To have and to hold

It was about 4:20 or 4:30 by the time I left home and headed to St Pete to catch the twilight over near The Pier and North Shore Park.

Last night when giving Fluffy his eye meds, I noted how clear the sky was, so I figured it was a good opportunity to watch a clear twilight. And me being me, I wanted a body of water between me and the horizon, so I chose Tampa Bay and got going early enough to make it work.

It must have been a little after five when I rolled in there and hit the North Shore Park first, thinking it might give me some interesting darkness opportunity. But the tide was out and in all honesty, it wasn’t great. The first pic below is the pick of the bunch and while the foreground became nothing without the water, the starry skies were still lovely.

After a number of failed shots, I hopped back in the car and drove back down by the pier in St. Pete … where all the lovely boats sit proudfully waiting for each morning’s rise.

As I wandered along the sidewalk I got a number of cool shots and I was pleased with the mixture of shapes, colors, and reflections that they gave me.

With the sky beginning to warm up a bit I went back up to North Shore Park to bear witness to the oranges and blues that we were being treated to. That type of twilight is definitely my favorite and I was really pleased with the shots.

They are all at the end of the blog and I hope you enjoy!

While I wandered on the sidewalk past the docked boats, I passed by a homeless person asleep on the bench nearby. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or woman because they were so heavily clothed and the hood was pulled over their face leaving the tiniest gap for breathing. It was a chilly overnight and judging by the soft snoring sounds coming from under the hood this poor soul had found a way to make it through to dawn.

I took one picture after I passed, because it immediately provoked my thought process for the blog and I wanted folks to see. It is the black and white one below.

To those who know me well, I have often espoused that if you are well off, America is the greatest country in the world to live in. You have the freedom to do what you want and the opportunity to pursue whatever your heart desires.

But I also believe that if you are poor, America is one of the very worst countries in the world to live in. Frankly nobody gives a shit about the poor and homeless. “they need to get off their asses and get a job” is a common retort I hear when I try to argue that these vulnerable people need to be taken care of.

The immense wealth of some is in stark contrast to the nothingness of others and the hundreds of millions of dollars in parked boats sat in shameful contrast to this bench sleeper.

Americans are wonderful at displaying their wealth. Possessions abound on a scale like no other country. Americans practice consumerism like no others.

We buy in order to have, not necessarily use and homes throughout the country are filled with things bought as wants not as needs. Oftentimes sitting unused even with the original tags on, when they are being thrown out.

In the years that I have visited this same spot, I am sure I could dig out some pictures that show some of these boats never even move.

American “wants” are so great, that a huge industry of personal storage exists to take the overflow of the stuff we have. Stuff that won’t really fit in our homes any more, even though our homes are bigger in size than in almost any other country in the world.

Capitalism is essentially an ok approach to economies, but we have evolved it into consumerism and if you can’t buy, no-one is interested in you. If you can buy, everyone is your friend. Nobody smiles quite like a salesperson working on commission.

But in the shadow of all this “stuff” sit the impoverished, the indigent, the unwashed. We give them a wide berth as we walk by them as they occupy a bench or if they have upgraded to a cardboard box. We avoid eye contact with them as they stand there with a handwritten “please help” on a torn piece of cardboard at the traffic light. We report them to management if they are asking for help within a shopping center. And we report them to the police if they are “up to no good” in our well-groomed neighborhood.

Most of us will keep stuff stowed away in closets or garages, unused for years, rather than make it available to the needy.

“To have and to hold” used to be simply a part of marriage vows, but now it has become the general rule of thumb when we deal with our fellow man.

“It’s mine. My stuff. My money. My taxes. My country. So, fuck off … you can’t have any of it. Get off your lazy ass and get a job. Loser.”

Compassion and empathy have long been casualties of the American Dream and it is such a shame.

For the richest country in the world to have children hungry, people homeless, and families unable to get health treatment, is the greatest shame of all.

People outside of this country look at us and wonder how selfishness became such a part of the national identity.

It certainly didn’t start off that way, as the founding folks that came here on the first ships, arrived with nothing and relied on an un-bordered country with compassionate native Americans to give them sustenance and shelter.

Once we were fed and housed, we set up borders, seized land, and wiped out civilizations … yet they were the savages, apparently.

I coudn’t help but think this morning as I passed this lone sleeper how much we could learn from such savages, if we could just see past the mountain of stuff blocking our view.

… just a thought.