Phoenicians know how to handle a panhandler; pat your pockets as if searching for change, smile apologetically, then say, "Sorry, pal," as if fresh out. It may or may not be true, but, hey, at least it looks like you made the effort.
But for those who haven't mastered this challenging task, the Downtown Phoenix Partnership Incorporated has come up with a handy, card-size guide, small enough to fit in the back pocket and easier to pull out than a wallet.
Titled "Real Change . . . NOT Spare Change" (sounds a bit like those health films in high school, doesn't it?), the card offers a little psychobabble to make you feel better about being a heartless bastard: "When you give money to a person on the street, you don't know if it's buying a sandwich or feeding an addiction," the card says. "Your spare change may actually be hurting the person, by enabling him or her to delay seeking help."
This warning does not apply to panhandlers who are addicted to food.
In any case, so many downtown beggars complain that their No. 1 problem is, "All these freaking people in suits enabling the crap out of me by forcing money down my throat!"
To avoid this urban horror story (for the homeless, you understand, it's all about helping them), the Downtown Phoenix Partnership--a quasi-governmental group devoted to making rich people even richer--offers these handy tips:
"Don't give money to panhandlers.
"Don't enter into a discussion with panhandlers who try to persuade you to give money. Give this card to people who really seem to want information." (Unless the information sought seems designed to get them a meal.)
"Please call the police or find a security guide if you feel threatened or harassed." (The Flash recommends this step to anyone who gives away this card instead of money.)
And finally, "Don't be fooled--food, shelter, and other assistance is available." (But not for long. As New Times reported November 5, the city has given another big-hearted group, the Phoenix Community Alliance, carte blanche to force the homeless services west of Seventh Avenue to relocate, preferably to Mobile.)
The folks at the Downtown Phoenix Partnership were thoughtful enough to include a list of agencies that assist the homeless. Although addresses of these agencies are not listed, their phone numbers are--as a convenience to the scores of homeless who carry cellular phones. (Many transients have been forced to give up their cell phones because of the exorbitant roaming charges.)
The Flash, being just as civic-minded as the next downtown denizen, would like to add these handy hints for dealing with the great unwashed (and unshaven and unfed):
When a homeless person asks for money, sneer slightly and say, "Get a job." This will prevent anyone from confusing you with one of those enablers.
Get one of those trick dollar bills on a string that instantly retracts back to your hand at the press of a button. Drop it in front of a panhandler. Press button. Watch the panhandler lurch after the dollar. Repeat. This has the benefit of helping the homeless to exercise.
When asked if you could help out with a meal, immediately vomit on the sidewalk and pronounce, "There's a nice HOT meal for you, Bub!"
At least demand entertainment value for your money. Encourage the homeless to dance, tell jokes or sing, preferably "Mr. Bojangles." Perhaps with some funding from the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, they could be encouraged to wear costumes, giving downtown that old-time vaudeville feel.
And remember, never, never, ever give handouts downtown. Unless, of course, it's in the form of a ballpark to Jerry Colangelo.
The Flash has enjoyed the fracas over the City of Gilbert's declaration of Bible Week! The debate was in full throat before anyone realized that, by Jimminy, Governor Jane Hull had slipped in a Bible Week for the State of Arizona earlier this month. The Arizona Republic reported that the state proclamation was done "without fanfare," or, in Biblical terms, without "clanging cymbal."
So the Arizona Civil Liberties Union is passing a stone over this integration of church and state. What folks don't know is that Arizona governors routinely proclaim special religious observances most of us never hear about. To wit:
Peyote Week--A fave of Rose Mofford.
Koran Week--Initially declared by former governor J. Fife Symington III. However, after women were elected to the top five constitutional offices in the state, officials at Mecca asked that Koran Week be put off until Arizona's men get back on the Sunni Side of Life.
Atheist Moment--Read anything by Kurt Vonnegut.
Zend-Avesta Week--Arizona followers of Zoroastrianism are encouraged to make sacrifices to twigs while reflecting on which forces in the scriptures are the good guys and which are the bad guys. None of this involves the Mark of Zorro.
Dianetics Night--See anything starring Tom Cruise or John Travolta.
Bhagavad-Gita Month--Hull suggested that Arizona read and heed the texts or risk returning to this temporal world as a banana slug, or mine inspector. The Arizona Cattlemen's Association protested this proclamation.
Talmud Tuesday--Yadda, yadda, yadda.
Buddhist Meditation Breakfast--Om, om, om.
Book of Revelations Millennium--Read it and weep.
Heaven's Gate Month--Communion with pudding.
Lun Yu Week--State employees are required to start each day by contemplating Confucian bromides, such as the little-known: "Always remember you're unique, just like everyone else."
Santaria Saturday--Hull quipped, "We've got to do something with all these gamecocks!"
Book of Mormon Month--Dress in white robes, hit the Indian casinos.
The Hollywood Minute--For something different, Madonna does the Kabbalah.
Good News Bible Month--Every April, it's a special time when the state reminds us, "I'm OK; Your Taxes Are Due." In signing the proclamation, Hull quoted her favorite Good News verse, from Ecclesiastes, "It is useless, useless, said the Philosopher. Life is useless, all useless."
Arizona's Distaff Administration-Elect warranted a big color shot in the November 23 edition of People magazine. "Arizona's Fabulous Five"--Janet Napolitano, Lisa Graham Keegan, Carol Springer, Jane Hull and Betsey Bayless--were shot in a desert setting, all beaming under an azure sky.
But what's the point of that three-foot-high barrel cactus in the foreground? Oh, never mind.
Kaites Bar the Door
Way back on primary election night, as GOP AG nominee Tom McGovern and Co. celebrated a crushing victory over John Kaites, sitting AG Grant Woods predicted that Arizona hadn't seen the last of Kaites.
Likening Lil' John to a vampire, the ever-descriptive Woods declared it would take more than one stake through the heart to kill Kaites' political career.
Kaites was interested in running the state Department of Insurance, but didn't get the appointment.
Now he's said to be mulling a run for Maricopa County Attorney in 2000. There were several Lil' John sightings around the McGovern camp in the waning days of the campaign. When Kaites showed up at an October 15 McGovern fund raiser, the candidate--who was slightly annoyed--reportedly introduced him this way:
"John is here. We share a common concern about methamphetamines. Thanks for coming."
Speaking of McGovern, he hasn't talked about his political future, but his name is being floated as a candidate for Congressional District 1, which Matt Salmon has vowed to vacate, come 2000. Of course, whose name hasn't been mentioned as a CD1 contender?
So far, the Flash hears that the following GOP pols are considering a go at Salmon's seat: county supes Fulton Brock and Don Stapley, state Senator John Huppenthal, Phoenix City Councilman Sal DCCO, Tempe Mayor Neil Giuliano, former Scottsdale city councilwoman Susan Bitter Smith--and so on.
One pol in the know puts Bitter Smith at the head of the pack: "Susan wins. Too many guys."
Salmon has become quite a media cherub/wiseacre. He's a repeat panelist on Politically Incorrect, and days after the GOP debacle of November 3 and the subsequent abdication of Newt Gingrich, he penned an op-ed piece for the New York Times. He whined:
This year we became the Seinfeld Congress, a Congress about nothing. We failed to put forth a clear agenda for America, instead opting to run out the clock. It seems that we were convinced that history guaranteed additions to our majority; the party out of the White House almost always makes large Congressional gains in a midterm election.
So we spent a good portion of the year naming roads, bridges and post offices.
While President Clinton was building a bridge to the 21st century, the Republican Congress was busy naming it.
Stop, already! I'm getting a chortlehorse!
Goin' After Matt
Of course, not everyone is enamored of Salmon. Was it 15 minutes of fame, or 15 minutes of infamy that Salmon enjoyed after being the first to call for Gingrich's scalp?
To Rich Galen, Gingrich's close friend and executive director of Gingrich's controversial political action group, GOPAC, Salmon is little more than a night crawler and traitor.
Appearing on MSNBC shortly after Gingrich quit, Galen said that the new Republican House leadership must include among its first orders of business dealing with members such as Salmon, whom Galen described bitterly as among the "evil gnomes running around with their pitchforks."
A gnome, incidentally, is described in the new Webster's Deluxe Dictionary as "an ageless and often deformed dwarf of folklore who lives in the earth and usually guards treasure."
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