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Apples and Onions

That's my new favorite fruity comparison. See, I've always been bugged by "apples and oranges," 'cause they're both pretty good - sweet, and not at all objectionable...unless the apples are too soft.

But I digress. You want a real contrast? Apples and onions. Or upscale neighborhoods and middle class neighborhoods.

So a few days back I attended a block party in a park in my little town. I was strolling with Mrs. B and a buddy of mine around the event, which was meant to bring together people from the city's different neighborhood associations.

My buddy and I live on one side of a major highway in the middle class neighborhood. Technically we live in the same 'hood, but because he and his neighbors live so far north of me and Mrs. B, they sometimes refer to ours as two separate 'hoods.

At the barbecue we bumped into a city commissioner who lives in and represents the upscale neighborhood across the street.

She immediately started in on my buddy about "protesters" allegedly marching and "picketing" in front of a neighbor's house...in the upscale 'hood. The commissioner didn't see these protesters herself. She didn't read a picket sign. She reacted to something she'd heard, tying the "protesters" to my buddy's 'hood.

Let's pause for a moment, for background: The commissioner's neighbor is director of a soup kitchen and social service agency that caters to the homeless and destitute. It is located in my buddy's 'hood. Each day the soup kitchen's "clients" trek through my buddy's 'hood on their way to the kitchen. According to residents who live near the soup kitchen, when the clients leave the kitchen they pour through the 'hood, often stopping along the way to urinate on residents' lawns and defecate in the alleys behind their homes, leave empty food containers on those lawns, ogle residents and their children, rifle through residents' trash, peek through residents' fences, occasionally verbally assault residents who confront them, and so on.

So, knowing the background, how would you have reacted to the news of an alleged pickteter if you were the commissioner?

In a perfect world I like to think in her position I would have expressed sympathy for her neighbor, whose cause - feeding the homeless - is a noble, thankless job. But I hope I'd also see the irony: her neighbor is upset that an individual holding a sign is walking to and fro' in front of her home, while just a few blocks away in the middle class 'hood some of her neighbor's clients are pooping behind people's homes.

But that's not how the commish reacted. Instead, she told my buddy that she has a homeless problem in her 'hood too, and that she had called the police and other city officials to ask them to investigate the horror that was the alleged one-woman protest. She even described the alleged "protester" incident to my buddy as "outrageous," and "appalling," among other things. And she said the "protester" should be ashamed.

When I could bite my tongue no longer I asked her if the person allegedly picketing in front of her neighbor's home bothered her more than her neighbor's clients hassling residents in the nearby middle class 'hood.

I'm still waiting on an answer.

I could call this a matter of a politician trying to compare apples with oranges. But you tell me: is there anything similar about walking on a public sidewalk in front of someone's house, and say taking a squat behind someone's house? I kinda don't think so. I guess you do walk with your feet. And in order to squat behind someone's home you have to balance yourself on your feet. So I suppose there's some similarity. Still, not enough to warrant apples and oranges, 'cause nothing about this story is sweet or tasty.


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I think you are comparing apples to apples here.

You just think the commissioner's apples don't add up. (I agree)

Outrage = outrage. The commissioner is outraged at the behavior of the picketer and the picketer is outraged at the behavior of the homeless.

I liken apples to onions in the animal activist world. Can't stand them. Worry about the starving and homeless people in the country and then maybe when we're done we can think about helping the animals.

A fellow blogger put out the question to some of his readers that he knew were animal activists. He's in the car on the left going over the cliff, there are 20 cats in the car on the right going over the cliff. You can stop 1 car, which one do you stop?

Two of his readers said they'd save the cats because they'd be saving more lives.

That in my opinion is apples and onions. A human life vs a cat's life. I think the people that choose the cats should be committed as they are a danger to society.

James B.

WavemanCali, I don't know. I don't think I'm comparing apples to apples. The fact that the commissioner was outraged is less important, I think, than whether her outrage at the alleged picketer was justified and whether the picketer's actions - walking back and forth on the sidewalk - were as outrageous as the resident's clients pooping outside other people's homes.

I don't know about you, but I'd take the "picketer" any day. Besides, isn't "picketin" and "protesting" a little melodramatic here, in terms of description?

We're talking one person. If I stand on the sidewalk in front of your home, am I loitering? If I stand on the corner talking to three of my neighbors, are we a gang because we've gathered in a bunch, or are we just four people having a conversation?

James B.

BTW, I agree with you on multiple-cat people, like the lady on the Simpsons. But one cat is harmless, I guess. But I'm off point here. I agree with you that animal lives and human lives should never be compared. I stand by my argument though that the apple and the onion in this case were the two violations: walking with a sign in hand vs. pooping and all purpose harassment. Again, I'd say the former is less offensive than the latter.

Say It

this is totally not apples to oranges. This commish is hypocritical. The worst kind. She has the power to do something about the situation. But appearances show she doesn't care to; most likely because it is bothering her. Shame.

The OE

As a secret agent, I've squatted behind many a domicile

James B.

Say It, the commish really didn't have an answer as to why an alleged picketer bothered her more than confirmed poopers. Tsk tsk.

OE, I don't even want to know what you were investigating behind homes. Besides, since you're a secret agent you'd probably have to kill me if you told me;-)


Sweet onions are eaten like apples... so the local claim of our crop.

Perhaps someone should direct the "squatters" to the commish's yard. yah... that would probably be the answer. She can scrape it up with the sign she takes away from the protester.

James B.

Pamela, I like how you think. And I'm gonna have to try to find a sweet onion. Only place I've ever seen anyone eat an onion like an apple was on Seinfeld when George Costanza tried to pretend like having broken glasses didn't affect his eyesight.


I agree with Say It here. The commissioner could have simply talked to one protester, or ignored the protester entirely. Not being able to deal with that situation makes me wonder about that commissioner's ability to be a commissioner to begin with. The homeless is a completely different bag of onions.

James B.

Monty, I won't open that can of worms - the one containing the commissioner's abilities. But again, it disturbed me that she was so much more disturbed by an alleged picketer than is by street pooping.


A lot of people have knee-jerk reactions to any picketer they see. They assume the person doing the protesting is some hippie or is whining. They never try to find out what exactly this person is protesting before getting mad about the protester.


So the Commish was worrying your friend about one protester she had only heard about? Whatever happened to Freedom of Speech etc in your country? (I know what's happening to it here!)

Maybe if the Soup Kitchen also provided sanitary facilities the visiting homeless could use them rather than peoples' gardens. Or are they trying to express an opinion? Cos it won't win them any sympathy.

James B.

Jay, I could have forgiven plain old knee jerk here. Like you say, lots of people do it. I've done it and then had egg on my face. What I couldn't stomach here was the commish's apparently sincere outrage over what she heard was a solitary pickteter standing in front of her neighbor's home, and her apparent indifference to what the neighbor's clients were doing to the alleged picketer's neighbor's homes. Again, walking with a sign vs. pooping: doesn't seem like an even exchange to me.

Sharon, you may have touched on the most logical thing yet: I don't know if the soup kitchen provides bathroom facilities for the homeless it feeds. I assume it has bathroom facilities. But if the clients aren't allowed to use those facilities, they should be. That would be like a restaurant not having a public can. You'd have paying diners dropping trou all over the restaurant parking lot, or in this case, all over the neighboring stores' parking lots.


I can't think of anything else to say about the commish other than "What a knob." I mean I'm sure it's annoying to have a picketer in the environs but c'mon! That level of irritation is on par with Starbucks not making your $5-a-piece coffee drink just right.

Since your last post I've become no less mystified as to why a soup kitchen was allowed to open in a residential neighborhood in the first place. Maybe it's just me but the notion that one can mix the homeless with middle class America on middle class America's home turf is more Pollyanna-ism than I personally could handle without taking an ax handle to someone's car. Ok yes, the man who wants to feed the homeless is a prince of a human being whose mission is - as you have already covered - quite noble. But to plop a group of people whose very lifestyles indicate that they are incapable of participating in society at the same level as the majority of us is... just... dumb.

My sympathies to your friend. I hope he's successful in convincing the kind gentleman who feed the homeless that his operation would be more appropriate elsewhere.

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