic people reach a point where they can no longer feel changes in temperature. So, they'll walk around in the dead of winter with very little clothing on, or in desert heat with...well, a coat or two wrapped around their bodies. 

Perhaps my psychologist ex-girlfriend was right and I’m just in denial. I just have the dickens of a time wrapping my brain around the theory. Don't know why, maybe because at the time I was homeless and didn't want to wind up being like “Coat?”


Then there are the “Coat Sisters.” Two older, black women, who are seemingly joined at the hip. They can be readily seen in Bryant Park, every day in fact, sitting down, quietly shooting the breeze together. They’re probably rambling about what used to be the latest hot gossip in their former neighborhood, before they got turned out into the streets.

Like, “Honey child, did you hear who Sadie’s ex-boyfriend was found sleeping in the bed with last summer?” Or they could be discussing stock market quotes and the latest savvy guidelines on which derivatives to purchase.

I’ll never know.

Point of the matter is, they are completely harmless and always mind their own. It's just the abundant coats that get to me. What I'm trying to fathom is how they could just sit there, seemingly as comfortable as two cockroaches in a bowl of cheerios, oblivious to all that oppressive summer heat.

And with two layers of heavy wool coats!

In the middle of August. 

Without complaining!

Yeah. My psychologist ex-girlfriend was right after all, and I am simply in denial.

If you've over stayed your welcome in the streets and you begin to lose touch with the changes in climate, that's a good indication that you might be falling into your head. Call it schizophrenia or whatever you want to, you too will be wearing two or three coats very soon. Yep friends, it can get that bad.

So wise up forthwith, and keep a constant vigil on your clothing. Perhaps, one day wearing several coats at a time might become the new Prada, and you’ll be in the vanguard of fashion.

You think?
(To be continued...)