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Chef Arnold, An American Rebel, Feeding Florida’s Homeless Despite Arrests

Chef Arnold, An American Rebel, Feeding Florida’s Homeless Despite Arrests
November 09
16:56 2014

“If this Chef Arnold makes edible, nutritious food, and he lives in the United States of America instead of North Korea,” Humdinger said, “then there should be no problem with him making sure the poorest folks in Florida have at least one square meal every week.”

It seems you have to be a little nuts to help out desperate people. “Go talk to the government!” you might say to the emaciated man sprawled out on the sidewalk. “But don’t expect me to give you something to eat. It’s against the law.”

In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, there is a ‘slightly unhinged’ man named ‘Chef Arnold’. According to Florida’s legal system, and to Fort Lauderdale’s mayor, Chef Arnold is nuts. Sure, nobody has said this out loud while the microphone is hot. Rather, the mayor’s thug police force swarm the good chef’s tables of fresh food set up at the local park. They shout orders like, “Drop that plate!” and “Not another scoop of rice!”

They arrest him for feeding hungry people. Chef Arnold is 90 years old. He might as well be in a gang and handing out drugs.

For decades he has been feeding “the poorest of the poor”. Arnold’s nonprofit is called Love Thy Neighbor, but lately it would be better titled, Love Thy Neighbor As Fast As Possible Before the Cops Rush You.

Or maybe, For the Few People Who Still Like to Risk Their Livelihoods To Do Good in this Sad World, the State Says Fuck You!

L.A. could use as many Chef Arnolds as possible

Chef Arnold’s real name is Arnold Abbott, and he’s the real definition of an American hero. Throw out your love for the George Clooneys and the Brad Pitts and step in line behind a man with prophetic values of selflessly serving others while risking danger to his own personal freedom and safety. Or, in other words, the opposite of an American politician.

Chef Arnold_Stanley Jackson

credit: Love Thy Neighbor

When cops arrest someone like Chef Arnold, they are really doing it to protect the homeless people. If you can’t follow that logic, it’s probably because you’re not as well educated as an American politician.

As the mayor of Fort Lauderdale said, there isn’t a law against feeding homeless people, but rather that feeding them must be regulated to “ensure it is carried out in an appropriate, organized, clean and healthy manner.”

So rather than providing an expert like Chef Arnold with an official state license to continue his decades-long work, they crack down on an elderly American saint.

What’s better, we can suppose, is if hungry people in Florida and the rest of the United States too, for that matter, pick shit out of the trashcan.

Picking edible shit out of the trashcan is not as bad as it seems, though.

My homeless friend Johnny does it all the time. He lives on the streets of downtown Los Angeles, and he oftentimes gets a fresh meal when he spots a cute woman who is obviously watching her figure can a perfectly good chunk of burrito into the city garbage receptacle. Johnny fishes it out before it gets cold, and before the flies get to it.

“You know LA women,” he says, shaking his head. “They want three bites, then they dump it because it’s all about image around here.”

“Don’t you worry about her spit on the chewed end of the burrito?” I’ve asked him.

“Don’t you care,” he asked me back, in his brusque manner of speaking, “that the Mexican who rolled it in the first place scratched his balls in the bathroom before returning to work on your lunch order?”

Sometimes Johnny is contentious when he doesn’t need to be. Especially when he’s hungry. Because, you understand, people don’t throw perfectly good meals into the city’s trashcans every day. And sometimes they do, but Johnny finds vomit or dog turds in there as well.

In that case, he has to make a decision, quickly. If he doesn’t take it, somebody else will. Somebody even more desperate than him. Dog turds and vomit aren’t necessarily a deal-breaker when it comes to survival on the grimy streets of downtown America.

Los Angeles could use as many Chef Arnold Abbotts as possible. Fort Lauderdale should be on their knees thanking God they have at least one.

What does the Fort Lauderdale mayor say to this? He didn’t respond to Dear Dirty America‘s request for an interview:

“Are you really going to let your police force throw a 90-year old Good Samaritan into the slammer? What are your standards for cleanliness, anyway? If you had to judge on a scale of 1 to 10 the integrity of a man like Chef Arnold, what score would you give him?

“Or maybe a question the general public would better appreciate would be, ‘How big of balls does Chef Arnold have, 1-10?’ What score would you give yourself?”

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America’s Last Chance

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People like Chef Arnold need to be supported physically, socially, and verbally.

In Florida, there should be hundreds of people gathering around him, blocking him from police retaliation.

This is America’s last chance to prove herself right in the face of so many other atrocities. We’ve been sweeping people under the rug for far too long.

We’ve forgotten about the millions who haven’t found jobs and meaningful employment since the Great Depression II caused by Congress’ love for globalization and Goldman Sachs, General Electric and Jamie Dimon and other impressive financiers and money-men of our era.

The only way to stifle a corrupt politician is to ignore him. The best way to exhaust an inhumane law is consistent, passionate disobedience by a significant chunk of the humane public.

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If the FL mayor wants to talk about organized and clean, let him read up about the way General Electric’s CEO made popular the massive shift of good paying jobs from America to China. “China, China, China!” he said repeatedly. So organized and so clean Americans are still trying to pull the wool from over their eyes.

But when it came to finding billions in bailout dollars during a dark period for GE, you can’t suppose Immelt asked China for it. The American taxpayer forked it over, and many of them didn’t even know it. Then, in 2011, the president appointed Immelt to the WH’s Council on Jobs & Competitiveness.

If you think that sounds too crazy to be true, consider this:

police officers arresting a professional chef who works to get folks without jobs off the street and into his culinary school, because in his free time he prepares enough food to feed the homeless people of a large American city.

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Another One, Slightly Unhinged

I contacted another man who might be considered nuts by the sterile, heartless establishment hatchet men, the exiled cultural philosopher, Hubert Humdinger [pronounced ‘hum-din-jer’]. He and Chef Arnold would be best friends. In fact, I’m surprised they aren’t. The universe has a strange way of connecting like-minded individuals. Both of them fought in World War II.

Hubert_HumdingerHumdinger once set up a campaign in Ohio to feed the growing homeless population there, just before he was forced out of the United States as an ideological terrorist whose ideas served as an alarm clock for an entranced public until the State Department burnt his books in the Great Purge.

“I had two hundred volunteers ready to go,” he said. “Plastic utensils, paper plates, and a small army to help organize, plan, and feed the out-of-work Ohioans who had fallen on hard times in the disastrous American 70s.”

Humdinger had been in charge of cooking the food. He insisted. “It’s my plan, it’s my party,” he said. “And it’s certainly my pleasure.”

So he cooked three hundred pounds of macaroni and cheese. It was a disaster. As one homeless man wearing an eye patch said later, “You call this a meal? A gooey plate of plastic cheese with two or three macaronis floating in it?”

Another homeless woman, though, found the meal delightful. She was one of the only ones. She didn’t have any teeth. “Lotsa folks complaining but I slurped it down. The combination of salt and tanginess gave me a hankering for another helping.”

Humdinger had scratched his bulbous head over that one. “Tanginess?” he roared at the woman. “There shouldn’t be anything tangy in this dish.”

It was only after he was tearing down the tables and loading them into his brown and white Econolodge van that he realized he was drunk. Somebody had spiked the orange juice, he figured out later. “I’d purchased thirty gallons of it and dumped it into a huge bowl.”

With the grumbling of the homeless folks, and seeing them ditch their plates behind trees, bushes, and some right out in the open, Humdinger started drinking cup after cup of the juice. “I just wanted the damned thing to be finished. Being a humanitarian is hard work.”

Either way, there was plenty left over, so he hauled the whole works to Cleveland Metro General Hospital where, as Humdinger recalled fondly, there seemed to be a general buzz in the nurse’s break room about an inexhaustible source of mac ‘n cheese.

“If this Chef Arnold makes edible, nutritious food, and he lives in the United States of America instead of North Korea,” Humdinger said, “then there should be no problem with him making sure the poorest folks in Florida have at least one square meal every week.”

Nobody likes an activist

When Hubert Humdinger was nine years old and his parents took him to the zoo, there was a sign that read,

DON’T FEED THE PANDAS.
WE FEED THEM DAILY

As Humdinger recalled, there was a baby panda bear squatting in the corner of her cage. “She looked tired, maybe even suffering from malnutrition. Her eyes were glazed over. I didn’t like the looks of it.”

The little Humdinger grabbed the lunch bag out of his mother’s purse, and before his parents could stop him, he flung a slice of salami past the barrier and into the cage. The meat hit the small creature in the face. From behind the family, a whistle blew.

“The sign says don’t feed the pandas!” a zoo worker said. He was a middle-aged man wearing dusty green shorts and a button-up shirt. On his chest was clipped a button that read, Ask Me About the Animals — I’m Happy to Help. “We will handle the feeding around here. Can’t you read, young man?”

Humdinger, who was more than precocious, and who also suffered from an unusually large head as a child, said, “I can read. In fact, I can do it so well that when I interpret two lines of bullshit I know enough to ignore it.”

The old philosopher admits his spontaneous child’s reaction wasn’t right for the panda bear. “What I should have done was research what baby panda bears eat, and then set up a buffet line and let her take as much as she needed.”

If you want to be an American rebel in 2014

We talked over the shaky Skype connection about Chef Arnold’s important work in Florida.

“If you want to be a rebel in America in 2014, stop saving up for a Harley Davidson,” he said, “and live by God’s laws, where feeding and helping another human being who is struggling is considered a divine act. If anybody outlaws such a basic principle, they are your enemy, and enemies of God.”

“You don’t want to get into an online shouting match with the mayor of Fort Lauderdale,” I said. “If he finds out the famous Hubert Humdinger is blasting him from Northern Europe, who knows how this guy might react.”

Humdinger’s crooked blocks of gnashing white teeth were all I could see as the old philosopher spoke right into his web camera.

“Once Arnold Abbott dies away, that generation will be gone, and the younger generations will be fully indoctrinated into the horseshit idea that only government can serve the poor, that only corporations can provide humans with food and medicine, health and well-being, and that meaningful human interaction must be regulated as to not inspire unclean, inappropriate transactions,” he said.

The stubborn thinker paused for a moment. Then he said, “These fools will tell you it’s your civic duty to vote! But what are we living for if we don’t support the least among us? Why would a constipated mayor in Florida want the homeless to be fed, anyway? They don’t vote. They don’t serve the system for which he has dedicated his life.

“In 2014,” he said, finishing up our conversation, “getting together a large group of merry people for a communal meal that isn’t organized and funded by some hoity-toity millionaire club or institution makes law enforcement jumpy. In a police state, it feels dangerously close to a loss of control. It’s just outside the boundaries of the iron fist.”

[photos of Chef Arnold taken from Love Thy Neighbor’s Facebook page]

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