The Armstrong and Getty radio show.

armstrong and getty

This is an email I sent to the Armstrong and Getty radio show that they read in its entirety.  Pretty cool show.

Dear Armstrong & Getty:
I enjoy your show, but I want to clear up one misconception you have about “the homeless.”
First a little about myself.  I was a freelance cartoonist for 20 years (until my eyesight burned out). I’ve had 4 books published.  I’ve had my picture on the frontpage of newspapers (including the USAToday).  Published 10 issues of an underground punk tabloid (featuring interviews with people like Johnny Rotten, Jello Biafra, R. Crumb, Charles Bukowski and, of course, Charles M. Schulz). Published 15 issues of a popular local photo calendar that was featured twice on the CBS national news.  Recorded and produced a 25 song CD of Berkeley street musicians. Blah blah.  I’ve also been homeless for about 10 years.  And (contrary to the impression regularly fostered on the Armstrong & Getty program) I’ve worked and supported myself for most of my life, including while I was homeless, and rarely went to the free meals or used the social services.
I’m certainly not offended by the cheap shots and stereotypes that you regular lob at “the homeless.”  Simply because I believe there are usually a lot of home-truths in most stereotypes.  And your comments about “the homeless” are generally accurate depictions of one segment of the homeless population, as well as often being hilarious.  And I prefer your stereotypes to that of the bleeding heart variety spewed forth by the homeless pity rags.  But the thing that people like you — people who have never been homeless and mostly view “the homeless” from the outside looking in —  never seem to understand is, you see only a small percentage of the overall homeless population.  You see only the most grotesque and obvious members of the homeless community.  The ones begging on the street, the ones pissing on the street, the ones getting drunk and obnoxious.  The ones you don’t notice are the millions of otherwise normal people who don’t look or act homeless (which is why you don’t notice them) but just happen to be homeless.  This is especially true of the latest generation of homeless — the ones in their 20s and 30s.  A good percentage of them, there’s nothing particularly “street” about them.  They’re just normal people who got priced out of the rental market or victimized by the economic downturn.  I read somewhere that 50% of recent college graduates are unemployed.  And a surprising number of them end up homeless.  Of course you don’t notice THEM. You only notice the worst segment of the homeless population, hence your distorted and limited view of who “the homeless” actually are.
And by the way, as someone who spent 35 years in the media business  I could certainly spew forth my stereotypical view of all the media weasels and media whores I’ve met over the years.  And I would say as a group, media people are just as grotesque in their own special way as “the homeless.  Nonetheless, that doesn’t distort my view of Armstrong & Getty as media creatures also.
Anyways, thanks for all the laughs and insights every morning.
Ace Backwords

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