I first met Mad Mike the Hippie Bum at the turn of the millennium in New Orleans’s French Quarter, where he could often be found sitting on the ground playing folk songs featuring lyrics like “What would you do if little gnomes came and ate your poop at night?” (The goal was to get tourists to stop, listen, laugh, and ultimately donate.) Today, Mad Mike is 35 and still homeless but, thanks to a talent for scavenging, living in relative comfort in Austin, Texas, where he finds amazing amounts of drugs on the ground, which he considers to be his “career.” He also maintains a blog, called the Ground Score, about his life of homelessness (which he chose) and his habit of scooping up and sampling whatever powders or crystals he comes across. I talked to him recently to see how he was getting on.
VICE: How do Austin and New Orleans differ in terms of finding drugs on the ground?Mad Mike the Hippie Bum: I used to find drugs occasionally in New Orleans, but it was nothing you could base a career on. I think the number of college kids in Austin, combined with the heavy drinking culture, creates sort of a perfect storm of drug-losing. There is just a lot of opportunities for kids to buy drugs and subsequently drop them on the ground.
Do you scavenge enough food to sustain yourself?
In terms of food, clothing, and other supplies, yes. I do take showers at the local homeless shelter, and sometimes I’ll eat some donated food or something, but for the most part I’m a self-sufficient scavenger. People are wasteful enough that a guy like me can easily live off the fat of the land. And it’s a rare day that I don’t find a gram or two.
What is the most expensive drug, or stash of drugs, you’ve found on the ground?
I found $500 worth of crack in New Orleans. In Austin the most expensive thing I’ve found is a bottle of Dom Pérignon, 2005. It was behind a dumpster in back of a restaurant—I think a waiter was trying to steal it and I beat him to the punch. CLICK HERE to read the rest of this interview at VICE.com…
Or enjoy this video for Mad Mike’s “I Just Want Your Booty”: