By Dan Valentine
Spent last night working on a funny song about homelessness. Tentative title/hook: “Parsley Is For Eating.” My dad once said, “Humor is looking at the world upside down.” When you’re homeless, you’ve got a ringside seat.
My dad found himself homeless as a kid. During the depression, in Columbus, Ohio, he came home from school one day to find the family’s belongings on the front walk. His dad couldn’t come up with the rent.
My brother was homeless for a time. In Amsterdam. He hid what little he had behind some bushes in a park. Some nights later he went to a homeless shelter for a meal and stood behind a fellow in line wearing his clothes.
I’ve been homeless before. Years ago. For three days. In D.C. When I first joined Hatch’s staff. I had all but forgotten. You’ve time to reminisce when you’re broke.
I was staying at a very nice deluxe motel in Virginia. Pool, sauna, tennis courts, etc., till I found an apartment.
I don’t drive, never have. So, I would take a bus each morning to the nearest Metro stop, then on to the Russell Senate Building in D.C., where Hatch’s offices were.
(Lots of people have never driven. Tony Bennett has never driven, Barbara Walters has never learned to drive. Abraham Lincoln never drove. Bonnie and Clyde drove and look what happened to them. In my youth, when I asked a woman out, my line was, “You bring the wheels. I’ll furnish the entertain. But don’t honk when you pick me up. You’ll disturb the neighbors!”)
After work one night I met a young woman. Can’t remember where. Probably at a bar on the Hill. Her father was a brigadier general, head of supplies for something or other. After a short time, she invited me to move in with her. Split the rent. She had a studio apartment. Sounded good to me.
Her folks invited us to dinner. Her dad wanted to meet me. They lived in Virginia somewhere. Her car just happened to have been towed away that day at an expired meter so we rented one.
We drove to Virginia, had dinner, cocktails. A nice time. Afterward, he followed us outside to the rented car. She got behind the wheel. And he waved us goodbye.
The next day, after work, she told me her dad thought I was gay.
Gay?! “How come?”
“You don’t drive.” Funny. Strange.
A couple of nights later, in her apartment, we’re awakened by fierce pounding on the front door. Bang, bang, bang. “Melody! Melody!” That was her name. “Let me in. I know you’re in there with someone.” Bang, bang, bang.
She whispered, “Don’t say a word. It’s my ex.”
“Come on, Melody, open up.” Bang, bang, bang.
“He said he’d kill any man who even looked at me.”
That’s nice to know.
He banged and banged! Finally, after a long time, he stopped.
I went to work the next day, came home afterward, put the key in the lock, opened the door, and there he was–his name was Rodney–in bed with Melody! I backed out the door, went outside, walked down the block, smoked half a pack of cigarettes. For such times, cigarettes were created.
When I returned, Rodney was gone. And Melody said, “Rodney wants you outta here. Pronto.” She may not have said pronto.
I said, “Fine with me,” and went to pack my things. And she said, “Oh, no! Not until you pay your half the rent.” Huh? No way. I went to pack my things–I had a couple of suitcases in the closet–and she grabbed a large butcher knife from the kitchen and blocked my path, waving the blade.
I said, “Okay, calm down. You’ve got my things. You’ve got my things!” For the time being. And I went on my way. Homeless.
I walked up to the Russell Senate Office Building and slept on a couch in the conference room. Three nights I slept there. One morning, early, Hatch opened the door, saw me half asleep on the couch, and softly closed the door. He must have thought I’d been up all night working on an upcoming speech.
Finally, after three days, in the same suit, I told Paul Smith, my good friend to this day and Hatch’s press secretary at the time, my plight. He called Tom Perry, can’t remember his title. But Hatch’s second or third man. I recently heard he had died. He was young. The best die young, as as they.
I told him my story and he said. “We can get her arrested for attempted assault with a deadly weapon. Her father’s a brigadier general? We can put pressure on her dad. Have you any papers of the Senator’s in your bag?”
“Maybe a notebook, with an idea or two for a speech.”
He said, “We’ll send federal marshals to get your things.”
I told him, “Let me try on my own one more time.”
I called Melody and told her about the federal marshals, and she said, “Come pick up your things. They’ll be in the hallway.”
Paul gave me a ride. We picked up my stuff, and he took me in for a week or so till I got my own place. A studio apartment in D.C.
Funny/sad, I ran into Melody a few weeks or months later in a bar. On M Street. I just happened to sit down on a bar stool a couple of seats down from where she was sitting, alone, having a drink.
We didn’t speak. I had one drink, knocked it back, and paid my tab with a newly acquired Gold American Express Card.
As I was leaving, she said, “My new boyfriend has a Platinum Card.”
Melody. Nice name.