May 2005

The Story of Cadillac Man and the Land of the Lost Souls

The author lives under a viaduct in Queens, New York, and is one of an estimated five hundred thousand homeless veterans in America today. He has decided to leave an account of his life and times.

By Cadillac Man | May 1, 2005 | 7738 words, 0 images

You do get used to the rats.

One thing they always tell you when you're sleeping out is make sure you wash your hands and face. And this one particular night I didn't and I also had a sandwich in my pocket, a peanut-butter sandwich, and I really love peanut butter and as I was sleeping I felt a little something moving and it was sorta like somebody going for my pocket.

Somebody trying to rip me off or something. I reach in the pocket real quick and hello there! I find myself holding a rat, face-to-face. What are you doing here? And he's like looking at me you know and I'm like, Oh you're hungry, too, and I gave him the sandwich.

A couple nights later same thing, although a different rat. I felt him on me and I was like, Oh he's trying to get warm. Just like a dog, the rat wants to cuddle up to you. And in the summertime, you can count on keeping fresh rat bites on your hands.

They don't mean any harm, they're just looking for food. Everybody thinks they carry rabies, and that's the biggest farce going. All right, they do carry some disease, that's true, but how many people actually die of rat bites? Check with the board of health and you'll see none. How many people got sick from the rat bite? Perhaps a few.

They don't bother me.

I am homeless, and this is my story, and rats, for instance, are simply a fact of my life.
Another fact of life out here is the street hustle, that biological need that we each have to get an edge, fair or unfair. It's what keeps us from giving up and it's the same impulse that makes us excel as a human race.
And let me tell you: There is larceny in all of us.

Out here no more and no less than where you live.

I never used my ice pick to thieve, just for protection. That was my first street name, Ice Pick. Kind of scared people, and sometimes they were right to be scared. Now the name's Cadillac Man, got it the hard way, got clipped by a car, actually got smashed by a car, you're a real target when you push your wagon in the street. Spent some time in the hospital and came out Cadillac Man. The guy whose name is on my birth certificate is dead as far as I'm concerned. Of course, the government comes looking for him every now and then, but that's okay, I no longer have anything to hide. I don't steal or beg. Some do, and they have their reasons, but I don't. And before you think you're all that different from us, let me ask you this: If I was to look in your dwelling right now, would I find office supplies? Stationery? Toiletries? Other freebies?
I don't care how straight you are, even the pope in Rome pads the expense account. And nobody fleeces like somebody who protests that he doesn't—"Why, never!"

But now we're not talking about your world. We are embarking on a journey into mine. Please prepare yourself. A word of warning: You can't be nicey nicey out here. You have to be mean to survive.

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