The Bums I Met My First Year Living In Boston

Disclaimer:  The following piece discusses matters pertaining to bums, which to some may seem politically incorrect and/or insensitive.  Allow me to make a very clear distinction between the homeless and bums.  While undoubtedly many homeless are bums, the two are not mutually exclusive.  To be a bum does not necessarily mean one must be homeless or down-on-his-luck.  These are stereotypes that detract from the ethos of the bum lifestyle.  One can be employed, or attend school, or even own a home, and still be, by definition, a bum. The following paragraphs describe some characters I have encountered in my life since moving to Boston who truly commit to the ethos of the bum, and some others who have moderate to mild bum tendencies.  Some are homeless and I’m pretty sure some have homes, and possibly even jobs.  All of them, however, have made my life just a little more colorful in at least one way.

1. The OTB Squad

The Outside-Tedeschi-Bum Squad is a small collective of bums who like to sit outside of the Tedeschi convenience store on Massachusetts Avenue and heckle those entering and exiting for change.  They will routinely hold the door open for you as you venture in, querying “On your way out?”  It is kind of adorable how tight-knit their little community is, and they can be seen outside Tedeschi’s literally any hour of any day drinking, smoking, and socializing.  Various members will come and go, but you can be sure that there will always be at least one or two OTB’s holding it down on the sidewalk.

My most memorable OTB Squad moment: I was once privileged enough to overhear a heated argument between two OTB’s over which type of cheese would go best with malt liquor.  The candidates were American cheese and Laughing Cow.  I was laughing harder than that cow has ever laughed.

Bum rating: 7

2. One Hand Push-Up King

Where do I even begin.  To anybody who has lived in the area that includes Fenway and the Back Bay, One Hand Push-Up King is a legend.  He is the only bum on this list who coined his own bum name (all the others have developed their bum names over time and are only referred to by these names by those in the non-bum community for the sake of easy identification). OHPUK’s shtick is that he can do ridiculous amounts of one-handed push-ups in seemingly impossible windows of time.  Nobody really likes being confronted by OHPUK (and yes, it is always a confrontation), but his propensity for yelling, horrendous diction, movie-trailer-style speech pauses, and being a complete mess make any OHPUK encounter mildly amusing and certifiably ridiculous. OHPUK is almost never seen during daylight hours.  Though come nightfall, and especially on weekends, one should be mentally prepared for an encounter with this remarkable, totally cracked-out bum.  Should said encounter occur, it will probably go something like this…

“So, yeah I think we’re gonna go back to Mark’s place and-“

“ESKYOO MAH… ONE HAN PUSH UP KING…”

“Oh God, not again…”

“I BET… I KIN DO… HUNDED PUSHUPS… IN FITTY SEGOND… FYE DOLLA…”

“Sorry, we don’t have five-“

“HOLD ON… I KIN DO… FITTY PUSHUPS… DIRTY SEGOND… TREE DOLLA…”

“Dude, we really don’t care-“

“AY… FITTY PUSHUPS… DIRTY SECONDS…”

“Okay, bye” (begins to walk away)

“HOLD ON, HOLD ON… TWENNY PUSHUPS… TEN SEGOND….”

The subject will continue to be pestered by OHPUK until either he spots another potential subject (the most likely end to the scenario, considering he has the attention span of a Labrador retriever), or the subject eventually decides to take on his bet.  In the event that the subject succumbs, he or she must be sure to not give OHPUK the money until the feat has been performed.  Though OHPUK will argue with you on this matter, it is a well-known fact that he will only actually do the push-ups if you don’t hand over the money first.  Many first-timers become intimidated by his physique (which is indeed commanding), hand over the cash, and watch him sprint away.  Just remember, OHPUK is ultimately benign and will impress the hell out of you if you remain firm and only fork up the money after you have witnessed his unbelievable talent.

My most memorable One Hand Pushup King moment: There are too many.  Once my roommates and I were sitting on the stoop of our apartment complex when OHPUK approached us out of nowhere, kindly introduced himself, proceeded to grab some empty beer bottles off the ground (I know there were definitely more than three), attempted to squeeze out the last drops from each one into his gaping mouth, then vanished into the night.  There was also the time when he took off his shirt and ran up and down the middle of Massachusetts Avenue yelling at cars.  I did not stick around the watch the police subdue him, but I’m sure it was quite entertaining.

Bum Rating: 8

3. Feather Man

Feather Man is somewhat of an anomaly among the bums in that he never holds out a cup, asks for money, or says anything, really.  I guess this doesn’t really make him a bum.  He just sort of sits around, nods his head, and glares at people.  Feather Man can usually be spotted sitting on the sidewalk in cutoffs and a dirty t-shirt, shoes and a tall can of malt liquor beside him.  His name is derived from the large, white feather that protrudes from behind his right ear, held in place by a green bandana in serious need of a good laundry cycle.

My most memorable Feather Man moment: None.

Bum rating: 3

4. Bald Lady

Bald Lady is the kind of bum that gives bums a bad name.  For despite leading the bum lifestyle, there is a certain code of bum etiquette one usually adheres to.  This code of etiquette is not enforced by anyone, but most bums at least partially observe it, mainly because they have realized, like most civil people, that being nice (or at least pretending to be nice) is almost always the easiest way to get what you want.  Bald Lady has yet to develop (or even discover) civility.  Her behavior is comparable to that of a cross between a small child and an abrasive parrot; it is characterized by incessant pleading, whining, and yelling when she is not given what she wants.  It has been observed that Bald Lady will ask the same subject for a cigarette an indeterminable amount of times (despite being denied every time), each “Can I have a cigarette?” a little louder and a little whinier, until eventually nearby seismographs chart 8.4’s and the subject either runs away hysterical (in which case she will probably chase after him) or reluctantly hands over that cigarette, hands shaking and ears ringing from the sheer magnitude of her demanding and supremely annoying voice.  And oh yeah, she’s bald.

My most memorable Bald Lady moment: The time that cigarette trick worked on me.

Bum Rating: 9

5. Mirror Lady

Mirror Lady is another local legend among the Back Bay community, though she does not really qualify as a bum; she is just a ridiculous person whose mission in life is to hurt and offend as many people as possible.  Unlike One Hand Push-Up King, her antics are much more frightening than amusing.  Her name is derived from the mirror she constantly holds at arm’s length in front of her.  Based on some of the absurd things that have come out of her mouth, many have come to the conclusion that she is a paranoid schizophrenic who is convinced a secret organization is spying on her (hence the mirror, which allows her to monitor suspicious behavior in 360 degrees), but no one really knows for sure because she is downright impossible to talk to.  She can usually be observed meandering around the Northeastern campus talking loudly to herself and yelling racist obscenities at passerby, never once letting go of that damn mirror.

My most memorable Mirror Lady moment: Anytime she’s spouted completely disgusting racial slurs  to college girls who dress liberally, which happens quite often. I wonder what would happen if someone broke that precious mirror of hers….

Bum Rating: 1

6. Anonymous Dancing Guy

Anonymous Dancing Guy is a wiry, old man who posts up on Newbury street for hours to make semi-musical sounds with his mouth and dance like the lovechild of Elvis and Soulja Boy.  His primary dance move could be aptly dubbed the ‘seizure.’  To perform this move, one must simultaneously shake as many parts of his or her body as possible.  ADG also incorporates a pretty mean thizz face into his routine, which leads me to believe that he is originally from the San Francisco bay area and may have played a role in the development of the hyphy movement.  ADG is always holding a cup in his hand, and it is always full. Though not much of a conversationalist, he is undeniably a very cool bum.

My most memorable ADG moment: Watching him perform an almost unrecognizable but totally badass rendition of “Purple Haze.”  This astounding performance earned two five dollars on my behalf.

Bum Rating: 6

7. Sammich (aka The Loaf)

Sammich is king of the bums.  He is the laziest, most apathetic and conniving bum I have encountered since moving to Boston.  He epitomizes the ethos of the bum in a way that the OTB squad can only dream of.  His blend of profound indifference, incomprehensible sloth, and acute sociopathic tendencies spawns behavior that would seem completely absurd to the average human being.  It is not uncommon to see Sammich bent over a public garbage bin with his large stomach fully submerged beneath the rim, body bent at a ninety degree angle, holding out a cup or taking a nap.  Keep in mind, he is too lazy to lift his head up when he is garbage-loafing, so his eyes are facing the ground when he is asking people, “spare some change?” When Sammich decides that this activity has become too strenuous, he will begin the arduous and time-consuming process of getting up.  To go from prone position on the garbage can to fully upright usually takes Sammich anywhere from two to three whole minutes (if this does not seem like a lot, consider how long it would take to go from wherever you’re sitting or laying at this moment to standing fully upright, literally seconds).  Watching this guy do something so simple as standing up is so drawn out and dramatic its like watching National Geographic: Bread Edition. If you haven’t guessed already, Sammich acquired the name Sammich because all he does is loaf around.  Except that this isn’t actually true.  Sammich really acquired his name because of his habit of approaching people (albeit slowly enough for them to run for cover), putting two fingers up to his mouth like he is asking for a cigarette, and saying “sammich?”  Wait, this guy is so phenomenally lazy, he has actually worked out how to bum both food and cigarettes at the same time!  Now that is multitasking, if not supremely confusing.  The funny part is, after being denied these things, Sammich will not, like most bums, try to convince you that he is worthy of your expendables, or even assume that you misunderstood and try to clarify a little bit.  He just doesn’t care enough.  He will say nothing, slowly make his way over to the nearest garbage bin, and continue to loaf the time away.

My most memorable Sammich moment: All of them.

Bum Rating: 10 TC mark

image – Rene S

More From Thought Catalog

  • Kim Windyka

    good list, though i was so hoping you’d include “SPAAAARE CHAAAANGE” raspy-voice man and/or the guy with kenny g hair (i called him “aging rocker”) that always carried around an empty starbucks cup and wore a leather jacket 24/7.

    • http://twitter.com/mdigirol Matt

      Came here to say “Where is Spare Change guy?”

      Kim beat me to it. You have never lived until you’ve met him.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, there is only one bum in the world that says “spare change.”

      • Kelly Burgess

        There are many bums in Boston that say “spare change.”  However, there is only one “SPAAAARE CHAAAAANGE” guy.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1237620229 Christine Varriale

        He sounds and looks like a zombie. One of my favorites.

      • Kim Windyka

        exactly! y’all know who i’m talking about. 

  • http://twitter.com/galette_rois Julian Galette

    Every Philadelphian knows WHIZ goes best with Malt Liquor.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=612928768 Samie Rose

    Entertaining, interesting, well written, and not self-indulgent. A+.

    • Guest

      i’m sure the author is relieved to have your approval.

      • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

        Damn, can’t even leave a compliment around here without the trolls comin’ out.

      • Guest

        yeah, that was rude. sorry, samie.

      • Guest

        yeah, that was rude. sorry, samie.

  • http://staugustinian.wordpress.com/ STaugustine

    “While undoubtedly many homeless are bums, the two are not mutually
    exclusive.  To be a bum does not necessarily mean one must be homeless
    or down-on-his-luck. ”

    You mean “the two words are not synonymous”; otherwise, that sentence makes  O  sense

    • Dub

      I think he meant “The two ARE mutually exclusive.” As in, one can be a bum and not homeless, or one can be homeless, but not a bum. to NOT be mutually exclusive, means the two words are synonymous. To be mutually exclusive is in itself a synonym for NOT being synonymous.

      • http://staugustinian.wordpress.com/ STaugustine

        Uh, doesn’t the first bit of the cited sentence preclude that possibility?  Using “the two are mutually exclusive” would mean that one can either be a bum or homeless, but not both; clearly neither his intent nor the case.  It’s a simple case of the author using the phrase incorrectly; no biggie. Editors (where they still walk this Earth)  fix these things all the time.

      • http://staugustinian.wordpress.com/ STaugustine

        “To be mutually exclusive is in itself a synonym for NOT being synonymous.”

        Intuitively “true” in a casual way but doesn’t represent a rule in a set/subset way (and in the specific case of this sentence).  “Mutually exclusive” is a much stronger assertion than “not synonymous”. Eg:  “Shit eater” and “Republican” are not synonymous… but they are not “mutually exclusive”

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Garcia. You’re a tool. I’ve been in Boston all my life and these aren’t infamous bums here. There isn’t even such thing. “Bald lady”? Get a life man.

    • http://twitter.com/galette_rois Julian Galette

      He must be from the ‘burbs and never saw a bum till he went to college in a real city

    • OHPUKFAN

      Well, you must not be in the back bay area if you think OHPUK is anything but infamous. 

      • Anonymous

        No, I’m just not a tool from the suburbs riding his parents’ dime working on useless degree and getting my jollies from inventing grand tales about the homeless in the city. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504951716 Tau Zaman

    Have lived in Boston. Have no clue what you’re talking about.

  • HEEHEE

    omg mister garcia, how could you forget the troupe of bums that do their thang on the corner of the commons, next to the park street t stop!!! they sit on the benches along tremont street and by the fountain and there’s always AT LEAST one yelling about accepting jesus as lord and savior. they’re definitely as infamous at the OTB squad

  • JMGF

    I’m heartbroken that the new generations of college kids are unaware of Mister Butch, the mayor of Allston. 

    • Anonymous

      YES.

    • Xsimpl3x

      his wake was just plain sad. What a phenomenal Allston legend.

  • Anonymous

    reading this made me very uncomfortable. 

  • untimelymeds

    have seen ALL OF THEM. I used to live right behind Berklee, and ran into mirror lady almost on a daily basis!

  • Just Another Bum

    If you don’t know your bums by name then they don’t count (i.e. Melvin and Joseph, both local Boston bums.)

    • kate

      I love Melvin. The only homeless man in Boston that I know and love. Have had many a conversation with him 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1237620229 Christine Varriale

    Is Bald Lady the same as Trash Bag Lady at Park St.? She’s definitely my favorite.

  • Allison Pelle

    I live in boston and have never encountered these bums but I will be on the lookout. I do know of the insane dredlock looking white guy who creeps around allston and there’s a black man with a shopping cart who digs in the dumpsters behind my building. 

  • http://twitter.com/MissKimball misskimball

    I live on a major bum thoroughfare but haven’t seen any since the riots. Also this thread seems to have degenerated into I know more about boston than you faggotry so I think I’ll do mine (ldn). in b4 tl;dr

    two massive bags guy

    he stayed the whole summer dragging the massive bags around the streets all day then sitting between them with a blanket over his head at night. he pretended to speak no english which meant he couldn’t ask anyone for money. he spoke a language of his own invention in a mexican, sometimes jamaican accent. he actually had a 6os david bowie english accent but I only found because one day he asked me to make him a sandwich, which I did

    the leperchaun

    tiny guy with ginger hair and beard and bad skin. spent most of his time hiding in the bushes watching people and masturbating but got beaten up a lot. also spent a lot of time poking at my gas meter

    tom berenger

    has a face thats been cut up very badly a long time ago. the other bums respect this and he’s more or less the leader. he takes it very seriously and helps the other bums through spells of increased strangeness. never asks anyone for anything

    fighting lady

    kicks the shit out of all the other bums because they are junkies. I saw her attack a wounded bum kicking his crutches away knocking him to the ground, beating him with the crutches then throwing them onto the railway tracks. after that she went back to shout incomprehensible bum things at him and laugh and kick him occasionally

    bing crosby

    one trick pony. his name is actually bing crosby, he has a passport to prove it. all he does is tell people this then when they ignore him he shows them the passport. then he moves on to someone else. looks like kennys dad off southpark

    the guy that shits all the time (mostly in very public places)

    he says its a problem with his kidneys and he can’t help it. I’m not so sure

    pedobum

    used to be a teacher, has taken on the mantle of counsellor to runaway boys, mostly hangs at the station etc

    also terence stamp guy, the guy who looks like god, the hills have eyes (original version) guy. They are only notable for their looks, like most bums they are forever at some stage of the standard shouting / vomiting / slow motion fighting / soiling and unconsciousness cycle

    • http://staugustinian.wordpress.com/ STaugustine

      note to self about avoiding Boston

  • Tekalizard

    Oh, but what about the Harvard Ave Ninja? I mean, he may have a home but he’s a fixture around the Harvard/Comm Ave T stop- you know the guy, somewhat Asiatic features, long dark hair, tight vest, bandanna/hat thingy with a yin-yang symbol…. 

    • anon

      I pass him every day on my way to my apartment…with his creepy stare

    • Jeremy

      He once helped me pick out a phone at the cheap chic. He didn’t speak one word of english and “pretended” to talk on this unconnected telephone for about ten minutes. Awkward but still enjoyable to run into someone who isn’t rushing to the green line.

  • Guest

    How about the “move” guy who rides around a tricked-out bike saying “move” over and over again, usually with flashing lights on it? I’ve heard local bike shops really help him out a lot. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    Buffalo’s got a shit ton of homeless people… local celebs~~

  • JustAGuest

    Pretty much know all of these characters. I’ve had a few run-ins with sammich. He’s a pain in the ass, and I independently call him “a sammich”, as he is usually pointing to quarters in his hand and says “a sammich” when he approaches. I reply by alerting him to the fact that his quarters are not a sammich, and watched him get manhandled by SWAT in Little Stevie’s one time because he was harassing everyone. No joke.

  • Boba Fettish

    Do you have any SSHHPARE CHANGE?

  • bodythatmatters

    what about the creepy sing-song voices of “spare change paper” at the Shaws in Porter?

  • None

    Sammich guy once put his hand in my face and said “SAMMICH SONNNNBITCH” 

  • Jeremy

    Come on! 

    Chili Guy – The most famous bum of them all. A king! Featured on a bunch of radio shows before his disappearance.

    Melvin – Kenmore Square Area. Nicest man I ve met.

    DJ Night Train – The imaginary DJ. Usually outside of looney toons in the Berklee area. Other spottings involve the orange line.

    My favorite Bum by far though has to be “The Professor” I do not know his name but have spotted him many times. I would love to hear more about this man and learn about what he does in his time. He is usually spotted on the 57 or at BU central. Always has a brown case.

    Mr. Butch is still the leader of this uprising! 

  • Kevin

    Anyone who travels Boylston Street around the Pru knows Ross. He even got money rained on his head a couple months ago! http://www.metro.us/boston/local/article/871090–money-falls-from-sky-on-boylston-street-video

  • Condito

    Love this post! I went to school at Berklee and now work at Symphony so I see all these characters all the time. If anyone would like a visual of the mirror lady, she sat next to me on the bus the other day: http://twitpic.com/6b1ph5 My top story is when she  repeatedly screamed “GET OUT OF THIS COUNTRY, N***ER!!!” to my very white friend Mario.

    And as for Sammich, he doesn’t always say nothing after you refuse to give him a sammich… one time he muttered rather loudly “sonnnbitch!” when he stumbled into the McD’s on mass ave and we refused to give him one.  Such a charmer, that one.

    Have you ever seen the older, disabled woman with ratty blonde-ish hair who lives at the Church Park apartments? She used to moan, grunt, and shout while walking on the street or into Boston Market, clinging onto the wall for support.  Looks like she recently got a wheelchair, but she still basgers people into pushing her chair for her. Another winner!

  • Cdzevin

    I think you need to look up the meaning of “mutually exclusive”. If many bums are undoubtedly homeless than the two cannot possibly be mutually exclusive.

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