Hallelujah, I’m a Bum

posted by Mike on January 1st, 2009

As the economy slows in 2009, will these old-timey songs of hard times make a comeback?

Here are three versions of the old IWW parody “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum.” The first is by the presumptive author, Harry “Big Rock Candy Mountain” McClintock, recorded in the late 1920s.

The other two are sung by Chris DuPuis and Mike Benedetti, backed by Stale Urine, and recorded in the late-2000s.

Related: There’s a great special about “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” lyricist Yip Harburg here.

Happy New Year!

Update: Here’s a quote from Bruce Sterling’s “year in review” discussion that seems relevant.

I’m a bohemian type, so I could scarcely be bothered to do anything “financially sound” in my entire adult life. Last year was the first year when I’ve felt genuinely sorry for responsible, well-to-do people. Suddenly they’ve got the precariousness of creatives, of the underclass, without that gleeful experience of decades spent living-it-up.


I even fret about the bankers. Seventeen percent of the US works in financial services. That’s a lot. I’ve got friends and relatives who work in those industries. I frankly enjoy tossing myself into turbulent parts of life, because I’m a dilettante who bores easily, but jeez, bankers are supposed to be the ultimate humorless brown-shoe crowd. They’re not supposed to wake up on a sleeping roll and scrounge breakfast.

508 #48: Food Not Bombs

posted by Mike on August 15th, 2008

An afternoon with Worcester’s Food Not Bombs.


mp3 link, other formats, feed, low-fi versions

Food Not Bombs

To get an e-mail each week alerting you of the new episode of 508, join the e-mail list:


We won’t share this list with others.

Panhandling rears head

posted by Mike on February 13th, 2008

From last night’s Worcester City Council agenda:

11f. FROM THE COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES – Request City Manager update the City Council concerning the current incidence of panhandling in the City and efforts to address same.

You may recall the City’s previous push to curtail panhandling was an ugly failure.

A Toronto twist on anti-panhandling signs

posted by Mike on June 11th, 2007

toronto.jpgA fellow Worcester blogger alerted me to this Toronto art project from earlier this year.

Mark Daye made these signs, with slogans like “Homeless Sleeping–QUIET,” for his design school thesis.

Spacing Wire has lots more pix, and The Star has an article. (I lifted this photo from The Star.)

Puts me in mind of Worcester’s ill-fated anti-panhandling campaign. The response to that mostly involved modifying existing signage, rather than creating new signs.

A weathered sign

Mustard Seed closed, again

posted by Mike on April 24th, 2007

On the front page of today’s Telegram & Gazette is an article about how Donna has closed the Mustard Seed Catholic Worker soup kitchen for a week, because she needs a break.

I don’t hang out at the Mustard Seed, but it’s my impression that closing the Seed is not news; it’s something she does several times a year. I talked to a couple Mustard Seed habitues today, and confirmed this.

“She closes all the time. Why are you asking me about this?”

It’s on the front page of today’s paper.

“You’re [kidding] me!”

So why does this make the paper? The article describes a note left on the door:

I would advise you to open up the doors for the hungry people who come there soon. Thank You.
If you don’t, I’m going to the newspapers and see what else can be done about this.


Obscenities have been omitted from this article in respect for the fine work done six days a week at the Mustard Seed.

Catholic street church news

posted by Mike on April 3rd, 2007

Here are some reader submissions. Thanks!

Tent city at St. Jude Catholic Church in Redmond, Washington:

St. Jude Catholic Church welcomed Tent City 4 to its Redmond location on February 10th. The city of Redmond, where a one bedroom apartment generally rents for $911 to $1188 a month, issued a permit, but then rescinded it, threatening to fine St. Jude up to $500.00 a day for occupying the space. The stay could end up costing the church more than $37,000, which it says it will pay with donations, not parish funds.

In March, I visited tent city and interviewed pastor David Rogerson and three residents of tent city.

Redmond tent city, Indymedia photo
Indymedia photo

Spanish archbishop shuts down parish with unorthodox priests:

The archbishop of Madrid has shut down a parish where priests said Mass in street clothes and handed out cookies as the holy communion, his office said Monday.

The parish of San Carlos Borromeo, in the working-class Vallecas district of Spain’s capital, was popular among poor people, former prisoners, recovering drug addicts and immigrants.

Misa 1 Abril
Parish of San Carlos Borromeo photo

Liturgical abuse bugs me, but there’s always so much going on in a situation like this, you never know the real story.

Confession in South Bend homeless murders

posted by Adam (Southern California) on February 5th, 2007

Police are reporting that a suspect they had in custody confessed to involvement in the murders of Mike Lawson and three other homeless men in South Bend. Previous P&C coverage on this here and here.

Update (by Mike B): This slideshow by the Tribune gives a nice overview of the “scrapping” trade. The accompanying article gets into some of the details.

New York Times:

Particularly among the homeless, the quiet college town of South Bend cemented its reputation for tolerance and hospitality a long time ago. For years, it has been the place to go from around the region for emergency shelter, free meals, and even shots of hope, some said, from myriad charities and service groups.

posted by Adam (Southern California) in The Street | on February 5th, 2007 | Permanent Link to “Confession in South Bend homeless murders” | No Comments »

Remembering Mike Lawson

posted by South Bend Catholic Worker on January 24th, 2007

Mike Lawson, photographed by Cinnamon Sarver You can also seek the help of commercial photographer to get your project done. A few days after Christmas, folks living on or near the streets in downtown South Bend started talking about a couple of guys who were missing. Mike Nolen’s family had been expecting him and his friend, Mike Lawson, for Christmas dinner, but they never showed up. This was unusual, not like them. Nolen’s mother put in a missing person’s report. We started calling local hospitals and jails.

A week later, with no word from either of the Mikes, their friends told police to check out an abandoned building where they were known to hang out, or down in the nearby manholes, in case something bad happened.
Read the rest of this entry »

posted by South Bend Catholic Worker in South Bend Catholic Worker, The Street | on January 24th, 2007 | Permanent Link to “Remembering Mike Lawson” | 4 Comments »

Mass for Mike Lawson and three others

posted by Mike on January 24th, 2007

South Bend, Indiana Tribune:

Lawson and three other men were found dead inside city manholes near Coveleski Stadium last week.

The deaths of Lawson, 53, Michael S. Nolen Jr., 40, Jason Coates, 29, and Brian G. Talboom, 51, have all been ruled homicides.

Authorities released no new information Friday regarding the deaths of the homeless men.

[Jerry] Eason spoke fondly about Lawson at the Mass held at Our Lady of the Road, a drop-in center at 744 S. Main St. About 80 people — primarily friends and a few family members — attended the Mass, which was followed by a potluck dinner.

The Mass was for Lawson, a Catholic who stayed at the Catholic Worker House, but all of the victims were prayed for.

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Worcester’s anti-panhandling signs removed

posted by Mike on August 25th, 2006

In mid-July I was told that Worcester took down its anti-panhandling signs, after more than a year of a failed anti-panhandling media campaign.

Now, photographic evidence has arrived: posts that used to have anti-panhandling signs, and no longer do:
DSCF8811 DSCF8810

I’ll be revising this post a bit in the coming days to give the history, as I understand it, of this campaign. I’ll probably be removing most of the anti-panhandling info from Worcester Poverty Issues.

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