Thanksgiving in The Valley. The coffee shop simmered with early birds and The Van Man finished an unloved crossword left by someone the day before. He sipped coffee that had cooled to an unacceptable temperature. There was much to be thankful for. He had the walls of the van to keep rain off his face and the cough had not brought death. He was thankful for all of the wisdom and stupidity of the past year. Although, one seemed more in abundance than the other. He glanced around the coffee shop and became very thankful he was not old. Van Man thought about the day before and the awful line of people at the ham store. Ham lovers shivering in the cold, wrapped around the block. He was thankful he did not have need for ham.
Various friends contacted Van Man, seeking his presence for the holiday. Maybe he would. After all, one of the most important rules of van living was to never turn down free food. A van dweller really did not know when they would eat again. He was thankful for knowing that.
Van Man replenished his cup and considered what else he might be thankful for. The cough made the list. So did the extracted tooth. Both reminded Van Man of the frailty of a human body. He was not made of iron, although he sometimes felt like it. Suddenly, an ambulance and fire truck arrived outside the coffee shop, lights flashing. The Emergency Technicians rushed in. Some customer in the back was in trouble. Within a few minutes, the customer was wheeled out on a stretcher. She was alive and Van Man recognized her, almost instantly. She was a regular. An artist type, young and tattooed with a somber face. And very thin. Too thin. Hipster Karen Carpenter was then lifted into the ambulance. Happy Thanksgiving, he thought as "Hey, Nineteen" grooved away in his ear phones.
As the emergency vehicles drove away, Van Man wondered what plans Hipster Karen had for Turkey Day. Whatever they were, they were fucked. And it hit him that he had not ridden in an ambulance since the late eighties. No matter how bad it was, some poor bastard had it worse. Van Man nodded to his coffee and a young, dirty man sat at the table next to him. The Young Man reeked. The unmistakable stench of unwashed, street life. The Stinking Man could not have been twenty-seven. Van Man covered his nose and noticed the Stinking Man had a cell phone. And newer shoes than himself. Stinking Man's clothes did not seem to be homeless dirty, but his skin was filthy. The odor became too unbearable for Van Man and he left. Was Stinking Man the evolution of destitution? Hobos with smart phones?
It was Thanksgiving and Van Man was not laid out on a stretcher or waking up on the streets of downtown LA. He was a broke actor in The Valley. He reached down and grabbed his balls. Still strong, still there. There was a lot to be thankful for and The Van Man was.