Home > Hesitating > A Wide Arc

A Wide Arc


It’s not that I don’t notice but I certainly don’t pay attention to the homeless and assorted street denizens… If they ask me for something I still find myself responding in some way; my bitterness is not such that I can ignore someone speaking to me… When they’re barking into space or laying asleep under a blanket of old newspapers or scavanged bedding I can walk by without really registering what it is I’m passing…

So when confronted indirectly by the sobbing of an indigent there was a measure of surprise at feeling the effects inside my chest… It was sad, a mournful lost wail from a huddled mass leaning against the wall of my work… There’s no context to the immediate cause and none needed– the sound and eventual sight cut through the chasm between them and me… Suppose that it would regardless of who was crying or why… Suppose that the choked gasping and whines would find their way into me even if they came from Gavin Newsom breaking down at the podium, or the losing quarterback from next Sunday’s all-American brain-drain…

Actually, maybe the homeless of America could gather in the parking lot around the Super Bowl for one big mass cry– one big in your face ‘we’re still people just like you’ moment while billions of dollars exchange accounts inside… Nah, security would never let them get within five blocks of the stadium… But that reminds me of the horror of horrors experienced during the inaugural season for SBC/ATT/Pac Bell park in China Basin… Riding my bike through the sunlight sea of middle class whites I saw not one but two homeless men standing on corners with signs inviting passing motorists to take in a meal at the local McDonalds…

But I regress… The crying guy outside my work sat slumped and defeated while eveyone made a wide arc around him… Instead of going over to him to ask what’s wrong I flicked my cigarette into the trash (gotta stop doing that– there’s been fires) and went back to my ‘not currently saving the world’ job… Had it been some cute co-ed in club clothes crying after having too many tequila shots I still would have flicked my cigarette in the trash and gone back to work, but everyone walking by would have immediately stopped to ask her what was wrong…

The day prior there’s been the habitual lunatic squatting over the very same trash can I shouldn’t be throwing cigarettes into and security had to stick their heads out the door to make sure he wasn’t using it as a toilet… That and the lifestyle kids poffering pot are more usual neighbors we enjoy around here which is worse than the amicable crackheads building little junk houses in the doorway of the laundrymat underneath my apartment… Where I grew up on the outskirts of Potrero Hill and China Basin the homeless were scattered all over in cars or under overpasses… You would see them riding bikes at night or clustered around oil drum fires or ducking under concrete… They would never ask you for anything and they mostly wanted to be left alone… It was more of a Mad Max scenario where I grew up then where I live and work…

It’s all just part of the scenary until it’s in your face, I guess… The other night while walking home I couldn’t stomach a mental image of the obviously insane gentleman who I see around quite frequently continue to bump his shopping cart into the raised cracked concrete of the sidewalk… Sure, he could have shifted to the left and avoided the obstacle and sure, I could have explained this to him or simply walked past and kept to myself… Don’t know why I was in such a mood but I asked if he needed help over the crack and after a moment of realizing I was there he said yes… I grabbed one end of the cart and he pushed the other and the obstacle was defeated…

Street Sheet

Recently there’s been a guy around my block, younger than most of the people you generally ignore who sell Street Sheets… I rememeber the first time I saw him, how he very politely stopped me and apologized for bothering me… Just got out of jail, girl split on him, really just trying to get something to eat… I would see him around in the early days and, as I had always been unwilling to part with my change, he would leave me alone… Eventually he came into the Street Sheets and can be seen offering them politely to people or, more and more frequently, getting frustrated and pacing up and down the street in the cold… I’ve never bought one but I have given him a couple quarters now… It’s funny because he’s obviously more competant than most of the hawkers you’ll find on the corners, younger and more physically capable of weathering the streets… But it’s always upsetting for me to see him out there because he’s too young– probably my age or a little older and I find myself more willing to pass a dime to him than to a scarecrow of twice his age… Maybe it’s because he hasn’t slipped into crime– whatever it is that landed him in jail in the first place… Maybe it’s just because he so easily could be me, but I could never be him…

Categories: Hesitating
  1. Fro
    February 8, 2007 at 8:13 pm

    you’re getting soft in your old age

  2. jay
    February 14, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    I’ve been pretty impressed by the John Edwards line on poverty/health-care. It’s a good time to volunteer for a campaign!

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