MMMark's Whycandoo Room: Street Surfer    
 Street Surfer3 comments
picture26 Feb 2002 @ 00:44, by Mark Smollin

There is a homeless man who lives in my central neighborhood of Pasadena California. I have seen him at different times of day within a ten-block radius of my humble two-story rental that sits on a zoning border of the commercial versus residential divide. Unlike some others without abode, he looks healthy, rosie cheeks hidden by a partial mask of pure white hair, looking like a seafarer of old world adventure, tough, vibrant, battered, specially when accented by his ‘captains" hat with the scrambled eggs and anchor on the front. This is an affluent American community with an entire cross-section of people that I would label as being coexistently normal. It has its share of charitable souls who part with paper money often, for fear of what it might be like to live without a home, to support many street surfers here in the waves of San Gabriel foothills. I use to give cash when I had some, but then I saw a beggar with a cell phone on his regular corner and decided charity is a bottomless pit too expensive for a guy like me without a cell phone. Pasadena is a good place to be outdoors all year, yet this is a desert and it can get bitter to the bone when dry AND cold.

He moved in next door four weeks ago donning his two shopping carts blue waist jacket and white shorts – I’d swear he just walked off his 150 foot yacht – moved to spend weekends with us in the next door parking lot. Because that business is closed on Saturday day and Sunday it affords him some privacy from accommodations during the rest of the week. The area is fenced and he picks the northwest corner to make his regular camp. The first time I saw his caravan, it bothered me for no specific reason other than a selfish concern for the general quality of residents on our street. I decided there was no need to report him to the police, just take a live, let live position. My wife and I have speculated about this man’s habits since her work room has clear view of his temporary estate, so we gossiped, I admit. She mentioned seeing a visitor he had over one day, so all seemed like a happy slice of life. I was neutral in my notions until I heard him yelling short bursts of expletives at 3:12 am, as though he were confronting someone in verbal battle. It was incoherent to me, like he was dreaming the release of caged emotional stress, disjointed, two sets of cries and then the night was silent again. When I heard another staccato outburst of insulting labels in the wee hours last night, while having my 45 minute cigarette, I was seriously concerned about the sailor’s well being and worried that he might wake the row of apartment dwellers sleeping 80 feet away. It was cold out. I began to look inward, deep into an infinite coil of my senses, asking myself the right thing to do.

Stay and let me tell you what this turtle-man means to me. He has become in my eyes the mariner of a less encumbered life, free to move about, staying in the moment for a can or glass, one more courageous than I, but a symbol of every breakdown in our humanity – beginning with mine. I could not bring myself to approach the elderly man for fear of being rebuffed in the attempt to show some connection. Unpredictability. What would I say? – Are you alright? Would you like a cup of coffee, a shower, one of my cigarettes, a taste of bourbon? I had to come up with something better than that! I still have not been able to decide about this kind of situation I have no experience with. I don’t want to insult him or disrespect his privacy in the sanctity of his asphalt retreat, but I knew at heart that I should be able to love him just the same. It then occurred to mind, that my apprehension is exactly representative of the barriers we erect between ourselves for foolish reasons and the same ones to cause the type of disconnection that cast him into street life. I have speculated about the events that brought him here, but think it is of no relevance now. I should not assume he is in a bad way, but his pain comes forth to draw me into a compassionate reflection. I wish I had his fortitude, the guts to shuck the shackles of middle class excess, but I would wither without my computer and my link to all of you. Like Kay Simmons talked about getting rid of all the junk she’d never use, I have emptied closets for the Salvation Army and tallied all the useless electronic parts and software I feared would fill the dump. However, in this cleansing I now have a hungry space to fill in my soul, to do more than protect number one, to pour in the sustenance that leads to good will, and invest it in all those relatives of mine like this survivor in our community.



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3 comments

26 Feb 2002 @ 19:33 by tdeane : I Like This!
Mark, you never cease to amaze me. It is uplifting and inspiring to witness humanity being defined humanely (both you and him). Much love ~ Tricia  


26 Feb 2002 @ 20:36 by bushman : Hmm
You have a good view to that reality, I moved from there but Ill tell you this , I know most the street people there and even though I would help them they still stole my tools and in broad day light, lol. I understood then that it was out of that charitable feeling that told me some people dont want help , chances are the cell phone he had was stolen along with a car radio, lol. I could only handel that place for 37 years, I learned my leason. I used to work at Hortus nursery and next door one of the people I used to help out now and then with cigs, ended up being one of the north hollywood bank robbers , the one they let bleed to death on the street. And the worst thing is , that I and a few others would hire him for side jobs, just by knowing him we all got investigated. Glad Im out of that hell hole, lol. Good luck with them, and be carfull, Please.  


1 Mar 2002 @ 19:43 by magical_melody : Trust the questions and Your Heart!
Mark, I encourage you to extend yourself if you feel moved to, to this man. It takes courage to reach out. However, if one listens to the inner heart, the higher Spirit, will speak the words and know what to do. Life is full of surprises, and it is no accident that the man is in your face. Opportunity is at hand! Blessings, Alana  


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9 Feb 2002 @ 23:28: Another Animal Story



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