21 October, 2007

Wet Blankets

11th street clean wet sidewalk
just washed bar mats draped over parking meter
half-moon clear sky
Modesto leaning on his broom
"Modesto, where's your sleeping bag?"
"I have no sleeping bag. Just two blankets. But they all wet."
He opens the door to the janitor closet.
"See. They all wet. I make some money, go wash blankets."
I wish him a good night.
"Be careful. Anyone try and mess with you, call my name," he says nodding his head, "I'll be there."

Broken Glass

I head out for a walk. I have the bracelet with me. Here comes Modesto. "What's up Modesto?"
"I gotta make a dollar. No problem. I'll make it," he said smiling.
I'll wait for a better time to give him the bracelet.

Modesto stands in front of "Wish". One of the bartenders is lighting a cigarette for him. Modesto's hands are cupped around the cigarette. He inhales, then looks up and sees me. We both cross the alley meeting in the middle. He points about half-way down the block. Some guys are smoking and drinking.
"Broken glass and cans," he says.
"They broke bottles?" I ask.
"Is ok. I go clean up." he says.
"Modesto, wait, I've got something for you." I take out the woven bracelet and give it to him. He turns it over in his hands and examines the bracelet, not quite sure what to make of it. "It says Modesto. Keep it with you, in case you forget your name," I joke.
He looks at the bracelet, slips it into his coat pocket and goes to sweep up the broken glass.

20 October, 2007

Stories to Come

Watching the Lunar Eclipse with Modesto
"My Father was a General in the Cuban Army"
How Modesto Came to Be in This Country
13 Children, 4 wives
Finding Money, Hiding Money
Modesto is Given a Van for His 60th Birthday
Modesto: Ex-Marine, Black Belt in Karate


More than two weeks have passed since Modesto's birthday. I still haven't gotten the bracelet to him. I've been working during the day, staying home at night, so our paths have not crossed very often. I took the bracelet out of my bag. I didn't want to lose it.

On Tuesday I was on my way home from the local food co-op. I'd picked up a few ounces of "Fair Trade" dark-roast decaffeinated coffee beans, a sesame bagel from a local bagelry, a couple of pieces of spicy, "Mayan" dark chocolate, about an ounce of organic arugula and some organic whipped cream cheese. A cornucopia of flavor for only a few dollars.

I was waiting for the light to turn when I saw Modesto. He shook his head, and smiled "hello" in his customary fashion. He was holding a pair of stylish sunglasses in his left hand. "Nice sunglasses," I said.

He smiles. "Five dollars. I want to sell for five dollars."

I said, "You should keep them, you need to protect your eyes from the sun."

He shook his head. "No, I don't need".

As he crossed the street he turned around and called back to me, "I give you sunglasses if I don't sell them in half-hour."

08 October, 2007

Gift for Modesto

Finding a gift for someone who has and needs next to nothing poses a challenge. I didn't want to give him anything that would invite theft. At the Powell street turn-around there were about half-a-dozen different crafts booths. "Bracelets Your Name Five Minutes". I had "Modesto" woven with threads of warm brown, copper and yellow against a black background. Colors to blend in with his sun-toasted skin.
Modesto was walking toward me, broom in hand, when I got off the bus at 11th and Folsom. "Modesto, how does it feel to be 61?"
"I'm sixty! Born 1947". His eyes glimmered.
"Modesto, I have something for you". I held the bracelet up against his wrist.
"No," he said. "I can't wear. I'm too dirty, need to shower."
I had never noticed the black on his hands.
As we turned the corner he said, "I need to make a few dollars. Get something to drink. I'm alcoholic. Gotta work."

03 October, 2007

"La Policia Mi Amigos"

This part of SoMa isn't exactly the "tourist district", but "the sweep" could include this neighborhood too. A police van is parked on Howard Street near 12th. Why?

They better not sweep Modesto away. I go to the alley to check on him. His sleeping bag is gone. Perhaps he got word of the "sweep" and has hidden his (few) belongings. I probably shouldn't worry; the cops assigned to this part of SoMa know Modesto. "Police?" he says shrugging his shoulders, "they know me. Never bother me. They my friends".

SoMa Patrols will shepherd homeless

SF Chronicle, October 3, 2007

"San Francisco will begin cracking down this week on homeless people who commit quality-of-life crimes in a 15-block area of the city's South of Market district - the tourist-heavy section that includes Bloomingdales, the Metreon and Moscone Center.

The city will send teams of outreach workers and police officers to offer social services to any homeless person . . . If the homeless people refuse the services, they will receive a citation and will be told to appear in traffic court in 45 days."

Since when is "refusing services" a crime?

Night of the Lovefest

On Saturday night I was walking up 11th towards Folsom. Modesto was on 11th walking towards Harrison. Just as I was about to put my foot down, there's Modesto bending down to pick-up a dollar bill. I said, "Hey, that's mine!" He's ready to hand it over to me.

"No Modesto, you keep it. Next time you find money, give some to me".

I've heard from several people that he has a talent for finding money. "That Modesto, he's always finding money . . ."

Now I've seen it with my own eyes. He works and lives in the footsteps and shadows of the "scenesters." Lucky for him, many too drunk to notice they've dropped a couple of bills from their wallet.