I’d been sleeping on the streets of San Francisco for about a year. The injury that caused my inability to work was healing but I still had a way to go. Like most of the other homeless, I pushed a shopping cart around and scrounged for cans and bottles to provide the most basic needs. At that time there weren’t big groups camping together like you see today. Two or three was common as there are few open areas in that city other than parks. Camping in them was a big no no, and patrols enforced that rule nightly. I wasn’t out there by choice and wasn’t suffering any type of mental health or addiction issue. It was always my intention to heal my body and get back to work as soon as possible. I stayed by myself, didn’t associate, didn’t panhandle with a begging sign, or steal. Most days I sat quietly reading a book when I wasn’t pawing through garbage cans for recyclables. I stood in line for meals from the soup kitchens and said please and thank you for what was given. The money I earned went toward showers at a local spa, beer, of course, keeping my clothes neat and clean, and toiletries. I wasn’t going to let the street beat me down.
My standoffishness led to problems with a bunch of old drunks who clustered on Haight Street and panhandled for beer money. I liked going to Haight because someone would usually be passing a joint around and I could get a toke. Anyway, they would harass me, claiming it was their turf. Since I usually wandered the avenues and avoided the homeless haunts it wasn’t that big a deal. On Christmas eve I was sitting on the steps of a bank and the generosity of the residents led to people just walking up and handing me food, money, toothpaste, etc. People were often kind to me spontaneously since I didn’t ask for anything and they could tell I didn’t belong out there. It was Christmas morning that one of the funniest moments of that time in my life occurred.
I hit Haight street just after dawn, as I knew the drunks would be sprawled on the sidewalk sleeping it off. They were prone to keep banker’s hours. Anyway, about fifty feet away from them I saw a huge pile of beer and wine boxes and garbage bags stacked on the sidewalk. Hustling over, I planned to grab all the bottles and scoot. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be the leftovers from a huge party. I scooped up nearly a hundred full beers, about twenty five bottles of wine, some champagne and one bottle of whiskey. There was a lot of unopened food as well. Constantly looking to see that none of the assholes were stirring, I loaded my cart with it all and quietly rolled away. It was so heavy that I knew I hadn’t the strength to go very far, so I crossed over to the opposite side and made for Golden Gate park, happy that part of the street is flat. For the rest of the day I couldn’t stop breaking out laughing at having plundered a treasure those guys would have found had they woke before me. I sat at the entrance to the park all day, handing out beer and wine to passersby. It was a jolly Christmas to say the least. I saved enough for myself to eat well and drink for a couple days, then went back to my regular routine.
I eventually healed enough to work at the recycling center instead of being a client. From there my life moved along and led me to where I am today. The reason I’m sharing this story is to show that even in the bleakest times one can set goals, maintain their dignity, and constantly strive to do better. This year has been hard on everyone, but I stayed focused, upbeat, and shared the love in every way I could. As a result of that focus I published my eighth book just before Thanksgiving and have been the recipient of a lot of love in return. I sincerely thank all of you for your comments and support. None of what I’ve accomplished would be possible without a lot of wonderful people in my life. I hope you are all warm and well and haven’t let the darkness shroud your light. This time will pass and everyone will have a remember-when story.