I brush my teeth about twice a week. In rural Africa they get soft little sticks and cut the ends at an angle to use as a scraping cleaning tool. So far I have not needed to resort to that. Generally the sleeve of my top does a pretty good job. But if you're out and about in town, perhaps looking to meet that special someone, and caught wondering about your teeth... you may want to head over to the public toilets at either the St.Francis Church (during the day) or the St.Vincents Hospital emergency room toilets (during the night). These toilets both use Ultra Violet lighting, which has the fantastic effect in highlighting all the blotches and bits in your teeth, until you get them spic and clean. (I use the term toilets, and not bathroom, as I was once at an emergency hostel and asked where the 'bathroom' was and the lady said 'What's that? Oh, you mean the toilets...')
I mostly caught up with old friends, and built on the new ones I was developing. Thanks to those friends I caught up with for your interest and chats, and also those that sent me an encouraging email.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the young guy at the Vic Market Food Van that asked me the time, and I felt that small acknowledgment was a 'connection'. Well, last Sunday I came out of the Library and he followed me out and approached for a quick chat about News Years Eve plans. The next day I was sitting on the Steps and he came and sat down and chatted further. Rick told me has been on the streets for about six years. He sleeps rough as each fortnight he gets his $400 benefit and then spends it all on alcohol, and has a good time, which lasts him about two days. He then walks around, carries nothing, just has his clothing, and waits for the next payment to do it again. I said 'That's a lot of money to blow in two days on alcohol'. He explained as he has been doing it for years, he no longer drinks beer or wine, but just has a hankering for the top quality spirits. He wished me a happy new year and walked on. Later at the food van, he gave me a tip that you can heat up the food on the free BBQs, over in the park. We haven't talked about God yet, but we're on chatty terms now, so that's good.
I also had my first chat with Dougy. He was the drunk that, earlier during Christmas, had a bet about how long before he would be locked up again. Dougy is the cops (or 'jacks' as they're known on the street) number one drunken trouble maker. He claims he was locked up 17 times in three days over Christmas. He said the 'jacks' can hold you up to 4 hours before having to charge or release you, so they have a constant cycle of releasing him, following him around, locking him up for a few hours, and releasing him again, and so on. I have often seen the jacks, in a group, follow him around and just chat for a bit and move on. Dougy and his mates claim the seats outside SPC opposite the Hungry Jacks store (a hangout place for street people) is 'theirs' and nobody is going to claim otherwise. Of course with the jacks, it is only their way or the highway, and they never really compromise. Although once I was sleeping on the bench there, next to some wineos, and woke up to find ourselves surrounded by 13 jacks. They moved the winoes on but saw I was not a part of them and not drunk, so didn't hassle me further, which was a suprise as they nearly always ask for your ID and write down your details. So I thought that this might be the time when I talk about why I have no ID and what I am doing, but no, not this time, maybe later, or never. Anyway, Dougy stopped me as I walked by, and chatted for the first time (although I had sat next to him on a number of occasions) about how the jacks had followed him and his mate into Hungry Jacks (HJs) and his mate had said 'Why are you following us all the time?' and upset had thrown his drink all over one of the jacks, thus getting himself promptly taken away. People steer pretty clear of Dougy, but I hope to chat further with him.
Now on a spiritual note, a word of advice. If you visit the Shrine of Rememberance and notice, as I did, the message engraved on the path leading up to the steps, but before the flame, that says 'Let all men know, this is Holy Ground', do not take off your sandals! Seeing the message, and thinking of the story of Moses, where God says to be bare footed on Holy ground, I took off my sandals and walked around. Soon I had a security guard come up to me and tell me to put my footware back on, for 'safety reasons'. I pointed out the message said it was Holy Ground and that should mean bare feet. She agreed the message was there, but said I had to comply and also to take off my hood, so the cameras could see my face...
Last night (Friday) I was standing next to a guy who asked me about my top and then invited me to come along to the Planet Shakers Conference. His name was also Jake and he was the cool enthusiastic youth pastor for an AOG Church and was heading in to the conference with about 30 kids, all soccer chant singing 'He Sa,'a'a,'a'a,'a,'aves, Jesus'ss, Jesus'ss...' as the tram went along. The conference had been running all week at the BrandName Areana (Tennis Center) and it was the final night, which was free, lucky for me! John warned me it was like a Church souped up on steriods, but when I found myself in the middle of tens of thousands of teenagers all jumping up and down to booming music and a massive video screen, singing and yelling, I would more describe it as a Hyper Hyper Go Go Trippy Spinout Conference of Super Godly Fullon-ness. While I didn't quite get into being bouncy, I did enjoy it. My only concern was one speaker who said Satan was siting in the chair he had on the stage, and had everyone shouting out, repeating after him, just how angry Satan made him, and had everyone yelling to give us back all the good things he (Satan) had taken away... I abstained from that one. I am not sure encouraging kids to talk to Satan, even in righteous anger, is a good idea... better just to focus on God, I was thinking. Anyway I was really impressed by the high quality of the production and how hyped up the kids were for Jesus, so that was also good.
On the way back to the city, a crowd of people was waiting at the tram stop. As it approached I could see there were only three other youths on it, who seeing the big crowd, all ran down the back of the tram to avoid the crush. As the tram took off the 'Jesus Saves' chant song started up again, and the youths started yelling out that they were there first, and what was with this stupid Jesus tram, and other negative comments. I moved down the back to where they were and 'suprise' one of the youths was the 'sex tape' kid I had talked to one week earlier. He saw me and said "Hey, it's the Christian guy from the City, he's ok." And they all stopped making their negative comments. Another of the street youths said to me "There's nothing in the Bible against smoking pot, is there.." and I said that 'the Bible says your body is a temple' and he said 'I look after my body' in reference to his physique, I nodded. They sat quietly and when we all got off he shouted out "Don't forget, your body is a temple!", I think he was sincere :)
Later, I met a new street person, a girl who constantly asked people for a cigarette, smoked it, then asked someone else for another. She was chain smoking by request. There seems to be an understanding of sharing cigarettes between all smokers, that she was taking advantage of. I noticed that her feet were black, although she was white, from dust and dirt. I asked her if she had any concern, like with broken glass, while walking around the city in bare feet. But she didn't, and looked at me almost as if it was an odd question.
I left her sitting there at 3am and went off to sleep on the lawn out the front of the AxA building, as Eco Paul had suggested some time ago. It was pretty dry and dusty but I lay there looking up at the ordered structured form of the building, and thought about their business of financial planning, the nature of man in progression from sleeping dirty and rough, to suits, offices, apartments and mansions. Both ends of the pendulum now here, resting together, back to back. Was it a good spiritual experience, as Eco had suggested? Well I woke up in the morning light and knew I had just had a dream of something significant, but I couldn't quite remember it. So I might have to go back and try again sometime.
I walked back by the Steps and noticed the black footed girl still sitting there.