Dirt Poor or Filthy Rich – Wording Famine Relief

“Hunger is a very powerful word.  Without context or definition, it causes emotional responses to percolate deep in my core.  Hunger’s six letters standing on my retina or its two syllables bouncing in my ear find me immediately feeling fear, sadness and anger.

Add context and definition, the sight or sound of hunger cause rage, contempt, disgust, helplessness, frustration, guilt, shame to fill my gut and constrict my chest.  I’ve never been hungry, truly hungry, and yet I have an instinctual knowledge of and can empathize with any living thing feeling it.

Instinct and empathy motivate me to become part of the change needed to eliminate the hunger, but they in no way prepare me for how.  Hunger initiates action, yet the causes of hunger are rationalized, tolerated.  Faced with starvation, I would still share what food I had with a starving child, but faced with the cause of that child’s hunger I would not make the same level of personal sacrifice to stop it.

This is where I start asking, ‘Why?’ “

 – the words of Jen A C



I stuck my nose into it… again. CL Litfo, that is. The off-beat, avante-guard forum played host to more Gaboo meddling: Write about Dirt Poor or Filthy Rich – winner receives donation in their name to famine relief in the Horn of Africa.

The challenge is dire. Starvation and dehydration are horrible ways to perish and we have the capability to do something. So, challenge other writers.

Four entrants: Trainwhistle, Wyattburp, Rytis, and Meridianshift submitted tales, each a perspective and good mind trip to how the other half lives. A hearty thank you to the writers for their effort to draw attention to the cause.

Wyattburp exposes a curious escapade into low budget health care, complete with imagery only a qualified street poet could employ. http://sfbay.craigslist.org/forums/?ID=193045205

Trainwhistle presents a deeply sentimental contrast of two characters who find joy sharing waning futures.  http://sfbay.craigslist.org/forums/?ID=193532754

Rytis came through with a brief saga from ground-level in the famine zone. His characters were experiencing a summer vacation of survival. http://sfbay.craigslist.org/forums/?ID=193587166

Theme(s) conquered by Meridianshift, who presents a winding ramble through multiple lives and circumstance in a deftly played hand at wordsmithery. Kudos. Fave scene, contains Anchorage. http://sfbay.craigslist.org/forums/?ID=193514689

The winner is…

the one who wraps their head around a plight. If I can logon—I’m having a good day. Each submission to the Dirtpoorfilthyrich contest presented a window into confluence of human experience, and before us lies yet another natural peril. Each writer gave voice and face to those lives some only imagine. Thanks to each of you, Wyatt, Rytis, Meridianshift, Train-whistle for scribing a forward to the following:

From the writers of CL Litfo to the Horn of Africa, with love, $100 bucks.

Included in the donation, Train-whistle has graciously volunteered to match my original fifty. So if there’s no objection, I’ll suggest we split the cash prize between the two organizations. I have no qualms about either of them, but I am aware that significant monies are stockpiled for future allotments. I do not understand how the distribution of food is bartered, warehoused, shipped, and apportioned to the person roadside. Vital appeals, though, and apparently a buck can feed four kids.

salut, forward,

And for the readers of Now.readthisplease….


Food & Love by Gaboo


Downtown street, the diner next to the L&H? Hotel. Me and Ian sitting having a hangover coffee after we blew the gig next door. Too drunk.

In walks this guy about our age dressed as a “boy” in German edelweiss shorts. He saddles up next to Ian and they start the speak for a line on some down. I don’t fancy drugs myself; I never found a memory that bourbon couldn’t kill. But Alpenboy’s all jonesin and ticked. Ian probably knew this guy from suppliers or something. Anyway, I’m plunking on the guitar feeling out of the mood and dejected, when Little Boy Blow gets aggravated with my musical doodling and tells me to can it. He’s not very big, but he’s mouthy and street smart, probably from pushing hookers off his corner between customers. I ask him what he’s looking for. “Eightball,” of course. “Oh, tainted,” I respond. I mean, he’s trying to look like a do-able child right out of Sound of Music—and he’s hunting for a combo? Yeah, right. The comment took him aback.

“Tainted?” he says.

“Yeah,” I say.

“What the hell do you mean by that?” He’s catching on, getting testy.

“I mean, I don’t buy your crap,” I say. “Trix are for kids.”

Wtf? His face takes a shade toasted and he screws up his eyebrows.

“Why don’t you just shut up and quit playing your crap guitar.”

“Ooh,” I say.

“Let him play,” Ian pipes in, “Hey g, why don’t you sing a song?”

“Na,” I say, ignoring Mr. Lederhosen, who whines.

Ian waves him off. Good man, Ian, if naive, and he adds, “Do that new one you wrote, g, the one you were working on… Love Food Something.”

I’m thinking about it. Depressed states don’t make decent podiums for performance; there was no one to connect with. Maybe ten people in the joint, including staff.

That’s when the junkie in breeches lays into me, “Get out of here. I don’t like you.”

Now we were sitting first, our table. I’m considering the next move. Maybe there’s gonna be a scrap, but I don’t want this guy’s juice on me. That’s when a big guy eating noodles, up at the back, suddenly speaks, booming, “Play your song.”

Cool, a fan.

So, I turn to the little hired prick to make a deal, “Are you packin’?”

He’s puzzled and gearing for a fight, wicked little bugger, “What do you mean ‘packin”?”

He’s so angry with product drought, with his stupid life, the city, with me, and it’s hot afternoon and everybody’s flushed, but mostly, he’s baffled. I can be a mouthy bastard, too, so I explain.

“I mean, are you packin’—duh? Like, have you got a gun, or a knife, or some bamboo nunchucks?”

“Nooo! I’m not ‘packin’.”

“Well,” I drawl, “that guy up there, he’s bigger than me, and if he says to play, I’m gonna play… unless you’re packin’.”

This gave BoyWonder a hobby. Mental puzzles work well on the deluded.

While this scene is playing out, my back is to a young couple attempting to peaceably eat dinner. They are in the corner booth, next to the kitchen, and they have a baby—near newborn—perhaps. The kid is in a small cradle positioned between them. Mom and dad are young, probably nineteen or twenty-years-old, could have been younger. They look nervous and afraid, skinny, dressed decently, but cheaply, eating a family meal at a diner in the downtown raunchy area. And with their luck, some drug-induced, rock and roll brawl was about to break out with a male hooker ten feet away. I knew they weren’t tasting the food; that’s when you just get it down and leave. Baby doesn’t make a peep.

Something made me mad. I’m mad because I see their innocence and they don’t belong here. I don’t know their story—they look too young and too frail against the world. I’m mad because they are trying to have something special, in a booth, in a diner, and some self-absorbed jackass junkie, made to look like a little sex toy, is ruining such a rare opportunity, a moment for them. They are stuck in the crossfire, and they represent something. Sooo, I get up and walk directly to them.

“I noticed you were having a nice dinner here…” (Remember, I’ve brought over ten beers from the lounge next door, in my gut.) “…and I just wrote a song about food and babies and stuff. I have a kid and I’m married, so I understand it’s a hassle to have a meal out. I’d like to perform the song for you. You mind?”

I sensed their relief, even encouragement—desperation? “Yes, please,” they chime. Staff gather behind the counter, “Yes, sing,” assuring in broken ringrish. An old guy, under a low slung fedora is chomping a burger, and he pauses. “Sing the song,” he commands.

Fair enough. I pull up a spare chair and sit before my little Mary, Joseph, and their babe a’napping.

In C, but we’ll start ’em low, in E. Kind of a Spanish, funk groove…

yeah, yeah, yeah
yeah, yeah, yeah

a little bambino sleeps in mama’s arms
mama keeps her baby safe and warm
when he gets hungry he just cries for more
and mama lets him visit her grocery store

what a dream, what a dream
to wake up and know nothing…

now you live on a planet
deep in outer space
and on that lovely globe of blue
there lives the human race

some will say they’re happy
others cry they’re sad
if you ever ask me I’ll say
this is all we have

what a dream, what a dream
to wake up and want nothing…

A little baby cries in mama’s arms
mama tries to keep her baby warm
he cries all day, cause there’s nothing to eat
so mama holds her baby and they go to sleep

our ignorance is so large
the problem is so small

what a dream, what a dream
to wake up and know nothing…

…except food and love
throughout the world

I want food and love
throughout the world

I know you hear me, food and love
throughout the world

gonna get some food and love
throughout the world


And the song ends abruptly.

It went down good. Everybody was shocked. I was shocked. Everything conspired in the universe at that precise moment of time to concentrate a divine moonbeam of joy on that couple. Old Man Burger started to clap. The big guy was clapping. The staff was clapping. The couple had tears. I sang it loud, proud and it carried to the street. Young mom and dad could feel it and they knew it was for them… done.

I will always remember that old man, too, nodding his head and smiling. He was a hard ass and he knew it went down good.

I bowed, thanked them, waved to my listeners, and said “time to go” as I passed Ian. We were settled up, so we split. Always leave the crowd wanting.

We got about half a block and that kid, the young father, who was having a romantic dinner with mom and baby, he came running up to us, “Hey wait, wait…” He wanted to shake my hand, “Who are you? Thanks, man… that was incredible…”

I really don’t like blowing my own weewee, unless it’s around friends and relatives, but honestly, that rendition came out right. I wrote the song in an attempt to show how lucky we are. I guess an infomercial for some NGO got me all guilt-ridden; I’m lucky to have a choice. But there, in that diner, something cosmic worked—or I just got into the vibe of the challenge. I’m thankful to be the tool. I appreciated this young dad’s appreciation.

“g” I answered.

Then me and Ian took the train back.

Oh, and that jerk dressed up like a boy-for-hire? He hooked up with big guy eating noodles, the one at the back who insisted I play guitar. Ha, people.



Food & Love © 2011 Gaboo. Read Gaboo’s latest on Now.readthisplease.com Hunger © 2011 Jen A C. Jen is a new contributing writer at ReadThisPlease.com

Epilogue: Trainwhistle kindly donated through the World Food Program, a UN front line group and bonafide NGO. I did a bit of research and had a friend stick my donation through Oxfam/Save The Children who are also on the ground. Choosing this route, my donation was matched by a sponsoring government. Thus our original $100 became $150. That’s 600 meals served.

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