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I'm JM Fisher, Writer & Host Of The Weekly Cynic Podcast.

I'm Currently Available For All Projects Relating To Blogging, Articles & Editing.

Horrors Of The Privileged Class

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“In the summer, a few tourists appear. These lumpen, grey-haired boomers waddling about with their outmoded digital cameras, their flip-flop feet snapping and scuffing the brick sidewalks with their chubby, grotesquely veined ankles harrowingly plodding the irregular patterns of the cobblestone alleys. Of course, these Hawaiian shirted behemoths and their wives, whose bloated, wattled forearms bulge from the sleeves of their garishly colored, overpriced boutique dresses, are guided, or should I say, herded by a college do-gooder, one of those cute, but fanatical art history majors who points and gasps at all the historical architecture. Now, I’m not a classist. I’m not boasting about my privileged environs, as though second empire architecture imbues me with prestige and authority. Where I reside isn’t deemed the olde city or old towne, a section where the affluent still scheme for dominance or social media mavens co-work in their renovated warehouse spaces. If you want to see the mingling of old money and the tattooed parvenu’s, trudge about ten blocks or so over. Or, Uber, for my faint feeted youth. No, here there is no local Airbnb blackmarket. There is no Yelp guidebook for the iPhone addicted, hipster tourist—

What? Get on with it? Apologies…

This isn’t even a neighborhood. It’s one of those remote, off-the-beaten-path tracts of old brick and ivy. Yes, there is a cobblestone path illuminated by strands of vintage, reproduction Edison bulbs. Yes, a few operating gas lamps remain. Yes, these narrow, historic homes have unique, vibrantly painted front doors and wooden shutters. But, there is no official government designation of preservation or historical relevance. To get here almost seems like one is leaving the city, those glass and steel towers of capitalism dwindling in stature as those ancient, soaring trees cast their shadows, blotting the sun’s reflective might—

Sorry, Sorry, I’m getting on with it. You wanted to hear my story, correct? But, without the literary witticism…

But, there is an atmospheric pall along these quaint streets. A friend of mine, when visiting, always jokes about forgetting his whip. The pervasive shadows remind him of the old Nintendo video game Castlevania, the scenes where the medieval night descends and the villagers scurry home, shuttering their hovels as demons roam, and you, the valiant hero with your magical whip, are left for survival…Anyway, to get on with this: there has been some odd occurrences. These peculiarities always coincide with the appearance of a strange car parked on my street, directly in front of my house. Now, in this insidiously tribal, everyone’s-business-is-my-business neighborhood, such an out of place object is visual dissonance to this street of artistes and the cultural elites of the champagne charity circuit…

Sorry, I need a sip of tea…

Ah, yes…

Anyway, my encounters with the supernatural—if one could even describe it as such—began when a black Mercedes parked in front of my house. It resembled a model from 1980s Berlin, a diesel four-door remarkably, obsessively maintained with lustrous black paint. It had brightly polished chrome wheels whose spokes were forged into slithering, tongue flickering serpents. Oh, and on the front of the ‘Benz, a black, novelty license plate with the number 666. Now, when I first encountered the car, I simply shrugged and smiled, thinking it was owned by of one of my neighbor’s brats, their little symbol of adolescent provocation. But, I never saw a driver. I never saw it park or depart. It simply appeared and then disappeared. Now, I’m not a man of superstition and paranoia, but, very slowly I—

Excuse me? Oh, I inquired to a few of my neighbors, those who remained for the season—most winter and summer in Portugal or Spain—but, my only answers were a few shrugs and quizzical smirks. Everyone thought the car belonged to me, my own little symbol of middle-aged rebellion…

Yes…Yes I’m going…

But, I need to intervene, to issue an apologetic preface for this next chapter of my—as I see you react—now belabored story. I am a man of charity, inclusivity and social equality for the most maligned of humanity. I have long donated to causes that serve to confront the most powerful of this world, those who use their influence and wealth to control and exclude those most vulnerable. Though, this time, I failed. I can self-flagellate without reprieve, but, the shame of my actions will never recede from my soul…

The first one appeared near the corner of my sidewalk, beneath the large, leafed canopy of an imposing oak tree, whose immortal roots were in upheaval, rupturing a section of the brick sidewalk. My initial reaction was not of a human, but a pile of discarded blankets and trash bags, the leavings of city refugees, those exiled by the rampant gentrification taking place blocks away… 

I admit, I scowled, disheartened at the thoughtless actions, how our carefully restored and cultivated neighborhood had been marred. I interrupted my morning coffee to investigate, walking out to that supposed pile of rubbish to eventually realize I was staring at a man of tattered clothes, huddled beneath a makeshift tent, surrounded by bags of random belongings…

Yes, my first reaction to this human was one of repellence, he was a grotesquerie of disfigurement and disease, like some mutilated marine mammal washed upon a Hampton’s estate shoreline. He never asked for assistance or pleaded for sanctuary. As soon as I stepped before him, his eyes lids, encrusted with the reside of a seeping infection, struggled to open…

Are you alright, I asked?

Finally his eyes opened, responding to my question with a dismissive, sarcastic roll. Then, he emitted a disdainful grunt and squirmed onto his other side.

Sir, if you need me, I live right there… He gave no reply, so I turned away, staring at my distorted reflection in the gleaming contours of the Mercedes.

For hours, I fuddled about, projects and house cleaning abandoned, unable to cope with the paranoia that was assembling outside my house: the sidewalk had transformed into a ramshackle, homeless encampment where an assortment of the bedraggled and deranged roamed, defecated and enjoyed exchanging all manner of the illicit… Would this community become unruly, delirious from their stimulants and alcohol? Would these historic homes, with their meticulously maintained facades, become symbols of inequality? Would these vagabonds vent their resentment by raging and plundering? I was fretful, dashing an email off to my editor at The New Yorker, profusely apologizing for my inability to deliver my batch of poems…

Of course, I explained my predicament, prepared for some empathetic insight, but all I received was a pithy, ‘Oh…pity today’s world.’

My neighbors, were equally ineffectual. On their jaunts to the coffee parlors and galleries, they would be confronted with this encampment, their feet halting, their heads lifting from the screens of their phones to reveal scowling lips and wrinkling noses; their nostrils inhaling the fermenting stench of human waste and debauchery. But, then, they would shrug, and step into the street to continue their journey’s.

But soon, the elites of the neighborhood convened. My situation necessitating an emergency meeting of the historic committee. From Boston, to Paris and Sydney, broadband communications were surging with my situation. Eventually, the committee rendered a judgement. I was accused of numerous statute violations that were delivered by a contingent of bespoke suited lawyers who, with a large, medieval spike, hammered that packet of transgressions through my front door…

Suddenly, I was condemned and stigmatized just like those beggars sprawled across my brick sidewalk…

Unsurprisingly, the police were dispatched. A trio of boorish, condescending officers of autocratic stature who lectured me on my charity project.

On my front porch, the officers encircled me, their lips snarling and noses flaring like rabid predators as they growled questions and accusations…

‘Do you have a permit for this…gathering? Are you harboring any illegals? Are you accepting funds from any NGOs? Are these makeshift tents within code? Is that your black Mercedes? Do you know that a vehicle can only be parked in the same spot for 72 hours? Will you moving your vehicle or will it be towed at your expense? We see you have damage to your front door, that is in violation of neighborhood code…’

Why are these people my responsibility? I asked, dumbfounded by the blaring rapidity of their questions… They just appeared… I’m accepting money from who? It’s not my car! 

At one point, as an officer leaned into my face, I could see the flames of a gigantic bonfire lashing on the surface of his reflective sunglasses…

‘You’re responsible for that fire!’ The officer screeched as the citizens of the encampment started to dance and chant.

After those uniformed bullies had left, I was shaken, my eyelids twitching, my entire body overwhelmed with nausea. I collapsed on the nearest piece of furniture— that antique settee there—and lapsed into an abyss of sleep, one that I was unable to escape for days.

When I finally woke and went to the front window, as was my ritual over the last week of the homeless encampment, I was stunned: it had vanished. I ran outside, encountering only a doggie bag of undetermined feces and a few, scattered hypodermic needles.

And, yes, the black Mercedes had also gone.

Pardon? Oh, yes… I’m fully responsible for the various fines and neighborhood infractions.

Also, did you notice that nondescript, white utility van parked out front? A van, which I must add, is in the very same spot as the black Mercedes…

You have? Well, since that van arrived—

Instead of explaining, would you like to see this yourself? A tour through my backyard?”

***

I followed my interviewee outside, his small, narrow plot fortified on all sides by high brick walls. His yard of blooming, pink rose bushes was bisected by a slate stone pathway. As we neared the back of his property, the brick walls tapered, giving way to an equally high, black wrought iron fence of spike fleur de lis.

I stopped. “My god…”

“Yes,” My interviewee had started to cry. “What do I do?”

On the other side of the fence, was a crowd of people: dirty and forlorn, their eyes wide and pleading, their hands gripping the fence rails like prisoners.

“Señor Señor Señor!” The crowd shouted when they recognized my presence.

I stood, listening to those anxious, beseeching voices of Spanish and screeching babies. “Wha—Wher—Where are they from?” I asked my interviewee.

“Mexico…One or two appear to be quite fluent in English. I—I don’t know what to do…”

I nodded, dazed by the spectacle before me.

“I—I—I feed them.” My interviewee turned to me. “I really do. I really do.” He looked down at his wrist watch. “In another few minutes the food truck will be here.”

“Food truck?”

My interviewee exhaled. “I have a local, artisanal taco truck stop…” He halted, staring at me. “What else can I possibly do?”


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