Posts Tagged ‘wanderers’

I walked along the streets, wishing to go to Golden Gate Park, and for some reason unknown to me, to the Haight. I have been there several times before on my previous visits to this city, and each time left saddened, the place feeling off. I first went years ago, in the mid/late 1980s reminiscing of the 60s, the hippie enclave that it once was, the place and time i read about in my teens wishing that i had been there. I remember it feeling empty, devoid of people and life, disappointing to my dreams. I have been back a few times since, in the last few years when i have passed through the city, and remember the edgy vibe that i felt as i neared the park. But something drew me back. But that was then. Yesterday was a beautiful sunny saturday,and after the rains of the day before, the streets were full of life.

As i walked on my way there, through emptier side streets i felt the energy stream through me,still not totally understanding what was happening. I felt joints loosen, and expanding thoughts run through my brain, of connections with the day and the world at large. I felt smiley for a moment, and content with the day.

He passed by and told me i looked beautiful today and smiled in a non-threatening way. A compliment that was just that and i smiled too. He carried an old external frame backpack, a sleeping bag attached underneath, hanging just mid-butt where his pants were torn. I walked behind him and watched as he looked at a tree on the sidewalk and picked a few leaves, and towards the ground where wildflowers grew, i passed him as he stopped for another, one of the many small flowers in blue. At the traffic light he caught up and showed me the mini-bouqet he made, beautiful with a certain flare and i told him so. He says he offered five up a day, interesting who would accept and who would refuse. he did not offer me one, but i did not feel snubbed. I went to use the bathroom by the playground where a woman in a wheelchair sat in front of the sink and i saw a tear in her eye. She was out the door by the time i left. I noticed that beneath her skirt that would flow if she stood, that she was missing a leg. He walked up and gave her the bouquet.

I continued my walk through the panhandle and into golden gate park marveling at the shape and green of the trees, and the diversity of people who passed through the park. i entered into the field in Golden Gate park where the street kids and others hang out, a place where i have felt off kilter before wanting to get away from the darkness i saw there, and did now too. It was here that i said to myself a season ago that i could not continue to live on the edge, that i needed to act and let myself shine. My acceptance of myself and others, the belief that i am not bad for what i am slips away as i see them in groups – once again becoming the them. And perhaps because they are in another state – smoking a variety of substances in a non-smoking park, gathered in groups with their dogs, a girl with a huge beer before noon, talking loudly, swearing, stuff strewn about and i felt sad, though once upon a time in my youth i would have been drawn to that. I passed a couple sitting in front of their bikes with trailers, cycling up the coast, anything helps the sign said and i did not stop to talk, to ask about the journey. Another group, older, more grey hair, was down the path with drums and a guitar, sitting silent, a man looked at his watch, yes i can wish you a good morning – its 11:45. Then, as before i rejected that life, and lumped all together.

As i walked beyond the green, past the tennis courts, and to a path i love, i thought about it some more. How were those kids really different from those on spring break, clean cut, drinking and partying up a storm in hotel rooms, beside beaches. And how are they really different than the Saturday night crowd in club zone. And how are they really different than we were when we were teens, the suburban partying scene? Or even those who were glorified in the days of the summer of love?

It was only passing through the haight that i realized the difference. Many were strung out, but they seemed to have a sense of community. As i walked along the street, with the head shops, cheap beer and food, hippy clothes, and a few book and alternative stores i realize that as a teen i would have loved the street as it stands now – even with the chain stores – ben and jerrys, american eagle and others further down and the camera clicking tourists, and kids who have come down for the day. And i also remembered that in my reading, that there were always those who were strung out that it was part of the scene, and in my teens i would have loved to hang with those in the park. With those who dared to step out to something unknown and new, or some who probably had no choice but to set out. Do i set myself apart because i am no longer young, or because i see the effects of the wasted life, drugs filling the empty spaces and leading to an energy that is on the edge, an edge that strips the freedom many once sought.

Walking out of the park, by the tunnel, another man spoke to me. He too told me i looked beautiful – perhaps the peace of the trees had done me well. he was a black man, with greying dreads and half his teeth with two friends, who i had passed by before. He asked me if i was going the same place as he. Not sure where you are going i honestly say – figure medical marijuana or perhaps methodone maintenance clinic. He was about to reply but his friend pulled him away. They walked along, out of the park, onto Haight St. A louder energy – greating many along the way, asking how are you doing, yet edgy as one lightly kicks a bicycle.

Still they greeted many and i could feel the community that was there on the street. A community i have looked on at in other similar locales before. Still, he knew i was not one of them, though many may have more stable housing than myself. Still i think of the guy who first told me i was beautiful, who adds joy to the street, and a few of the people i have met along the road. And i pretend that i am different. Why do i reject people like myself, and in what way do i reject those who are in my boat and do not connect.

And he and the other who told me i was beautiful made me feel good. I walked along with joy in my heart, not just from that but within by the day. I went down a side street where the victorians are restored, and browsed a garage or really sidewalk sale in front of one of the homes. A well dressed man with neatly cropped hair dragged out two red plastic suit cases, and said to me with a sneer, love to sell these would match the red of your coat and waltzed into the house. But somehow, he is deemed acceptable by society while the others are not. And when in my denied arrogance have i put others down.

I think of the woman from my dorm in Monterey, who would not speak to me as we waited for the same bus heading up the coast to Watsonville and beyond. She wandered the coast as best she ccould. she had MS or a similar condition, maybe recovering from a strokem looking for a new doctor after hr old had passed away. As her body slips away, so too does her mind. She walks proudly with her walker and duffle bag on top, polite to the bus drivers to the extreme but she will not look at me an i do not know why. Stuff and piles of papers strewn around her bed and she sleeps fully dressed with her stuff around her waist, and looks nervously at all. Her eyes are distant as she struggles for dignity. And she struggle to preserve her facade, and sees that i have fallen too, and does not want to come near, to be associated with what she denies in herself. I understood, and just wanted to help her onto the right bus. And i felt sad that she would not see me.

And i think about the woman in my dorm one night in Santa Cruz. An older woman with a battered suitcase, messy hair, worn face and bruise on her nose, wearing layers and layers of clothes. She spoke to me as she ate – Bought rice from the chinese takeout, and burritos from the garbage. She admitted that to me. We chatted a bit, and as she went on i found it had to follow her speech, but i sat and gave her my energy and listened, She exhibited paranoia as she talks of conspiracy, but underneath i understood what she said, caught in a system that tries to strip away your dignity, and having been betrayed by others too hard and too much. She talked of hotels to stay on the cheap. she should be enjoying retirement but wanders on and on. She knew my life was similar though i tried to hold myself apart. I got tired and went out for a smoke, chatting with students from the Netherlands and a guy from Wales, she comes out and bums a butt, and the younger girls draw back and later ask it i knew her well. Met her tonight i say, and say nothing more.
And i think of the woman who snuck into the dorm – i saw her again the day i left. She looked familiar and not just the night before- i asked if we had met, and she said no -mentioned having lived there many years ago and in Europe and rushed to get away. I passed it off as one of those many meetings where you know you have met, but maybe not in this life or body. It was only when i got to San Francisco that i knew how i knew her.

And how many of us try to avoid one another, still carry on that thought of “betterment’ or difference when we really are all the same – people who want acceptance and recognition and most of all love. Our flavours vary, and the way we live, but we are part of the same dance, I took a walk today, to the park, and met and saw many on my way. A few stood out and i ask why them, but out the all two told me i looked beautiful today and from that my energy shown.

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