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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Home...

My neighbor has a holiday party every year -- in the three years I've lived on Fulton Street, this is the first time I was able to attend. I'm glad I did.

Here's what it's all about...a group of good people talking and chatting over wine and soup and deserts. After an hour or so of sharing, we pack up and leave. For the Haight. Packed down with jackets and blankets and gloves and clean, new socks.

The socks are the most popular item among the homeless, followed by the blankets.

Handing them out to VERY thankful homeless people puts a whole new perspective on their plight. The most common thing I heard? "I don't need another (insert item here), give it to someone who needs it more than I do. But I'll take a (insert item here)". And then there was the guy who put on an old suede coat and began jumping around saying things like, "Oh man, this is phat. This is so bad".

How can you not enjoy that?

I'm sitting in a cafe right now, and a homeless woman I know walked by, waved, then turned and came in to tell me her good news. It went something like this:

"I'm getting a place next week."

My eyebrows raise. "Really?"

"Yeah. The police have been really good to me. This is my year. I don't need aid, I just need a place for a couple months so I can get back on my feet. I need a job. I'm a year away from retirement."

"Where are you moving?"

"The Coronado. I was worried about it, but they put a million dollars into fixing it up."

"So, when do you move in?"

"Wednesday. It's my Christmas present!"

Let me tell you about this lady. What I know. She sits on Geary Street, near the Walgreen's on the sidewalk. Reading. She has a paper cup, for donations, but she doesn't ask for them. She reads. Koontz (who she's tired of -- to much of the same stuff), Anne Rice (her favorite author -- but she doesn't like the vampire stuff), Amy Tan, etc.

That's how I got to know her. Unlike the other homeless, who, out of survival, I've learned to pass by (if you let your heart out, you'll end up on the street among them -- there are that many in the city), she never fails to grab my attention. I have yet to ask her her story, but we trade pleasantries, and I've talked with her on the bus a couple of times.

But I've never given her money.

Don't ask me why. I've given to lots of people. But something has stayed my hand with her. I have no idea what it is. Maybe it's the fact that she's not begging, not making you feel guilty, not bemoaning her fate. And maybe, a part of me feels that giving her money, dropping coins in her cup, will cheapen our relationship. That in a way, it would insult her. Strange, no?

I've got forty dollars in my pocket right now. I'm going to track her down and give her twenty.

Happy holidays...

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About Me

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This is me and one of my two cats. His name is Cougar, and he’s an F1 Chausie. A chausie is a new breed of cat under development. Chausies are the result of a cross between a domestic cat (in Cougar’s case, a Bengal) and a jungle cat (Felis Chaus). Cougar’s mom is 8 pounds and his father is a 30-pound jungle cat. He’s about 16 pounds, super intelligent, spirited, and toilet trained. A writer without a cat (or two) is not to be trusted.