Friday Philosophy: Ketchup Soup (a primer)

Here I was, all prepared to watch Barack Obama debate an empty chair this evening.  But now news emerges that John McCain will indeed show up for the debate.

Not that the chair will seem to be significantly less empty to me, mind you.

I mean, what’s the deal?  Why is it that Republicans have made a habit of insulting my intelligence with the candidates they have nominated since…since…oh, wow….that’s a toughie.

I mean, they actually selected someone who did worse in college* than W this time?  How can that be?  And this guy picks a box-of-rocks for his vice-presidential running mate?

[*Granted Annapolis has an honor system, which probably means that unlike W, McCain had to do his own papers, but still…]

John McCain is my definition of an empty suit of the worst kind, someone devoid of humanitarian principles or a conscience.

Well, by showing up, he’s screwing me over again

I’ve decided to suspend paying my bills…

…until this fiscal crisis is resolved.  I’ve also decided to suspend taking John McCain seriously.  I mean, I thought the present Commander-in-Thief was as much of a dork as I could imagine, but McCain has the usefulness as a bent paper straw and all the attraction of of a cup of coffee with a cigarette floating in it.

So now I’m going to have to pay those bills, it appears.Once upon a time, I had no bills.  That happens when one is homeless.  Except we didn’t call it “homeless” back then.  We were Street People.   We lived in the bushy parts of parks.  Picking a good set of bushes is a bit of an art, but it is teachable…and learnable.  The bad part of parks is being exposed, to other people as well as to the elements.  When it is raining or snowing, it sucks.  

And sometimes it is way too cold, so cold that even the alternative of sleeping in the hidden nooks under an overpass, in a cardboard box stuffed with newspapers doesn’t provide enough insulation.  Turning tricks just to get into a warm place for awhile becomes a definite possibility.

In the Haight, if we had a buck or more left from panhandling, we used to maybe go to the House of Donuts on Stanyan and Frederick to spend the night.  Their doughnuts were outstanding and the jukebox was fabulous.  I understand that it’s been closed for quite some time.  Ah, well.

But there is another option.  Or there used to be.  One could find a 24/7 restaurant, usually near the Greyhound station, where one could sit for an entire night, if one was nimble, for nothing…or almost nothing.  It’s good to have a bit of Spare Chaynge in order to buy something if someone comes to kick you out.  If you can put that off until around 3 am, you can nurse that doughnut until sunrise.

On a really bad night, we’d head for Fosters down on Market.  One could get coffee fairly cheap.  But one could nurse a teabag for hours.  And if nobody was watching, you could make ketchup soup. But even the video to the right doesn’t really get to the art of it.  Yes, it has the main ingredients:  as many plastic ketchup squeeze tubes as you can find and hot water.  But it assumes you have house to cook in and a range on which to cook.  For us, that was rarely the case.  We brewed our soup in Fosters.  Water hot enough to make tea is hot enough to make ketchup soup.  Usually.  And Fosters’ hot water was free.  And mostly untended.

Granted ketchup soup tastes horrible.  The plastic containers lend a definitely pro-plastic flavor to the ketchup.  I suggest adding some sugar, some salt, and some pepper…and whatever else you can get your hands on.  Except maybe pickle relish.  I’m not so hot on that.  

Of course, if there are ketchup bottles on the table and you can scarf some without getting asked to leave by some restaurant employee other, that will improve the taste.

Remember also that thanks to President Reagan, ketchup * is * a vegetable.  I knew there had to be a reason that we never made mustard soup.

I suggest that it would be forward looking to determine where the next Haight-Ashbury should be…and the next East Village.  Where shall we congregate if times get rock hard?

And I suggest people try to limber up.  I know we are older now, but it takes some flexibility to fit 20 or more people in one room of a crash pad.

All I know is that it would be better for me to live on the street than to put money in the pockets of the predators.

Spare change?


Spare change?

Standing in front

of the fish and chips

sometimes we were given

spare chips instead

and sometimes a prize

a piece of fish

mostly uneaten

A snipe

was a large fragment

of a cigarette

enough to smoke

or add to a stash

to roll-your-own

And sometimes people

would lay some dope

in our hands

some weed perhaps

acid or stp

a little something

to help forget

the hunger

I played chess

for coffee

and could stay warm

if I won

–Robyn Elaine Serven

–September 26, 2008


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    • Robyn on September 27, 2008 at 12:10 am

    …and I apologize for any flashbacks.  In case people haven’t notice, my ex-wife Becky (rjmaxwll) is now a member here, and I think 16 years is long enough to be at odds.  We did spend a quarter century together, after all.  🙂

    We got some shocking news this morning.  Our daughter and her partner have broken up after 18.5 years together.  That happened on the 17th, which was the 16th anniversary of me coming out to them.  That’s sad, for now, but I hope the future will brighten for them.

    And for all of us.


    • Edger on September 27, 2008 at 12:14 am

    Isn’t ketchup a fruit? 😉

  1. maybe we should consider the beach at Santa Barbara.  It’s a lot easier that the Haight or St Marks Place.  And I think the people would be generous. Maybe.

    Regardless, it’s beyond irony to be considering this at this point: I thought we’d somehow gotten past it and wouldn’t return.  Silly me.    

  2. …the debate.  The Wall Street Journal had an ad up from McCain this morning announcing McCain had already won the debate.  And this was before he even decided to go.

    • Edger on September 27, 2008 at 12:51 am

    Last night it snowed for the first time

    Everything’s covered in white          

    How many months till the springtime

    It’s a long winter’s night

    I have to go, I feel I’m sinkin’

    I just don’t know

    But I can’t stop thinkin’


    Somewhere that’s close to the ocean

    Somewhere that’s warm and alive

    Somewhere to sleep in the open

    With the sun in my eyes

    Firefall: Mexico

    • Robyn on September 27, 2008 at 2:19 am


    • Alma on September 27, 2008 at 2:50 am

    Essay, poem, and lovely, lovely art work.

    We might all be living under bridges, and behind billboards pretty soon.  Remember if you are in a snowy climate, that newspapers make good blankets to keep the snow off.

    I was sorry to see about Jen and her partner this morning.

    Its good to see that you and your ex are getting along okay.  I thought about jumping in and saying Hi to her the other day, but figured I’d wait a few days, and give her time to settle in here.  🙂

    • kj on September 27, 2008 at 2:53 am

    yeah!  finally turning on the tube, i guess i just can’t resist this one.

    okay, a quick story for Alma.

    so, am driving home from work and what do i see?  a big old honking bus with ‘straight talk’ express pull into a local Marriott’s.  now, i can’t resist following this bus, so i turn around and creep the old jeep through the parking lot until the bus is parked.  then i pop out and go stand by the door, which opens, and out comes a woman, young, nicely dressed, wearing a huge McCain/Palin sticker on her suit.  i don’t know what my face is registering, probably shock and awe. right away she smiles and says, “He’s not on the bus” and i reply, “That’s probably a good thing.” she looked a bit quizzical, so i asked her to please tell John McCain to find the John McCain of 2000, and tell him he doesn’t have a prayer in Missouri.  she smiled and said, “So, you’re not going to vote for him this year?” and i shook my head.  then i said, “So, has he decided to un-suspend his campaign?” and she perked up immediately to say that yes, he had, and yes, he would debate, to which i replied good. it’s clear we’re out of conversation, so i welcome her to the great state of Misery.  she sort of smiled, dipped her head and said, “Ah, so do you want a sticker?”  we both laughed at the thought… and i smiled and waved goodbye.

    the whole feel was of a campaigner who knew her candidate hadn’t a prayer.  she was nice, and pleasant, and bland.  not jaded, not hopeful, not ‘chirpy,’ just bland.  and she did have on pearl earrings.  probably 25-30 years old.

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