My recent column, “Panhandling in Paradise,” (The Aspen Times, Aug. 7)described my panhandling experience here in Aspen. You can find it again at http://bit.ly/2aJ1BaB. Spoiler alert: Someone gave me a $100 bill.
But panhandling is not always paradise.
I recently panhandled for a day in the town where I grew up, Colorado Springs. Around the terrific Broadmoor Hotel, that town is moneyed and beautiful. But the rest of the town is a modest home to slices of Americana: three military bases, the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, religious groups like Focus on the Family and a prestigious private college.
Wealthy tourists who brought money to the town when I was a boy are now bringing their money to resorts like Aspen and Vail. Much of the old tourist strip is now run down or even boarded up while renovation plans simmer. Sometimes the potholes are so big that they have to close a street.
The town is home to lots of homeless people these days, and panhandlers are common. I knew I wouldn’t be the spectacle that I was in Aspen, where panhandling is not only unusual but illegal.
In the back of my BMW I found my cardboard sign reading “SURVIVED CANCER BUT LOST MY JOB” (which happens to be true, though a bit misleading). It had gotten a little clean in my trunk, so I dirtied it. Then I put on old jeans and a tattered shirt and set out. Continue reading