Josh Cohen February 21, 2010
Save Your Seconds for Ira Lennon
Philadelphia, the city of unearthed worms on sidewalks during a rare sunshower. Ira Lennon basks on the sunnyside of Rittenhouse Park as he waits for the path of least resistance to open up; an opportune time in which Ira can make his claim, collecting the scraps of business lunches and studio breaks, after the insufferable onlookers of the well todo dog walkers, the pseudoart students, and the lines of children holding hands, who all think to themselves, “why doesn’t he get a job?” have all left the park. The truth, for Ira, at least, is that although the path he chooses leads to an incessant growling stomach, he feels no shame in how finds his dinner. At the age of 22, Ira doesn’t at all look like he lives on the street. That’s because he doesn’t. The community college enlisted illustration major lives in a house with three other young men his age. But, if there’s no shame felt, why even wait for the ‘highbrows’ to leave the park? “Well it’s a matter of common sense”, he says, “The maximum chance of finding scraps is after everyone’s had a chance to deposit their trash”. Why not just get a job, or ask your parents for money for food? These are typical middle class questions often facing Lennon who subscribes to the philosophy known as Freeganism. One may consider the diseases that may be contracted or self inflict by rummaging through the dayold bagels in a dumpster behind a strip mall. Lennon braves
the taste of stale bread on a daily basis, and adheres to a strict regiment of inspecting everything he puts down his throat. He then puts his findings in zip lock bags, separated by category. Then, at around 7pm, when he’s made his rounds, he sets his place setting, which consists of fine Lenox china, and enjoys a less than wellbalanced supper. He only eats this way when it comes to his dinners, which is usually only the second meal he has. He usually buys eggs from the store, saying that, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day! You can’t leave it up to chance.” In the spirit of Freeganism, this quote from Wikipedia, “Freeganism is an anti consumerist lifestyle whereby people employ alternative living strategies based on "limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources"” You’re probably aware of phrases like ‘squatting’, and ‘dumpster diving’ but what it is to live and breath these actions is as common as a handshake for the practiced and disciplined freegan. Lennon has gotten to know people who are worse situations whose freeganism wasn’t a choice for them. For him, it’s a push of encouragement to see people who’ve survived living on a brokedown bus in a parking lot for 5 years, or a makeshift wooden home behind a strip club in South Philadelphia. With these people, its not about the philosophy, it’s about their needs. The catcalls these human beings receive are often due to confusion between what they do, and straight homeless people. Lennon says that it’s frustrating, and the arrogance of a lot of people can get overwhelming. Toward those who are worse off than him, he shares an insight that he’s accumulated over the years; “Give change if you can afford to, if not, just say “sorry, I aint got it”, but don’t ignore them. Never say, “Get a job”. If it
were that easy they wouldn’t be on the corner asking for money or sleeping over a grate. If you are offered something by a homeless person, take it, it is very depressing to think that all one can do is take and be a burden, and not give anything. If you are done eating something and there is still some left, put it on top of a garbage can. It will most often help someone out in a big way.” Even with all these judgments upon him, and the health concerns hovering over each trashcan or dumpster, Ira treks on. He doesn’t see the need to pay for food when the gold mines are untapped and renewing. You won’t see him wearing one of those obnoxious tshirts that say, “I’ll Eat Your Scrap But I Won’t Buy Your Crap”. Ira is not anticapitalist, just antiwasting good food. For now, life in the city is good for Ira, and his stomach doesn’t growl all that much.