Welcome to Episode 28 of Hatradio! . This show is different than the others as I recorded it one on the road, in a low-cost housing environment. I did so I could have the chance to speak to two very charming, humorous and intelligent fellows, deeply impoverished, physically busted and essentially surviving from day to day.
Here’s what you’ll learn throughout the show: The room was small and quickly filled up with smoke. Strangely, after having quit smoking close to thirty years ago, I wanted a cigarette. In my mind, I asked for one.
The two men, Vac Verikaitis and Danny Serof are in their sixties. They are well-spoken, highly intelligent, funny as hell, well-read and engaging. At one point Danny drew upon Greek mythology to make his point about the beauty of horses (and his love of horse-racing).
Danny has been homeless on-and-off over the years. Vac got really close prior to securing a room in this building where mental health illness is abound, and curdling nightly screams jolt tenants awake. Throughout our schmooze both my guests drank beer and smoked. Danny has had lung cancer, two strokes and is an alcoholic. Vac has had heart challenges, numerous muscle injuries and recent surgeries and is an alchoholic. But regardless, they imbibed and dragged on smokes while we talked.
I’m not standing in judgement of Danny and Vac. Not at all. I know how smokes and drink can be a friend when you’re suffering badly and family and friends aren’t around. I have my own addictions. But clearly these habits, while part of their survival mode, are reflective of a certain hopelessness with comes with poverty. Poverty is expensive and knowing resources just won’t come, pushes you down, over and over again. Would you smoke or drink in their shoes? Damn right.
Vac was a semi-professional soccer goalie. He was a superlative Formula-1 journalist and is an award winning documentarian. My handsome Lithuanian friend from way back, speaks four or so languages and is an awesome cook. Danny, was a cab driver who made pretty good cash, and had two accomplished lovers whom he lived with, one of whom was a high-profile journalist with a Canadian newspaper. He looks younger than his sixty-six years, speaks intelligently and cogently about his atheism, passion for the ponies (which includes an appreciation of the smell of horse shit. I get that), excitement of Kentucky Derby day over Christmas and an acceptance of not being liked by everyone. “I wouldn’t be doing some right, if everyone liked me,” Danny said.
Both of them use a walker. Their gait is careful.
There were some technical problems during the show and you’ll notice the interview stops abruptly. Equipment malfunction. That’s bullshit. It was my ineptness. But you know, that was okay, because it just added to the rawness and unbridled nature of my schmooze with Danny and Vac. But I felt badly when the computer shut off, and I Vac was in the middle of an important soliloquy in which he rarely said ‘um’. His eyes lowered knowing his voice had to stop.
Not sure why exactly, but there was a certain comfort I felt in their environment, more so than what i often feel in rich opulent homes I’ve been in; a particular safeness I experienced with these fellows who spend their days surviving. Vac and Danny have no airs about them. There was no falsenessin that diminutive room (except perhaps for what I missed). What ever exited my friend’s mouths, was fine. There masks had left them many years prior – no strengths to keep them on or simply no reason. I felt a type of authenticity myself. Their’s was somewhat infectious. But I’ve always felt this. My Dad translated that into having ‘bad friends’. Dads!
So that’s what you’ll hear in Episode 28 of Hatradio! Joy and melancholy. Intelligence and street. Coughing, hacking and elegance. What you might illicit from this show is that Vac and Danny were once little boys, someone’s children, who grew into men battered by poverty, a system that can rip the kishkas out of you, but who did so with huge doses of style and peonage.
Take out of this show, that those indigent guys and women you see leaning against a wall to brace themselves from falling, might explain Neitzsche better than Professor Grossbaum could or certainly more astutely than those idiots who go around physically bashing homeless in the head, because of their disgusting demons.
Know that Vac and Danny will share a beer with you (not sure if their last one), when people with affluence might horde their suds; that within poverty is a clarity about life, a generosity of spiritsometimes couched in vomit, but that sloughs off that layer of ‘I’ll be who you want me to be’.
Is this simple to get, or even to explain? No. But I know something important happened in that room. Listen closely. Tell me what you hear from Vac and Danny. Tell me what truth you uncover from my time with two very complex and simple guys on a hot, muggy day in downtown Toronto.
Hatradio! It’s the show that schmoozes.
Yisha ko’ach (yiddish for ‘well done’) to Howard Pasternack for his post-production work, accomplished like a true engineer. Thank you too, to David ‘Middleman’ Nefesh for the Hatradio! song. Have a listen to David on Youtube……man has a voice like an angel.
Credit for music in commercial:
Slow Burn Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
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