The Men Playing Chess are not
, Repeat: NOT Homeless.
In an embarrassing and somewhat amusing encounter yesterday, My young nephew, Gage Preston, Lizzie Kaiser and a photographer named Mario were out getting some photos of the people in the park----which we've been very respectful and circumspect about.---- when we finally made contact with some of the chess players.
Now most of the chess players are older black gentlemen, much like public chessgames in San Francisco down in Union Square. There has to be some associated sub culture of speed-chess-playing-old-guys running throughout the civil rights generation of african americans. But most older white guys simply do not know the moves and stratagems that allow you to win with speed and alacrity.
Thanks to some of the surrounding cranks, there is this idea that if you are in the park, clearly you are homeless and on the verge of panhandling. if not actively pissing your pants or passing out dead drunk in front of Jerry Moran's pasta emporium La Cena (more on that later, btw. Funny explosive commentary on Jerry from the patrons of Hemming)
Anyways, they've been photographed, earnestly offered food and money, sympathetically directed to social services, glared at angrily by random park improvers, avoided assiduously by people frightened of the dreadful reputation of the Criminal Hemming Park Chess Gang and the like.
In reality the chess players have jobs or are retired. Not that they have to justify being on earth, or breathing its oxygen, or taking up space on public property-----but for purposes of irony, keep that in mind.
As a result of all the sympathy and handwringing revolving around a relatively understandable goal: winning a chess game to while away a few of your retirement hours, a local photographer (who shall remain nameless) did a photo opening up in New York City about a year ago featuring a shot called 'Homeless Man in Park".
In the shot was a New York City Native, (also comfortably employed) sitting down to the challenge of playing the game with one of the park chess masters. He was unaware that he was being photographed, and also unaware that the photo show was being mounted in NYC.
That is, until his family called him, with endless tones of love and understanding, tearfully letting him know that he could 'Come on Home". When he asked what they were talking about, they gave him every opportunity to tell them that he was homeless, couching the questions in 'hard times' and the like.
When he assured them that he was fine, getting along pretty well here in Florida, gainfully employed, nice house etc, they broke down and let him know the truth.
They had just seen a photo documentary show (the photography exhibit above mentioned) in NYC, and they recognized him from the photo, and they didn't want him to be homeless any more.
Imagine explaining that
to your elderly parents.