My relocation has changed a lot more than my ZIP code. Gone is the dapper man known for rocking pea coats and loafers in the fall. Gone is the swagger of a man known for blatantly ripping off outfits directly from the pages of GQ. Gone is the man who would vociferously accuse GQ of false advertisement and poor taste when he failed to pull off their fashion suggestions.
Where have I gone, you might ask? I have relocated to the other side of the tracks. I have become a bum. I live in Miami and am happiest when I’m homeless.
My talents have been largely going to waste in South Beach for nearly 8 months on account of Detroit’s economy forcing my abandonment White Fang-style. I wake up at 5:30 am, curse capitalism for failing my generation, brush my teeth, eat a cold Pop Tart (thus nullifying the Colgate) and hop on my bike. As I am thusly unaccustomed to the Miami sun, I have decided that bike riding to and from my job would make up for the seasonal affective disorder common to Detroiters.
What you don’t know about Michiganders is that we appreciate nature far more than a state predicated on carbon-emitting automobile manufacturers should. Take a drive through the streets of Detroit during that one day in late February that cracks 50 degrees and you’ll see sandals, shorts, NBA jerseys masquerading as miniskirts, and most prevalently, hundreds of cars with their windows rolled down, bumping a summertime hit. Whether it’s a country kid playing Kid Rock, a roughneck from a mile marker south of the 10 booming Eminem, or a hipster toggling between Mars Volta and Danny Brown, Michiganders go a few steps past logic when the sun comes out.
Yet, in my two hundred and forty-plus days here in the land of cigarro and colada, I haven’t been able to shake that illogical need to soak up as much good weather as I can. Despite my best efforts, I cannot convince myself that Miami’s sun is permanent and not Detroitishly misleading.
So instead of wasting all that glorious sunshine I bought a Huffy and decided to bike to work. The problem is that the weather is always perfect, save for a few Andrews, Katrinas and Isaacs. As problems are wont to do, the weather-problem mated with yet another problem and created scads of problem children; sort of the like the Kardashian-Jenner union.
In this anology, the weather-problem pranced into a chic Miami club, snorted primo yay, met the slutty broken economy-problem and bent it over a Trans Am in an alley to sire thousands of homeless people-problems who now litter Miami’s streets.
When these Rand-smacked souls aren’t preventing John Galt from prospering, they are riding bikes, wearing backpacks, collecting cans, exhibiting signs of mental illness, smoking cigarette butts, panhandling for change, struggling with addiction, sleeping in the streets and causing me some personal turmoil.
You see, when I ride my bike I wear a crummy pair of shorts, a mustard-stained tank top, and back pack. I smoke cigarettes past the butt. I openly accept change, struggle with addiction, and fight my brain to keep it from exhibiting signs of mental illness.
Ironically, the most visible example of my illness is my insecurity and social anxiety at being identified as a bum. I struggled with the realization. I was offered change while sipping a Gatorade outside of a Sunoco. Bums treat me with the legitimate respect that we abnegate from them. Commuters cruising by me cursed my existence as I represented the personification of their income tax deductions. But the breaking point came via a beautiful woman’s dismissal.
I trust that you aren’t shocked that a woman ruined everything, but indulge me.
I have been rejected by pretty girls literally thousands of times. I have encountered every single form of female-revulsion.
At least, I thought I had.
In this case, my bike and I hopped on the Metro-Mover; a mass transit automated people mover, to circumvent a strip of expressway that isn’t bike-friendly. I carried my bike up a flight of stairs to wait for the mover and noticed a cute girl was also there waiting. On a ten-point scale, she a New York 4, a Miami 6, a Wisconsin 12, or a Detroit 9; meaning she was simultaneously cute enough and ugly enough for me to comfortably approach.
What wasn’t comfortable was the look that I was greeted with. It was a look that until that point I had never encountered. It was the look of a woman staring disapprovingly at a homeless man. Once I grasped that the rejection was due to my perceived homelessness, I bitterly informed her that I wasn’t homeless and walked away.
I couldn’t stand being a bum, so I bought a pack of white tees that I inscribed with the quote, “I am not a bum.” But then I realized, that that’s exactly what a bum would do. I began to abhor the smiles actual bums regularly greeted me with, like a little boy who was rude to the girl he liked.
Daily I sit at job that sickens me, besieged by a tweener career, which barely compensates me and absolutely interferes with the every single thing I enjoy. One of those joys is riding my bike. My chosen career, such as it is, precludes me from both a life of destitution and utter lack of fulfillment. My relative insignificance manifests itself in a need for recognition while I’m on the Huffy. I work too hard to exist unrecognizable by everyone, motorists, coworkers, decent looking girls, bums, and myself.
I struggled with tweener poverty worse than the actual vagrants dealt with actual poverty. And that was my awakening, the shift of my consciousness. I liked riding my bike, I enjoyed enjoying the weather and if my insecurity was getting in the way, then, well, then pathetic ain’t got shit on me!
Not having the mental dexterity required to systematically transition from enthusiastic biker to full-fledged biking bum, I skipped all the steps in the middle and just decided to become a legitimate bum. I recognized that biking in the sun made me happy; so, ignoring the provocations of my insecurity I vowed that bike-riding Rosicky was also homeless Rosicky. Availability heuristics were in my favor, judgment be damned, all judgment, personal, commuter, bum, and cute girl judgment, all damned to hell.
I felt free. No matter the reaction, I had the bum defense. It didn’t matter that I rode up and down 8th Street with headphones implanted rapping at the top of my lungs, because I was a bum. There was that awkward second when I’d messed up a song lyric, but I paused, collected myself, and recalled that no one could hear the music in my ear and that everyone assumed I was an insane bum.
When I’d spot a woman clearly out of my league, no longer did I stop, I just rode by saying things like “aye mami” or “tu quieres provar,” because fuck it, I was a bum, and I could continue speeding by them on my Huffy. I smiled at bums and fem-bums. I shared a cig with a bum pushing a stroller as we waited for a traffic light to permit our passage. I even treated non-bums with the disdain they reserved for my people. I screamed and mimicked bum gestures at a motorist who had forgotten to stop at a red light, thus earning the respect of my fellow bum-brethren, and even an inviting smile from a scabby crack-addicted fem-bum in a Looney Toons shirt. Someday sweetheart, someday.
I found a way to improve something I already enjoyed. I ignored every dickhead, every asshole, every stuck-up judgmental bitch, and most important, I ignored myself.
Bums may not have much figured out, but they have attained a certain comfort in their own existence that I continue to seek.
By the looks of my role models, it may take many years of showerless insanity, but when I’m on my bike I’m riding closer to that self-acceptance.
For more from Rosicky…