Hollywood’s Most Famous Bum & Oracle Causes Commotion In Local Coffee Shop
I hadn’t seen Hollywood’s most famous bum and oracle, Lyle Shove-It, since this summer’s NSA scandal. He’d pushed in his shopping cart his entire accumulation of material possessions. The shopping cart’s front left wheel was rusty, and it squeaked and rattled as Lyle shoved it forward. “Let the NSA bug the cart,” he’d told me, “all they’re going to hear is a bunch of squeaking and squawking.”
Only a few days ago I took Shove-It out for coffee. I led him to one of the most inane, corporate eyesore coffee shops on the planet. I think deep down I wanted him to make a scene. He hadn’t had a cup of the black stuff in over seven years, he claimed. When I offered to buy him a cup, he warily agreed. “I don’t want to get into a habit,” he said, “of getting wired and sleepy, hopped up and then crashing.”
We walked (slowly) to a nearby Starbucks; nearby Shove-It’s legendary bench at the intersection of two famous streets in Hollywood. He sits there almost every day. I held the door open for him. I’d meant it as a gesture of simple kindness, but many of the patrons in the packed coffee shop lifted their heads to see what all the commotion was about.
They seemed to think I was presenting somebody important. And Lyle moved like a slug over hot pavement. His model for living held very little interest for haste or exaggerated animation.
The door of the coffee shop was decorated with green, cartoon cups floating in the air, and tilted at slight angles. I studied it while my outcast friend navigated through the threshold. There was a sign for a frappe, as well as pumpkin spice lattes.
Shove-It stared hard at the decorations, shook his head, then ambled inside. His worn snow pants swished loudly. His scuffed black combat boots, at least two sizes too large for his feet, clunked against the clean tiled floor. Despite the warm day, the famous bum and oracle refused to remove his army green military jacket that left an inch of his arms exposed above his wrists. Unbuttoned, as it was today, you could see his stretched Rush Limbaugh t-shirt. Below the enormous black and white head of the famed radio show host read, “Ditto!”
Lyle Shove-It doesn’t like many people, so when the smiling barista asked us what we’d like to order, I had to order. I’ll take a tall coffee, I said, and my buddy here will take a grande of something with a lot of steamed milk. Give him a hearty one, full of pumpkin spice.
The barista, a short young lady with a pile of hair clipped to the top of her head, stopped smiling. Her eyes were on Shove-It, who was leaning forward and looking deep into her eyes. Limbaugh, too, I imagined, was looking.
He loves a certain kind of woman, I said, but don’t worry, he’s harmless. He’s always been enthusiastic about a pair of dark eyes against the Starbucks’ green. It’s a treasure for him.
“He’s not my type,” the barista said. A light tune kicked in overhead. A mild salsa beat punctuated by short bursts from a trumpet.
That’s understandable, I said. He’s not really anybody’s type, but that’s how he likes it.
“Can he even talk?” she asked. “What’s his name? I need his name for the drink.”
I glanced at Lyle. She was right, it wouldn’t hurt him to speak in public a little. I nudged him with my elbow. Shove-It lifted his oily green hat off his head and wiped his forehead with it.
Come on, I said, give her your name.
“Name?” the barista asked. She stood, impatient, one hip cocked out. She held a felt-tip black pen to the side of a tall white cup she squeezed in her other hand.
“Mickey Mouse,” Shove-It answered when he’d finally yanked his hat back over his sweaty pepper-and-salt hair. “Mickey Mouse, the three-fingered fuck.”
The barista’s mouth fell open. A squirt of gum, an unnatural blue color, was lodged between her tongue and teeth. She narrowed her eyebrows at Lyle. She looked at her coworker standing behind the espresso machine. He held his phone close to his nose. He tapped out a message using his thumbs.
I pointed to Shove-It. I didn’t want a confrontation. I’d been raised better than that. That’s really his name, I finally said. Mickey. Mouse. He had deadbeat parents. And the three-fingered thing is true. The classic Mickey really only has three. It doesn’t make any sense why a mouse would have fingers at all. Or why hundreds of millions of people would find a cartoon spewing all kinds of banality and nonsense compelling.
“He’s got a thumb, too,” the barista said.
Well, Disney made the executive situation long ago that he’d keep that dreadful mouse at three fingers and a thumb so as to save the studio money. Having to draw another finger in tens of thousands of frames for even one six minute cartoon was extra expensive. That’s why they chopped off his tail, too.
Shove-It watched the barista. She ground the soft pen tip into the side of the cup. I worried she’d poked a hole in the side, and the drink would leak out of the puncture and stain Shove-It’s black snow pants.
M M, she scratched into the cup.
Lyle and I moved down the line. I watched the young man whip up Shove-It’s drink. There was an urgency about his work. He needed to get back to his phone. There was more information to be shared or consumed. A text. An email. A video. A tweet. Something awaited, needed his attention.
I blew into the little hole in the lid of my coffee. Straight black. It’s the drug that keeps working people on their feet.
The young man, the juvenile coffeesmith, wore on his head a black hat similar to Shove-It’s drab military green one. Meanwhile, Shove-It stared at a girl sitting in the seat beside where we stood. She typed on her laptop. From the angle of his eyes, I was 95 percent certain he was not intently watching the letters she typed, but focusing on crack of her cleavage.
I was nervous. Another confrontation. It wasn’t easy to take Lyle Shove-It out into public.
“Uh,” the young man behind the espresso machine called, then paused. “Em and em?”
Shove-It didn’t shift his gaze. That’s us, I said, and grabbed the hot drink from the coffeesmith.
Heads lifted throughout the coffee shop. Some folks glanced around. We were in Hollywood, after all. They were expecting either a round candy-coated chunk of chocolate, or a bleached-out world famous rap artist.
“I ain’t Em and Em,” Shove-It said.
I know, I know, you’re Mickey, I said, but you scared the girl at the counter and she wasn’t able to write out the whole thing. Let’s go.
We walked back to Shove-It’s bench, and to his cart heaped with old sweatshirts, socks, and soiled copies of LA Weekly. He lifted off the lid and flicked it to the curb. The frothy, brown and white swirled drink splashed over the edges and over Shove-It’s knobby knuckles. He appeared un-phased by the hot liquid.
My friend hobbled along. He drank deeply. White foam covered his top lip. He drank again and left the residue in his mustache. “As sweet as mother’s milk,” he said. We waited for the light to turn so we could cross the street. Lyle’s bench and cart stood in the distance, being naturally cleaned by the pounding late afternoon sun.