Arts & Entertainment
Cadillac Man tells tales of a city’s mean streets
BOOK REVIEW: Land Of The Lost Souls: My Life On The Streets
By Cadillac Man, Bloomsbury, 2010, Paperback, 304 pages, $15
Cadillac Man, who had discarded his given name of Thomas Wagner a long time ago like an old winter coat, wasn’t in the Christmas spirit when he awoke in late December 1994. “They came in the dark while I was sleeping. Don’t know how many. It doesn’t matter anyway. I woke up and they were kicking me all over, again and again. Trapped inside the sleeping bag, I couldn’t defend myself. I can still hear the laughter. Then a miracle came: I passed out.’’ Cadillac awoke, unable to open his right eye, his body scraped and bruised.
Welcome to the world of being homeless on the streets of New York. Cadillac Man, who took that name because he claims he was run over six times by Cadillacs in one month, lasted 13 years in that world. He moved through four of New York’s five boroughs, “avoiding the Giuliani sweeps,’’ sleeping in abandoned buildings, parks, cemeteries (yes cemeteries: Cadillac noted the residents never complained) or wherever he could keep his sleeping bag out of sight.
Shortly after hitting the streets Cadillac began to keep a journal, handwritten in spiral notebooks. “I decided to keep notebooks about my years in the street, in the hope that when I died, they would be discovered next to my body and someone would read them and give them to my three daughters, so they would know the life their father led.’‘
An Esquire magazine editor living near where Cadillac was squatting at the time read some of his writings and soon they were excerpted into the magazine. That led to the book “Land Of Lost Souls,” a compilation of Cadillac’s writing. (Cadillac writes that whenever he’s asked about someone who has died he replies, “[T]hey went to the land of lost souls.”)
I’ve been wanting to read something about being homeless in New York. The last time I was in the Big Apple an aggressive panhandler followed me for four blocks. The streets are hard, the weather is cold and Wagner, in this book, does as good as any describing the best of times and worst of times in that environment.
Cadillac was once
as if progress is made lving a bums life complaining about the facilities while imbibiing on the malt liqour and drugs and cigarettes that make a person a nuisance…..
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