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Hollywood’s Most Famous Bum & Oracle Tosses Off Importance of Books

Hollywood’s Most Famous Bum & Oracle Tosses Off Importance of Books
November 03
13:44 2013

I happened to be driving through Hollywood, despite the warnings my GhettoTracker iPhone app kept repeating about getting out of the area as fast as possible, and I decided to park my car and take a stroll to Lyle Shove-It’s infamous bench, which is situated on the corner of a very famous intersection.

I will not tell you which Hollywood intersection as Shove-It has made me swear I would never turn him into a celebrity.

Lyle_ShoveItShove-It sat with his legs squarely before him. His feet were firmly planted against the pavement. His back was straight against the hard green metal back of the bus bench. The famous bum and oracle’s hands rested on his thighs. In other words, or, according to Zen master Jon Kabat-Zinn, Shove-It sat with the quality of a mountain.

When Shove-It saw me, he peeled off his sweaty green army cap and punched it twice with his fist. Kind of like he was fluffing a pillow, except he doesn’t own a pillow. Shove-It had his bulky green canvas jacket unzipped, and beneath its open folds I could see Rush Limbaugh’s terrific grin, with the word pasted in pink above his gleaming bald head, “Ditto!”

“What have you been up to?” I asked my friend. “I was in the neighborhood and thought I should check in on you. Make sure you haven’t disappeared again.”

Shove-It didn’t answer. It usually takes awhile for him to warm up.

I’ve been reading a great book, I said. Napoleon Hill’s Think & Grow Rich. It’s about the secret Andrew Carnegie gave him about fostering a proper, prosperous mindset that will allow the mind to receive ideas that will make a lot of money. You’ve got to pinpoint your biggest dream in life, and then believe you can accomplish it with all your heart and mind. Do you read books? I asked Shove-It. Should I bring you some books? I never see you reading, but you’ve got a lot of wisdom beneath all those drab layers of clothing.

“The only book I ever read,” Shove-It said, “was Fahrenheit 451.”

Oh! I said. Ray Bradbury. What a classic. You’ve only read that one book your whole life? Didn’t you like it?

“Never finished it,” Shove-It said. With a grimace he stretched his hat over his wet hair. “Never read a book again. It was too much like watching someone toss one off in my face.”

I thought of Napoleon Hill passionately explaining the secret by which the most successful businessmen in history had used a very refined set of universal laws and understood the relationship of mind and matter to accomplish more in their lifetimes than 99.9 percent of all other humans.

I thought of the spits and spurts of words that seemed to be written by a man in the throes of personal ecstasy, and reveling in the notion that he was generously offering an advanced, age-old secret to wealth, success, abundance, and happiness.

I guess you’re right, I said. Reading a book is not completely unlike watching someone masturbate.

We sat in silence after that, watching the cars streak by. One after another. The various colors, sizes, and shapes. How often, I thought, does a vehicle drift off the street and hop the curb? I imagined the bumper of a Prius ramming into our bench and cutting off our legs at our knees. The driver would probably have been texting something to his lover. Something profound, like “Yeah” or “LOL” or “Home soon”.

Finally a clunky orange bus stopped. Leaves and burger wrappers blew around our ankles. I left Shove-It then. He seemed to be thinking of nothing at all.

[photo from Scribner’s Magazine, “End of Books”, August 1894]

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