The first blog I ever found was a blog written by a homeless guy in Nashville, Tennessee. It introduced me to Blogger and blogging and I soon started my own blog. I was newly divorced and homeless – having lost everything in the proceedings. I was looking for tips on living homeless comfortable – tips like where to shower, how to stay warm, how to manage meals, etc. The blog on homelessness I found would prove to not be very helpful on those regards, but it was fascinating. It was written by a man named Kevin Barbieux who had been homeless for decades living in the Rescue Mission in Nashville. I soon learned that people either loved him or hated him – much like my own experiences with blogging. I had a turbulent love affair with his blog for the longest time until one day he just quit writing. He took up a home on Facebook writing about political dissidence no doubt fueled by his recent addition of gaining a home. It was then that I realized all those years he wrote he only wrote mainly for self serving reasons – not to help homeless people, but to help himself and his plight. Once he got a home, he gave up on writing about homelessness or helping the cause of homeless people.
Many people always wondered why he just couldn’t work. He didn’t seem to have any visible disabilities. He claimed one time to be schizophrenic, but quickly back peddled realizing the stigma involved with being labeled such. He was diagnosed as capriciously schizophrenic in the Navy and was dishonorably discharged for derelict of duty. He would often say conventional jobs “depressed” him causing his situation to become worse. It was frustrating to read and watch as he floundered in homelessness never choosing to work or support himself. I often think of Marshall, a man with Down’s syndrome, who bags groceries at my local grocery store. Surely, if a man with Down’s syndrome could work, then “The Homeless Guy” could as well. Never once, in all my years of reading him, did he mention trying to get on disability or seeking out the help of doctor’s of psychiatry.
Many argued he had a home in the Nashville Rescue Mission. He had a place to lay his head every night and plenty of food to eat. Many people would make disparaging remarks about him being so overweight and being homeless. He certainly wasn’t going hungry having learned to play the system very well to his benefit with a certain astuteness. There were meal events all around Nashville he would visit and enjoy. One night I grew very jealous as he disparaged all the chicken he was having to eat and I was homeless and just having to hustle to get up meals in between my drinking sessions. He called me a “grumpy old man” not knowing my age and with him being decades older than me. I renamed my blog from “Homeless and Disabled in Alabama” to “The Grumpy Old Man” out of spite and anger.
These days he has an apartment. He tries to sell Nashville’s homeless newspaper, The Contributor, on street corners, but hasn’t had much success. He mainly sits in a McDonald’s down the street using their WiFi and a laptop to rail against America’s religious systems and politics in general – preaching to his choir and cadre of Facebook friends. He says he hates his life, but he never does anything to improve it. I now realize he is one of the more unlikable men I have “met” in my life, but I still find him fascinating. I keep hoping he will start blogging again soon having said so recently on Facebook because of new features blogger has implemented. I do hope so. Despite my turbulent feelings about the man, I enjoyed his blog as he often made me think. He is truly brilliant in his own strange way. Just another one of the fringe dwellers that seem to fill my life over the years.