J.R. HITSTHE ROAD

From his savings when he was working with the homeless, Murphy managed to get an apartment. His son, who is a standup comedian and a cook, is living with him. Though there is no tree yet, Christmas decorations dangle from an electrical cord and on the floor a miniature train track snakes beneath the television with a Santa Fe locomotive and a single Erie Lackawanna freight car. Just that quickly, J.R. Murphy could be back on the street again. Though his family has offered to bring him back to the East, Murphy is adamant about trying to work things out in Phoenix.

"I've seen people make it out of the shelter and off of the streets and I can, too. I'm a college graduate, I'm not stupid . . . I don't know what I'm going to do, I really don't. I've sent out a lot of resumes, but who's going to hire a 56-year-old man? I was in personnel for something like thirty years. I always found a reason not to hire someone 55 or 60 years old. There's always some reason."

If he had it to do all over again, would J.R. Murphy abandon everything at the age of fifty to pull a Jack Kerouac and take to the highway at the mention of divorce?

"Fuck yes, I would. People say you can't do that. You got to stay put, work your knuckles to the bone. I'm saying, `Don't tell me I can't take off and hit the road.' Fuck that."

Murphy doesn't worry about himself. He's too busy worrying about the homeless. How can we feed people in Russia and not feed our own, he argues. He thinks that what we need is another Mitch Snyder.

"I'm really sorry that man committed suicide."
Snyder and Murphy once appeared together on the same television show pushing the needs of the homeless.

"There's this woman in the audience who's saying we don't need any more shelters. See, she's got this place and she takes homeless guys in. Alcoholics, whatever. She dries them out and gets them work. Meanwhile, she's charging them $6 a night. By the time they get work, they owe her a lot. No wonder she doesn't want a shelter. So Mitch asks her how much she's making.

"The woman refuses to answer, but she starts in saying that she knows all about the homeless, that her mother was an alcoholic and on the streets for years before this woman found her.

"`Where's your mother now?' asks Mitch.
"`She's dead,' says the woman.
"`There you are,' says Mitch. `If you'd left her on the street, she'd still be alive.'"

And with that J.R. Murphy cracks up laughing.
"You see, the homeless take care of each other."

To be continued

"I'm saying, `Don't tell me I can't take off and hit the road.'

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