At first glance, this relatively new Twitter account appears to be one woman’s attempt to catalogue the interactions of neighborhood, particularly between the bums on the street corner. @BumsOfMyrtleAve recently started following me and, given my interest in the homeless population and, particularly, our (non) interactions with them, I decided to return the follow. What I expected was a type of “shit homeless bums” say. What I mean is, I feared the worst. What I found instead was an entire philosophy about “bums” in a refreshingly positive way.
In what follows, I read entirely too far into a twitter account. This may seem to be a mini-review of a twitter account, but what I’d really like to show and draw attention to is the way that this one act ““ creating and maintaining an online stream of daily interactions with an otherwise ignored population ““ has established the “bums” of Myrtle Ave as a prominent, visible part of the community.
First, I should note that the tweets are not without flaws. There is one “bum” in particular I’d rename. Additionally, I’m not sure how entertaining one would find the twitter stream if you’re not 1) familiar with Myrtle Ave [I think I actually know who is who in their twitter feed] or 2) living in a comparable community as this one [which is near the projects on the outskirts of Fort Greene ““ a NYC neighborhood in Brooklyn notorious for the sentiment “people move to Fort Greene and live forever”].
The tweets are generally commentary on shared preference of ’90s pop music with the guy with the boombox (deemed #TheMayor as he is always, always there), or the playful teasing that she’s always running too slowly to catch the bus (and how The Mayor found a whistle and spent three days blowing it when the bus was in sight so everyone could make it).
And then there are some real gems. The ones that really make a statement as to why she’s collecting these conversations. There are certain things you can glean from these 140-character conversations that, in my humble opinion, really show the value of mediums like twitter:
1) Personally, I love this second one. And maybe it’s because I, too, hate cat calls. Or perhaps we can take it as a mutual sign of affection. Sure, not love, but there’s dependability. The man deemed Where’s Waldo loves to say I love you ““ I’ve gotten one, too ““ but the thing is, he’s there every day! So are the others, as seen in the first tweet. You can count on it..
2) What’s interesting is this is that #SaggyJeans MOVED IN with her and her #boyfriend. And that #SaggyJeans is #Boyfriend’s brother. And #Sissy?
This is a pivotal tweet, when I really started paying attention to the feed, because she’s noting that she’s no different than the bums that roam the street corner. In fact, she IS one of those bums. And so is her boyfriend. And his brother. And her sister. We’re all bums, in fact. In another tweet, she called the bodega a bum. I’m sure she means the bodega owners, but anyway”¦.
“˜Bum’ is a way of life.
Ah, and here it is. Who matters? Everyone matters. Bums matter.
In case it wasn’t clear, this woman wants to reassure you that this isn’t an account to make fun of or stereotype or capitalize on the people who roam her neighborhood. Nay! It’s about people who matter to the community. After all, these are people she sees every day.
I’m surely reading farther into this than anyone could possible imagine, but I assure you the point is not moot.
As a Midwestern gal, I was always told, “Don’t stare/point. It’s impolite.” When confronted in public with a situation one doesn’t generally want to publicize I was encouraged to “look away” and “keep walking.” Certainly, my parents’ intentions were good. They just meant not to draw unwanted attention to whatever was happening. When I moved to NYC, I thought this is what you did. You “didn’t stare” and “kept on walking.” I thought it was polite to just pass the person on the street asking for money of food. Perhaps it is.
But whether it’s impolite or not, after a lot of personal research into the social and political aspects of homelessness (particularly the way that they fit outside of what we deem “society”/are an “invisible”/unaccounted for part of our population), I feel pretty strongly that nodding or smiling or what-have-you is a kind gesture, if for no other reason than it’s a rare one.
I suppose what I love about @BumsofMyrtleAve is that it gives a voice to a widely ignored population. And I’m sharing it with you so that you reflect on your own daily interactions, be it with the college kid at the coffee shop, or the lady behind the counter at the deli”¦ I mean, we’re all bums, anyway.
(Disclaimer: I’m certainly not saying you need to give money to those who ask. Nor am I saying that bums = homeless or trying to reduce homeless to a stereotype. Please don’t take the ambiguity of how I use “bum” as reductive, or trying to lay claim to the entirety of a population whose individuals come in many shapes, sizes, flavors, walk of life”¦)