Monday, December 14, 2009

In the Streets of San Francisco, You'll Meet Some Gentle People There...

After I left Phil and Julie's condo in the Mission yesterday, I had somewhat of a plan. However, I still hadn't quite figured out where I was exactly going. I still had a little bit of cash in my pocket but not much. Originally I had planned to stay in a hostel just above Fort Mason but then realized that I only had enough money for the lodging and nothing left over for food for the time being. So this is where I had to make a tough decision, choose a roof over my head for two nights or put food in my belly?

The growling in my stomach won me over and I decided that food would be the most important thing for me right now even more so than a bed for the night. I was taking a gamble though as it had been raining non-stop for the last three nights with no signs of letting up. I could still back out if the rain came and head up the mountain to the hostel if I needed to. My pack has been getting heavier by the day so I walked slowly down Market Street until I finally made it to the pier. Exhausted, I carefully slipped my bag off of my aching shoulders and sat on the cold cement and watched the Oakland ferry boats come and go. I was getting nervous because the sky in front of me, just over the Bay Bridge was begging to look dark and ominous. I still had time to back out. I sat there for at least two hours watching the people and the boats and thinking about everything and nothing at all at the same time. It was a sort of surreal Zen like experience for me.

That's when I met Roy the Cleaner. While he doesn't actually clean anything per se, he told me that he had once sold cleaning products across the country so I thought it fitting to give him this nickname. Roy the Cleaner was barely 20 or 21 years old and clean shaven with an almost military appeal to him in dress and in his speech. He had seen me sitting there and assumed that I was on the streets so he thought that he would chat it up with me. He asked me how long I had been on the streets and I lied, I told him a few weeks. He told me that he had been out here for over a month. He was selling his cleaning wares from Maryland where he is from when business suddenly went bad. "Damn economy!" He yells. He tells me that he lost everything. He tells me about where he sleeps, a real find he says. It's down past pier 39 in a public hallway that the public seemed to have forgotten about. He tells me about the boat that he wants to own and live in. He tells me about karma. He tells me about Mexicans and what he thinks of them. He tells me about a program in the City that will help people like him in his situation with fare to buy a bus ticket back home. He tells me that tomorrow, he is going to finally take them up on that offer and return back to Maryland. I simply nod and smile every now and then and interject with a "damn," or a "that's pretty crazy." I figured that he liked the company, however, since this was my first night outside, I preferred to be alone.

I eventually say goodbye to Roy the Cleaner and wish him luck with his bus ticket situation the next day. I didn't know what else to say and almost caught myself saying, "I'll see you on the flip side brodda." But thankfully I caught myself and simply gave him the 'Peace' sign and walked away into the Ferry Building for a little warmth.


I realized that if I wanted to make this work, I would need to keep moving quite a bit. I didn't want to stay in one place too long just in case someone would see me. So I walked back away from the water up Market in the direction that I had come from earlier and got some snacks and water at the Wallgreens.

For some reason, my right ankle was throbbing once I left so I only made it about halfway back towards the water on my return trip. I decided that I would sit on a bench outside of the old Wells Fargo building at One Montgomery. No one seemed to mind that I was there. Fellow street dwellers would smile and nod their heads at me when they passed by. I even met a cool hippie couple trying to find their way back home to Seattle so I was glad to help them with directions to the bus terminal.

After another hour or two in this spot I figured that it was time to move again. This time, I went to the left of the pier towards a park near the winter outdoor ice skating rink. I sat in the park for some time admiring the ice skaters as well as the grandeur of the lights and the buildings in the financial district. Soon, it began to rain and I began to get a little worried. It might be too late to back out now and head for the hostel as it was nearing 10 PM already. Thankfully, I didn't let it bother me and eventually the rain did stop. Taking that as I sign, I moved to my final location for the rest of the night.

I didn't know that this was going to be my final stop for the evening when I ventured in this direction. I was more interested in seeing the Port of San Francisco sign lit up in red which you cannot see from the city, only from a boat or the bridge. I followed a darkly lit sidewalk where from what I could see was completely empty. What I encountered was one of the most amazing views of the City that I have ever seen and on top of that, the perfect place to spend the rest of the night! Originally, I hadn't planned on sleeping at all because I didn't know what I was to expect. But now that I had found this spot, a few hours rest might not be that bad of an idea.

I was completely content with my surroundings. It was the best damn view that one could have hoped for and one that would never be seen from any apartment building in town. I was the only one who has this view I thought. I listened to music and danced around for hours, enjoying my time and mainly keeping warm. Finally, at just after midnight, I felt sleepy and decided to give sleep a try. I used a towel for my pillow and pulled out a small down blanket that I was happy that I had that night and laid it on a bench with my head to the City and my feet facing the bridge. This isn't so bad I thought and immediately went to sleep. That only lasted for about two hours though when it seemed that the temperature dropped 20 degrees and my blanket wasn't keeping me warm enough to sleep. I ditched the towel pillow and wrapped it around my legs instead to double-up on the warmth which kind of worked. Several hours of restless, freezing sleep went by until I was startled by the horn of the first ferry coming into port for the day. Not wanting to be caught, I immediately packed up my belongings and moved to another location and wrapped my blanket around me, shivering in the cold. When the sun finally had risen, I went back into the Ferry Building and into the restroom where I soaked my cold hands in the hot water and washed my face. I wanted to say indoors for as long as I could but knew that I couldn't stay in the bathroom. I squatted near the front doors where it was just warm enough and just close enough to the Amtrak station that no one seemed to mind me being there. I actually fell asleep again while sitting up. Right before I was getting ready to leave, I saw none other than Roy the Cleaner. He gave me a "Sup Nate" and then walked away. I guess that he just wasn't quite ready to get on that bus back home yet.

Thankfully, today is not too cold and the sun seems to be trying to come out. Time to go soak up some vitamin D before figuring out where I will end up next. Peace!

P.S. These pictures were from my "room" for the night.

No comments:

Post a Comment