Interview: The Bums of Myrtle Avenue

02/29/2012 11:31 AM |
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Kali runs the Twitter feed @BumsofMyrtleAve, a chronicle of her “interactions with the bums on the corner,” a recurring cast of characters like supporting players on a sitcom. In her late 20s, working in fashion, and from a small town in the Midwest, Kali has lived in Fort Greene for the last three years (“lovin’ it”) after a stint in Boston. We caught up with her by email to ask about how she started tweeting and how well she really knows these people on her street.

Is your Twitter for real?
Haha. This one cracked me up. Of course it’s real.

When did you start interacting with the “bums”?
They actually started interacting with me! I was waiting at the bus stop where The Mayor of Fort Greene hangs out and he turned his boombox up and serenaded me with “Love Lockdown.” I don’t know why he seemed to pick me out of the crowd, but I’m glad.

When did you start Tweeting about it?
I started last year, but I’ve been really active since January.

Why?
Finding humor in the mundane passings of life is what keeps me going. I would come home and tell my boyfriend about what happened that day with the bums. Finally, it got to the point where my family and friends were like, “what’s going on with Grandma Nut? Is her sister still preggo?” Then I knew I had to start tweeting.

A lot of people are afraid of people on the street. Why aren’t you?
Hmmm. I’m not sure. I was raised in a small town where everybody knew each other. I like that sense of community. Certain neighborhoods and blocks of New York have that. Everyone gives the community depth and flavor. The bums make me laugh, they make me sad, sometimes they make me feel safe and sometimes I feel threatened—just like anyone else I see on a regular basis.

What’s the response been like?
The reaction’s been extremely positive! I’ve had people reach out to me who lived in New York in the 80s, people who have never been to New York but love getting a real-life peek, and even folks who currently live on the same block. The bike-shop guys around the corner have hilarious input because they’re so close to The Mayor’s numero uno hang out. It’s great hearing from everyone. It’s made me feel even more connected to my neighbors than before.

Has anybody been critical?
Not really. The worst thing was a critique about the bum that I call the CrackHead, and I can understand where that person was coming from. They don’t want to be faced with hard things in life. Who does? But the truth of the matter is, the CrackHead is really a crack head. I’ve seen his pipe. My Twitter isn’t about telling jokes, or making fun of bums. It’s about giving people a look into a community from a perspective that they might not have had before.

There’s a pretty small recurring cast of bums in your Tweets. How well do you know them?
We live in the same place and I see them almost everyday, which is more than my family and friends sometimes. Some of them I know more about and they know more about me than others, but I wouldn’t go as far to say we’re friends. We’re neighbors.

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

4 Comment

  • This is obnoxious. Grow a fucking perspective.

  • this girl tried to follow me on twitter and i was shocked. Oh, poverty and mental illness! OMG ROFL!

  • Just a little lol@bumsafari for the fashionista. I’m sure it’s fine, because people from the midwest are so “nice” as they are quick to tell you.

  • At her age, my friends & I had the same kind of ongoing narrative about wacky people around us in the ‘hood. The difference is that there was no opportunity for us to broadcast it live to everybody in the world through Twitter. Just because she appreciates these guys, doesn’t mean everybody else will.