Tag Archives: San Francisco

If Only…

If only I hadn’t gone to the job fair. I’d recently moved to Vancouver and needed a job. At the job fair I met Tye. And we talked about working at Walmart. Three years later I am doing good at Walmart. But if…

If only I hadn’t had the crazy roommate move in with me. I thought having a roommate would help. But she was crazy. Thought I worked for the police. Ate all my food. And then wanted to have sex with me. Craziest thing of all really. But then I wouldn’t have moved to Vancouver.

If only the weather hadn’t been so cold in the spring. If only the workplace hadn’t been so cold. And then so loud. If only I hadn’t had a great friend in Vancouver.

If only I hadn’t stayed in touch with Michelle. We met years ago. And had been close ever since. She’s been an amazing friend. And I’ve been a wandering fool. If only she hadn’t stayed friends with me all those years. I wouldn’t have had the option to move to Vancouver.

If only I hadn’t met her at Burgerville. It wasn’t a place either us belonged at the time. But we were there for a short time together. We got to know each other. Became friends and became close. If only when she asked to be my friend I had said, “no.” It would have been a sad mistake. But it could have happened.

If only I hadn’t gotten fired from the deli downtown. I worked for a Korean couple who barked at me. The man said women were trouble. The woman said I made her feel stupid. But I worked and worked. Coming in late every day. I didn’t know the clock was set fast. If they hadn’t fired me one dark day I wouldn’t have gone to Burgerville. And I would never have met my best friend: Michelle.

If only in the wet of winter I hadn’t moved to Portland. Starting out in the city wasn’t easy. I had to really work hard and rent cheap places. When I could rent any place. I had at one point planned on moving to Seattle with a woman. But it didn’t work out and I landed in Portland. Why Portland, I didn’t even know the place. But I knew, M, the girl hated the place. And it was close enough for me to afford a ticket on the bus. If only she hadn’t hated Portland. If only I could have afforded to move to Austin. If only I would have moved to another town.

If only I had stayed a week longer. I had been camping by the river. And the night I left the water flooded my tent. A couple years later I went back and found it. It was under a deep layer of mud. I’d never thought the river could flood. If only I had stayed another night. It might have been my last.

I had met M on a lonely night in San Francisco. I had turned while walking to talk to a friend behind me. But bumped into M. She was looking for someone for talking. I sat down and we talked for hours. We blew smoke bubbles. My heart was feeling light like a bubble. If only I hadn’t bumped into the strange girl. If only I hadn’t fallen in love. If only the night was just the night. But we stayed together for weeks. And then later went on a long trip. If only we hadn’t been so close. I would never have made plans to move to Seattle. I would never have moved to Portland. If only on one night in San Francisco I was walking on the other side of the street.

She had left home to see her favorite poet. Allen Ginsberg, was alive when she when she left Seattle. But he was dead when she got to San Francisco. If only she had loved a different poet. If only she hadn’t been feeling lonely. If only she had never left home. There are so many unknown if only’s in her story. If only her family had been closer.

If only I hadn’t been cruising around the Bay Area. If only I’d never started on my experimental life. I left college to be on the road for a while. But I never left the Bay Area until I met M. If only I had never met her. If only I had stayed in school I would have a totally different career. But there had been a longing in my heart for something different. If only I had been happier with my life choices. If only I had ignored the call of the wild.

If only I hadn’t been in San Francisco. If only I hadn’t met M. If only I hadn’t moved to Portland. If only I hadn’t worked at Burgerville. If only I hadn’t met Michelle. If only I hadn’t moved back after many years. If only I hadn’t gotten a job at Walmart. If only so many more things I can’t count or recall. And a few I am not even aware of right now. I wouldn’t be here writing this, and you wouldn’t be here reading it.

I for one am happy all the “if onlys” worked out the way they did.

Rainbow Gatherings

The first Rainbow Gathering I went to was in Oregon. I went with M. I hitched from Santa Cruz. And Met M in Eugene. From there it was east to the gathering. Near the town of Prineville.

We knew little about life at a gathering. We camped near the entrance. At this gathering parking was close. We camped alone. And had a hard time finding food.

At this gathering I didn’t explore much. I did talk to the Van Girl. It was a bit awkward. But it went well. We just chatted about what happened before. She asked about some shorts she loaned me. I had dumped them in the river. But I told her I lost them.

There was a big rainbow parachute at the gathering. People got underneath it. And if you pumped it right it would fill with air. Turning it into a giant cloth bubble. It would shrink back down. But pumping it again raised it back.

During the gathering M and I went to town. We weren’t eating much at the gathering. She sent for money from home. It took all day, and we were feeling down. At last the cash came in, and we bought food. We got food to share too.

One of the last nights we were at the gathering I ate some crackers. It was late near a campfire. The crackers were soft. Then I noticed they weren’t crackers. It was meat. I got sick for a couple days. On the way back to Santa Cruz I threw up. Alone with M in a strange town. Bent over throwing up in the gutter. Knowing anyone passing would think I was a junkie. But then I felt better.

The next gathering I went with Sean. I probably should have gone alone. I ditched him the first day. And didn’t see him until the last day. This time I camped with the Krishnas. There was two groups of Krishnas. Those who have no idea who they are, might be surprised to know there are factions.

The gathering was muddy. It rained a great deal. And there were huge flies. There were two access points for the gathering. Both were a good walk from parking.

I remember one area was particularly muddy. The trail became a muddy mess. I am sure people lost shoes. Maybe other things. And it grew and grew. People tried to walk on the edge, or around. But where ever people walked they killed the plants. Then with the water and no plants it turned to mud.

I ran into China at this gathering. I had met her years before in San Francisco. Another one of the many women in my life on whom I had a crush. But for whom I had no chance. I met her in San Francisco A friend and I were playing a joke on people. We walked up and down Haight Street. Have you seen our friends we asked. They have dreadlocks, were wearing hoodies, had a dog, wearing corduroy pants. They may have been getting into a VW van. Also they might not smell so great. Yeah, it could have been almost anyone on part of the street. Which was the joke.

At the gathering we spent time together with a guy who had some special drugs. He also had kava kava, which isn’t a drug. I took the kava kava and a pill. I felt so liquid an d tired and open. But most of all relaxed.

At this gathering I learned how to dig a spring. And before I left I dug one for the Krishna kitchen. Maybe I should write a chapter about Krishna as well.

There was a stream through the middle of the gathering. Some people were floating down the river. A friend of mine talked me into using her raft. But it was also her bed. I wasn’t sure, but she insisted. I’m not sure if I popped it. But it was a fun trip down the stream. I had to take all my clothes off not to get them soaked. Gathering don’t have laundry mats.

Later while digging a spring for the Krishnas I took off my pants. I was in the hole. They would have gotten wet and muddy. One of the Krishnas came over. He told me I should never be naked, because even when we are alone we could offend the sky.

There was another Krishna group at the gathering. A bigger one. I spend time at their tent too. Their guru was at the gathering. Christians also go to gatherings sometimes. They set up kitchens and talk to people about Jesus. Which is cool enough, as long as people don’t feel pressured. Gatherings really are places open to all ideas.

Towards the end of this gathering rumors started. The National Guard were coming. But they never did. The gatherings attract all sorts of people. The common bond is the desire to escape mainstream society. If only for a while. But some have paranoid ideas.

At the end of this gathering I met Pam. I had met Sean the same day, and he wanted to leave. Later I told him. I wasn’t ready. The time passed. I dug the spring. Then it was time to eat. I talked about our plans with a few people. It was getting dark. And I assumed we would leave the next day. When someone told me they found us a ride. It all happened for a reason.

The next gathering was Montana. This was a dry gathering. Having gone with a bus full of people. I camped near most of them. I ate at their kitchen, but also many others. At a gathering there are few rules.

No alcohol. Not in the gathering itself. I haven’t been in years and don’t know if this is enforced. There is a place called A Camp, next to the gathering where people drink. All the food is free. You are not allowed to trade food. And on the trade issue. There is a trade circle. But the use of money is not allowed. This is in part related to Forest Service regulations. At a gathering the Family Circle makes the decisions. This is a meeting held every day, and anyone can attend. Anyone can speak. And anyone can vote. The model is based on consensus. Which sometimes means the most persistent win. This group votes on where the gathering is held the next year.

This is anarchy in the best way. A girl once shared a story. She was walking along a trail. Some people were trying to trade rice. The girl told them you couldn’t trade food at a gathering. But the wouldn’t listen. We can do whatever we want this is a gathering, the retorted. So she picked up the food and walked away. You can’t do that, they yelled.

“This is a gathering, I can do whatever I want,” she replied.

At gatherings people sleep in tents. Or in cars in some cases. Food comes from free kitchens. These kitchens are supported by a range of people. Some people will have small kitchens. One year there was a ramen kitchen. All you need is water and noodles. It was popular. Religious groups serve food. They use it as outreach. But other groups get involved too. And some Rainbow tribes. I have long felt most of the support comes from a few. People who work all year to be able to go to a gathering. I know some owned businesses. They would close every year and go to the gathering.

Trading was done at the trade circle. Greed was one reason there was no money. But I heard many talk about trading up. How they planned to get an item. Or bragging about their trades. You don’t need money to be greedy.

Law was enforced by Shanti Sena. In theory this was everyone. Say you were being robbed. You would shout, “shanti sena.” Anyone who heard would run to your aid. The reality is a small group did most of this work. They had radios like real cops. They walked around like cops. But there were not bad people. And neither are real cops. And sometimes the shanti sena system worked. I do not know much about process. There was little if any crime.

And then there were the real cops. Most from the Forest Service. They were called LEOs by some. Law Enforcement Officers. The most common term was six-up. When you saw a cop you yelled. It was meant to let others know. Some of these officers had been to more than one gathering.

And where do people shit. Well, trenches are dug in the ground.

One event which stands out from this gathering is a fire. It was a small fire in a tree. But a bunch of people raced to the scene. We formed a line for buckets and passed water. The group of us put the fire out.

Also one kitchen was serving seitan. It sounds like Satan. It was good, but only enough for one serving per person. Let me save you from Satan I teased people.

In some ways Montana was a lonely gathering for me. I didn’t feel close to people. There was a cute girl named Dada from Chicago. Again I had a crush on her. But had no chance. This was also the gathering I stayed at the longest. A small group will come to the gathering early. They set up springs and trails. At the end a small group stays to clean and repair the land. The idea is to leave it like it had never happened.

After Montana I went to Boulder.

The last gathering I went to was in Michigan. I was starting to feel like I didn’t belong. Which is my issue and no one else. At this gathering there was a problem with part of the site. We had been asked to move. Most did. Many did not. There was a stream through the site. We had made a bridge to cross. On one side of the river the Forest Service didn’t want us. They said it was an archaeological site. After people refused to move they sent in cops. They put one person in handcuffs. Then people went a bit crazy. Some were trying to form circles around the cops. Which is a bad idea. No one likes to feel trapped. The cops had ATVs. At one point I recall pulling a guy out of the way of a cop on an ATV. In the end everyone moved.

I find it strange. This was the most recent gathering. But it is the one I recall the least. This was my shortest gathering. I had a job waiting for me at home. It was out in the middle of no where. Land is cheap if you care to live there.

What I do recall is having to truck water into the gathering. The water on site wasn’t drinkable. Though I may have drank some. Of course after the gathering I met my ride and went to Boulder.

Gatherings are always held on Forest Service land. Never in National Park. Or Wildlife Refuges or Wilderness areas. No one can speak for the family. So no one can sign a permit. And no permits are ever signed. The family believes it is freedom to assemble. Forest Service considers in an illegal event. They are always free. Another reason not to sign a permit. The permit would come with a fee.

Who was I?

When I was in college I voted for Bill Clinton. Yeah, part of it was in revolt. But being in Santa Cruz made me a liberal. Or a progressive. Or a socialist. Maybe even a communist. Once they closed the streets. People did art and wrote in chalk. I wrote, “capitalism is slavery.”
And I believed it was true. The logic was we need food to live. Being forced to buy food, forced us to work. And forced labor is slavery. Of course, life is more complex than a teen’s understanding of the world.

While living in Santa Cruz I hung out with radicals. But I am not sure I ever completely bought the program. Santa Cruz is a notorious community. With a well known college. It is in the nature of students to be liberal. Because it is in their nature to question power. And power is conservative. The town was full of ideas. And I was open to all of them.

To be honest I still like the concept of everything being free. Like at a Rainbow Gathering. But I am aware gatherings are for a short time. And they depend heavily on people with money. People who spent most of their year at jobs. I wish it could work as a permanent model. But I know it wouldn’t.

Still while involved with CAL-PIRG, I believed. It wasn’t as extreme. Maybe the first step in my migration to the right. We worked for good causes. Causes I still believe in. CAL-PIRG is based in part on the ideas of Ralph Nader.

When I moved to Portland I still was a hippie of sorts. I would still wear skirts from time to time. I spent time with radicals. And maybe a few eco-terrorists. War was wrong. Capitalism was wrong. The environment was good. Money was evil.

But I had a job. And I worked hard. Work might be the force which makes more people conservative. When you work for what you have. And you have to work long hours. At a job you hate. You question why someone should sit there and do nothing. Why should you give them anything. Or at least I did. Even though it used to be me sitting there asking.

I’ve never been the jerk who says, “get a job.” Though I may have thought it at times. But my silent judgement is still a judgement. And it is still wrong. What I have done a few times is buy food for people. While in San Francisco a homeless man told me something about money. They never have enough money to buy more than booze, he explained. And then someone gives them $100. Sure they could spend it on a lot of things. But old habits kick in faster and they spend it on booze. I don’t buy the logic. But I understand.

During my first stay in Portland I volunteered at a call center. We gave information to renters about their rights. It was free for callers. A semi-leftist cause. But one which also drew me to the right. Because it made me think also of landlord’s rights. And in a positive way.

During the late 90s the WTO, NAFTA, GATT, IMF, FTZs and the World Bank were the topic of protest. There was the protest in Seattle, which M told me she attended. There were a number of protests across the world. In fact right up until Sept. 11, 2001. If you look back everything changed. The movement disappeared.

When I started learning about politics I was on the far left. An anarchist. But in the true meaning. Not a nihilist. While living in Upstate New York I had read Chairman Mao’s book. On Guerrilla Warfare was about change.

Moving to New York was a simple choice. But I wasn’t as liberal anymore. At least not as much as some of my friends. Already I was trending right. This continued as I worked my job in Glens Falls. Again hard work changes people. And their ideas and views.

Later I lived in Portland again. I helped a different group. They were open communists. They had a good mission. But already I was losing faith. I had my doubts about taking and giving. Most of all my doubts about power. Albert Camus changed me. His book The Rebel most of all. It didn’t change my ideas. As much as it made me think about power. He pointed out communist rule was also flawed. At the end of the day in some of the same ways capitalism was flawed.

I took from Camus a value of the rule of law. An understanding of justice and mercy. And a fear of power. Every modern revolution he said made the state more powerful. His writing is full of compassion. A concern for the little guy.

At one point I posted a comment on a gathering website. It was based on my reading of Camus. I was critized. And knew I wasn’t a hippie anymore.

On a spiritual level I was also changing. When I left Bethany I dropped a lot. My former conservative ideas. My former faith. And I started from the ground up. This was part of my plan. I didn’t expect to be doing it so alone. But it made me stronger.

On the street I discovered the Krishna movement. Over time I fell in love with the believers and the faith. I’ve tried to go back to church. And failed. But when I go to ashram. It feels safe. More about Krishna will come in the future.

People of San Francisco

Jamie is who I recall most from San Francisco. She was a good friend. A naturally funny person.

One night we were walking. We got on the bus. “Someone stepped in it,” she said. What she meant was dog poop. “Oh it was me,” she exclaimed. Everyone on the bus laughed. A few people moved away from her. It smelled bad. At the next stop someone got on the bus. They sat behind her. And right away waved their hand in front of their nose. Everyone laughed again.

Another time, she messed up her own hair. Pulled her hair sticking straight out. Then we walked around downtown acting crazy. “Something wrong with my hair,” she asked people. A person was checking something in their eye in a window. “I see what is in your eye, your finger,” she joked.

Jamie once joked about getting a dog. In the city shelters wouldn’t give pets to homeless people. She imagined going in to get a pet. “Where will it exercise?” she imagined them asking. Her answer was in the backyard. Followed by the punch line, “now we know you’re lying. No one in San Francisco has a backyard.”

She was friend with a girl named Chloe. And I had a small crush on Chloe. The two of them had been friends for a long time. Once they had been in Fresno, and got caught shoplifting. They lied to the police about their names. But while waiting, Chloe turned and said, “hey Jamie look at this.” Busted.

She taught me about leftover food. You watch and wait while people eat. When they get up you rush the table before a bus person. Then take what they leave. Once we were together and we did this at a restaurant. We both sat down. But she had to pee. She came back a few moments later. The owner had told her no restroom. He came behind her.

“Are you with him?” He was Asian and sounded upset. But I said we were together. Then he apologized and let her use the bathroom. It was funny, he thought we were customers.

I know Jamie could have done great things with her life. I hope she has made the most of her talents.

I met summer in a long funny episode. And her friend Yo. I forget her real name.

It started in Berkeley. I haven’t talked about Berkeley yet but I will soon. I was on campus at an event called the Hate Circle. There were two girls there, and we started talking. They were looking for People’s Park. We walked to the park. They told me their plans to sleep in the park. I warned them off the idea. Then offered to let them camp with me.

During the night I got close with one of the girls. They had flown from Salt Lake City to sleep in People’s Park. The next day they wanted to go to San Francisco. I wanted to go to the city. One of them was really cute. And the drama was too good to miss. We took BART.

Once on Haight I figured we needed to find blankets for the girls. In the process I met Summer and Yo. Summer and I started to beg for blankets. And the girls went shopping. Summer, Yo and I were confused. We figured they had to be lying about something. We started to take apart the whole story. We picked at details for hours and hours.

I call her Yo because of what she told me once. She was a smart girl. “If you say yo after everything you say, it becomes addictive,” she said. Yo try yo it yo see yo for yo yourself yo what yo I yo mean.

At on point the girls walked up while we were talking about them. But I don’t think they heard us. All day long we tried to get blankets. And then we couldn’t find the girls. Summer and I camped in the park. But we chose a bad spot. It was on a slope and we slide off the cardboard over and over all night. We weren’t involved. Though I liked her a lot.

The next day it turned out the girls had gone home with some guys. But not just any guys, The Horribles. These were a group Summer knew. They used drugs, wore old fashioned clothes. They pretended to be a band. Summer said one of the girls had been involved with one of the guys. But they hadn’t had sex.

The girls were there for a couple days. And the whole time we were confused. Summer, Yo and I didn’t believe their story. Who flies to the bay area to camp outside?

I did meet the one of the girls at a gathering years later. So, they may have been sincere. The sad part of the story is about Summer. Turns out she was on drugs. I know because one day walking down Haight Street I saw her with a group. As I walked up I saw her doing a line.

I met a mugger on Haight Street. We actually spent time together a couple times. She didn’t mug me, but what she did bother me. And one day I did see her get arrested.

Her normal ploy was to meet teenage girls on the street. Then offer to get them high in the park. They would walk to the park. Of course you have to hideout to get high. When they found a location, she would threaten them if they didn’t turn over goods and money. One of the last times I saw her, she had taken her act to the street. Right on Haight Street she was forcing someone to turn over valuables.

I only knew her a short time. But an interesting woman crossed my path in the city. It was at a Hispanic restaurant, popular for its good food. I was in a part of the restaurant waiting for someone to leave something to eat. She saw me, and we started to chat.

The next day we met. We took a walk in the park. She had a camera and took pictures of the park. And took pictures of me. Her job was at one of the shops along Haight Street. When I went once to look for her, I couldn’t find her. And I had forgotten her name. I let a great person slip right out of my life.

Another person I let slip out of my life was Kerith. I met her while walking along Haight. She was looking for someplace. I took her there, and then we went to the park. I wanted to kiss her, and she could tell. She said I shouldn’t.

But then we became good friends. I spent a lot of time with her in the city. And called her from Santa Cruz. One time we were walking, and I started to cross the street. But she had paused. I looked back at her, “I know better than just crossing the street with you,” she smiled.

Her boy friend was no good. The house was a meth house. And she deserved better. I know one time I called and talked to her about some girl troubles of mine. I think it was the whole Amy, M and Jenn drama.

Another time we were with her friend. We walked by a statue of Shiva in a window on Castro Street. Her friend identified the statue as being Shiva. But I told him he was wrong. I had just read a book which said there wasn’t images of Shiva. But maybe I mis-understood because I was wrong. I told her later, and she said it was just as well. If her friend knew he was right, it would just go to his head.

She was a good friend.

There was a girl who made jewelry for money. The last time I saw her she sold from a table on Market Street. She was doing it the legal way. And while she was homeless, she was renting an office for work space and storage. I asked if she ever slept in the office. And she said a couple times, but she tried to not spend the night.

There was a strange period in the city when girls were crazy for me. It started somewhat in Berkeley. I had met a girl there and we went to the park. We talked and then started making out. She was pretty. I hope I didn’t hurt her, because I left town soon after.

In San Francisco I met up with a group of girls. One was young and pregnant. I thought she was cute, and even imagine for a moment a life we could have together. One night the group of us went to Castro to spange. I was making out on the bus with another girl in the group. Then while we spanged on Castro. All the girls were young. After a while we rode the bus back to where the group camped. But one of the girls had to ride a bus in the morning. I walked with her for a while, and stayed up with her. She told me another girl in the group said I was dirty. So she didn’t want to do anything with me. And I guess my behavior at the time was pretty dirty.

It was actually too much for me. I met another girl downtown. She seemed like a good friend. We hung out a couple times. Next thing I know we are sitting next to the bay. And she starts making out with me. Okay, I know it sounds like I was passive. And I wasn’t. It just wasn’t what I expected.

She took me to a concert, The Smashing Pumpkins. Then afterwards we went to her house. She was drunk. We had sex. It was terrible. I never saw her again. And it makes me a little sad. None of it was what I expected, and I wonder if she feels like I used her. I was confused.

One of the most amazing people I met in San Francisco was Moon Raven. She was my dream for a while. We met and camped out in the park together. A younger boy was with her, and they said he was her brother. Moon Raven taught me some Warrant songs. She was creative and flighty.

The night we camped together was in Panhandle Park. We got wet from the sprinklers. The next day we went to Santa Cruz. And she broke my heart, and soon she was gone.

Maybe a year later she was back. I was in a different place in my life. But I still loved her. Even today I love her. M found a rose quartz crystal next to the river once. For some reason I had the crystal on me. One day I was walking with Jenn and Moon Raven. Afterwards I never saw the crystal again. M thought and I thought for a long time Jenn had taken it. But now I think Moon Raven has the crystal.

The last time I saw her was in Santa Cruz. She was pregnant and going home to Kansas. She had become a Christian.

San Francisco

My first experience with San Francisco was with my dad. But it was too much. There was no context. It was like a foreign language. So little of it meant much, and I don’t recall anything.

Then I went with school friends. Again it was too much. But I recall visiting Twin Peaks. I had been there with my dad. It is amazing at night.

As for my new experiences. The trip to the city was taken with a group. We were going to the gathering. At least we planned on going to the gathering. The first leg of the trip was to San Francisco.

The bus was so crowded. And when we got off it felt so unreal. I never imagined I could feel comfortable. We were on Haight Street, near Ashbury. The epicenter of the old hippie culture.

There is a GAP there now. Most of the hippie street kids gathered at Masonic and Haight. The first night was a blur. I recall camping on a hill in the park.

But only for one night. The big park is Golden Gate Park. But at the other end of the street is Bueana Vista Park. I spent less time in the city. And I camped in fewer locations. But still the timeline is a bit of a mix-up. If my memory isn’t too bad we camped in Bueana Vista Park.

The first trip to the city was a failure. I wanted out. I felt trapped. I don’t recall how long the visit lasted.

Later trips to the city were more of my choice. I got to know the city more. It became what I imagined it couldn’t, comfortable. I still miss the city sometimes. Not in the same way I miss Santa Cruz.

The camp site in Bueana Vista Park was just off a main trail. But behind some bushes. We stayed there until I had enough and returned to Santa Cruz.

On a later trip I camped with a group in Golden Gate Park. Walking around the city with all your blankets was too much work. So I stashed mine during the day. Except one day I recall they were gone.

This actually started an interesting night. I walked back to Haight Street and ran into a friend. Her name was Jamie. She also needed blankets. We wondered around trying to stay warm. It was late but she rang a doorbell, someone yelled from a window.

Towards morning we met a man in a car. He took us to the Castro District. Jamie and him did drugs and I tried to sleep. Then we went to his house. They went in and did cocaine. I slept in the back seat.

It must have been a friend of hers who invited us to sleep in the van. It was the van of a friend of a friend. She slept in it, and I slept in it and a few other people. It had been parked, but was getting tickets. So it was moved. It wasn’t stolen, but it wasn’t clear who owned the van.

At one point me and Jamie were at a drop in center. They sometimes refer people to shelters. We started talking about the funny story of the van. They joked about referring people to sleep in the van. Eventually I was asked to sleep elsewhere.

I think I went back to Santa Cruz.

One of my favorite camp spots was on the sidewalk. There was a small wall around a gas main. Easy enough to jump over, there was a gate which locked. On the other side was enough space to lay down, I liked being able to make a cardboard roof with the corners of the wall. At this spot someone got into the habit of leaving me two dollars every day. They just put it in my shoe.

It also wasn’t far from Haight Street. Another spot was along side a building. There was a small walkway. But it ended in a wall without a door. It was wide enough to lay down. And a small wall provided some protection from the sidewalk. One morning while waking up a woman though I was peeing. She asked me to pee somewhere else, I thought, “yeah this is my bedroom.”

Once walking along Haight Street I had a large flat piece of cardboard. “Nice mattress you got there,” a friend joked.

Thinking back I feel like I must have had other places I camped. But I don’t recall. I know as I got to know the city I explored more areas. But I always went back to sleep near Haight. I spanged on Castro.

One night I took a sign to Castro Street. If you don’t know it is the gay district in San Francisco. My sign said, “Jokes for a Quarter.” I made over $100 in a night. But such money was rare.

Sometimes I would go downtown. Walking around the city at night was interesting. It always felt safe to me. And I don’t know if it was, or I was just stupid. One night me and a friend looking for a party got lost in Hunter’s Point. I knew this was a bad part of town, but we made it through.

The only hassle I ever got in the city was near Fillmore and Haight. A friend of mine had an apartment. I had a hard time locating it based on the address. A youth at one point told me to get lost, I didn’t belong in his neighborhood. He must have thought I was trying to sell drugs.

Pot wasn’t a big deal in the city. One morning while sitting on the street a woman came out of her shop. Looking down she exclaimed, “hey look, pot.” She picked up the bag and offered it to me. I took it thinking I could sell the pot. But I got nervous and gave it to a friend. She told me about trying to quit speed.

I met M in San Francisco. A cold night walking along Haight Street. There was something of a game. The police would come along and asked people gathered to move. We were trespassing. Everyone would get up and disperse. But overtime new groups would begin to form. If they got to big or sat too long, the process started all over.

We had just been asked to move on by the police. I was turning to talk to someone behind me. My blankets rolled in my arms in front of me.

I Bumped into her. She was looking for someone to talk to she said. We went to Bueana Vista Park and looked at the stars. “Don’t let me have sex with you right away,” she said. The next day we left for Santa Cruz.

I took a number of people from San Francisco to Santa Cruz.

One night me and a friend named Cowboy were bored. So we started walking up and down the street looking for our friends. “Have you seen our friends,” we asked. “They had dreadlocks, are wearing a hoodie sweatshirt, patchwork corduroy pants. They smell a little and may have been seen getting into a VW bus.”

I think you get the picture. The joke was “our friends” could have been almost anyone on the street. But we did meet China and her friends. She was pretty. We went to Bueana Vista Park and talked. In the morning they went home. I met China again years later at a Rainbow Gathering.

There was a car Cowboy and I slept in with another friend for a short period.

At one end of Haight Street was the hippies. But the end closest to the park was where the gutter punks gathered. Most people on the street didn’t keep only to one end or the other. I had gutter punk friends and hippie friends. Near the part was a McDonald’s where people would often spange. Also there was  Cala Foods grocery store.

I met my street sister Raven in front of the McDonald’s. It also plays an important part in a future story. Once me and Jamie went to Cala Foods. She wanted to show me how to steal and get away. She took a juice and drank some, but someone saw her. She stashed it in the paper towel isle. And we walked around more. As we were leaving she was confronted and told not to return.

The only thing I ever stole from Cala Foods was a bottle of water. I was so thirsty, and tired. And not even thinking. I walked in and slipped it in my pocket and walked out. It was in the middle of the night. Afterwards I would often pretend to be stealing. Just to keep them off guard. I didn’t think stealing was right. But if they had to watch me, they couldn’t watch someone else.

There was also a Cala Foods near Castro. Once at the Castro store I was talking to the cashier. She also worked at the Haight store. She recognized me and we chatted. “Everyone there things you’re stealing,” she told me. I found it so funny.

I could tell you more stories about Jamie. And I will in a later chapter.

Haight Street felt dirty most of the time. The city of Santa Cruz cleaned their sidewalks. San Francisco did not clean sidewalks.

I never got in trouble in the city. In Santa Cruz early during my experience I got two tickets. But in San Francisco I had mastered lying to cops about my name. One night I was sitting against a pole on Haight. A cop came along and started asking me questions. “What is your name?” I lied. “If there isn’t a record we’ll take you downtown.” I called his bluff, even though he pressured me. In the end he knew it was pointless and left me alone. The cops knew street kids lied about their names.

One of my friends told me a funny story. He had been sleeping on the front green of Golden Gate Park. After the police awoke him they gave him a ticket. But he wouldn’t sign the ticket. So they took him to jail. In the morning, he got breakfast and a shower. Then the let him go. The next time he wanted a hot shower, breakfast and a bed for the night he joked about knowing what to do.

Speaking of cops, I remember a cop in Santa Cruz. At one point I acquired a sweat shirt for Aptos High Girl’s Volleyball. And I wore it all over the place. This cop got to know who I was a little. When he saw me he’d ask, “how’s the girls volley ball team doing?” Even after I parted with the sweat shirt. But I liked thinking he was familiar with me. And feeling he trusted me. It was all friendly.

I had a lot of unusual experiences in the city. One guy invited me to his apartment. I went cautiously and he started hitting on me. So I left. Downtown a guy offered to let me stay with him for the night. Then he kept saying I could sleep in the bed with him. Again I left. Or the poor mentally ill man who let me stay one night. I took a shower. In his bathroom was a broken radio. In the middle of the night he flipped out and said I had broken the radio. I left.

Nothing bad ever happened to me.

Food in the city was easy. Drop in centers would feed sometimes. Or you could beg for money. Random people would often give away free things. One night I found someone giving away pies from their car.

It was at a drop in center downtown I watched the movie The Fan. One of the characters is a knife salesman in San Francisco. “Did he try the Tenderloin District,” someone joked. At least when I was in the city, The Tenderloin was a sleazy area. When you wanted to insult a guy, a joke about working Polk Street did the trick.

One night I was on the beach close to the park. I started walking and walking. There were a lot of thoughts in my head. And I loved the beach. By the time I chose to walk back to the land, I was in Daily City. Lucky for me a friendly bus driver let me ride back to the city for free.

San Francisco was an exciting place. And there were so many different neighborhoods. I think if I ever had the chance to return and live in the city, I would do it in a heart beat.


My Second Year in Santa Cruz

My second year on the street was different.

I lived with Amy for a few weeks in the winter. Then I met M.

We met on a Haight Street in San Francisco. We got to know each other in Santa Cruz. Our last camp was out in the woods. And we named the trees along the path. Part of the walk to the woods was along train tracks. And she once told me of a dream. She was walking on train tracks. A man with a red face followed her down the tracks. Until she turned and confronted him. Then he was gone.

But M needed to go home to Seattle. James gave us a ride to her dad’s home. When we got there she tried to dump me. But I was desperate. I was sad and lonely. I begged. She didn’t dump me.

I returned to Santa Cruz alone. We planned to meet for the Rainbow Gathering in Oregon. I met her in Eugene. The gathering was in eastern Oregon. It was near the town of Prineville. My first gathering.

We traveled from the gathering back to her dad’s place in Seattle. Then we started east. We stopped in Idaho and Montana. But the longest stop was in Boulder. In Boulder we got wet, and we never got dry again.

After Boulder we went to Ann Arbor, Michigan. We traveled along the highways, hitch-hiking. And slept outside under the stars.

From Ann Arbor we went to Ithaca, New York. After I got arrested and released, we left town. Our next destination was Cambridge, Massachusetts. We stayed in Cambridge for a couple weeks. We spent our days in the park and at the bookstore. I gave her a dozen roses. She hid them under a shelf. Sometimes I like to think they would still be under the shelf today.

Then we came back to California. And she returned to Washington.

Soon after coming back I started to work. My first job was for Cal-PIRG. But it didn’t work out for me. I am not a salesman. And I didn’t agree with asking money from poor people. Sometime we went to neighborhoods near San Jose. But others we went to low-income areas of Santa Cruz.

“They have no money,” we would tell our leaders. “They can give you some spare change,” was the reply. And I thought I was working so I could stop begging. The PIRG group does good work. But it shouldn’t be looking to those who have so little. Others who have more should give more.

At one point I was having a bad day. I told them I couldn’t work. They gave me a guilt trip. They said it was because I wasn’t doing good, but I would do better. It was really about M. But I didn’t want to tell them. I quit soon after.

The next job I had wasn’t much better. But my boss became a friend. He became someone I respected. The job was collecting signatures for petitions on the ballot. I did it for months in Santa Cruz. I enjoyed being a part of the democratic process. The pay wasn’t great, but I made some money. I quit begging. And I saved some money.

When Thanksgiving came around I took the bus to visit M. We spent a few days together. And it was good. We made plans for me to move and live with her in Seattle. I went back to California to work and save money.

When I returned to Santa Cruz I camped in the woods. I worked doing the petitions. But the weather was getting wet and cold again.

One day I met Susan on the street. Susan had come to town with an older man, and two female friends. Theirs is the story of Santa Cruz’s ability to draw people and keep people. They had planned on driving through town, without even a stop. But their van broke down. And they stayed and became a part of the community.

Susan was older than me. I always thought of her as being wiser. She felt to me like someone who knew more about the world. But she often didn’t seem to know what she wanted. She was a free love hippy girl. Only as she pointed out to me once. This only meant she was free to choose. And it didn’t mean she would choose to have sex with someone. This was in reference to other guys, not myself.

One of her female friends was a Gemini. One of the few I have known in my life. And she was cute. I had a bit of a crush on her. Except if you ever did something for her because she was a girl, she would be angry. I could understand the theory, but in practice found it silly at times.

When I met Susan on the street it wasn’t my first meeting with her. We chatted and she gave me a hug. She expressed concern about my being cold. Then offered to let me camp with her and her friends.

They camped on the beach in Davenport. It was on the property of the Odwalla headquarters. Although it may have already been a former headquarters. We camped there for a couple weeks. And I was warmer. And it was good to be people. Also, I love the beach.

We heard about a gathering in Big Sir and wanted to attend. So we packed up our stuff. Susan, her friends and I. We all hitch-hiked down to Big Sir. But we split up on the route and didn’t meet in Big Sir.

The gathering was said to be at some hot springs. I had hitch-hiked with Susan and one of her friends. We got there without food and money. We talked to a store manager, he gave us some bad fruit to eat. And we did. On the first night we were there we slept in a cabin in the woods. I don’t know how we found the place.

Susan was next to me in her sleeping bag. She would be close, then push me away. Then pull me close. It felt confusing. In the morning she and I hitch-hiked into town. I recall she was eating an apple. And using a small knife to cut the apple. Then when a car came along she would stick out her thumb. Then back to cutting and eating the apple. We both were eating the apple. I suggested to her, “we might get a ride faster if you put the knife down.”

We couldn’t find out friends. So the three of us started to hike up the trail. We figured we would find them at the gathering.

We were about half-way to the hot springs when we met our friends. There was no gathering. And for some reason when we split to hitch-hike our group had all the tents. So our friends had spent the night without a tent. They stayed in the hot springs to stay warm.

We were halfway there so my group still wanted to visit the hot springs. Then we returned to Big Sir. And went back to camping on the beach. Susan’s said her grandmother once sent her a carbon-monoxide detector. Poor grandma didn’t seem to understand where Susan was living.

After a short period back on the beach the sheriff came and asked us to leave. Susan and her friends had talked about leaving town. But I wanted to stay. Susan gave me a tent, and left.

This is the tent I camped with too close to the river. I used it while the winter passed and I saved money. I called M when I was ready to move. But, she told me, we would just be friends. So I didn’t move to Seattle, i moved to Portland. A city M said she hated.

Popcorn Girls

I met the girls where I seem to have met a lot of people in and out of my life that summer. I met them with a person I had known to be trouble for a while. They were calling him dad, and said that he was thier street father. There are moments in our lives where we don’t know what we did and why, but there is a knowledge that the end was right. This being one of those times for me, I remember talking to them, then I remember we left San Francisco, and he stayed.

The first couple days were slow, the girls said they were boring. Now it would be far too easy for me to keep on calling them the girls, because I don’t remember their names anymore. However I shall name them now. One had darker hair and she was slightly older, I believe she may have been 15. The other had light hair and she was a little shorter and younger, I believe she was 14. I will call the 15 year old Lori and the 14 year old Laci.

The two of them had come from some place in the south. I want to say it was Santa Barbara, but the point is mute, because where ever they came from the reality they came from was remote from the reality the came to. I don’t know why people get ideas into their heads, and why these girls ran away. I remember Laci once told me that it was because her dad got angry at her for feeding popcorn to the dog. I never told the girls to go back, and I don’t know if I should have. I imagine that somewhere out there they had real parents that cared about them.

I took them to Santa Cruz, and I was happy to have gotten them away from the city, and away from a person they called dad, but would have just as quickly screwed them, in more ways than one. When we got to Santa Cruz they would complain to me, this is boring. They were now calling me thier street dad, which I allowed with little or no resistance, it occured to me that emotionally they felt they needed that, and I imagined that they could do worse for finding someone to attach themselves to.

I don’t remember time lines as far as how long we were in Santa Cruz. I know that a friend of mine took one of them home with her for a while. It was more of an act of wanting to create an impression for me than anything though. I found out later it was me she had wanted, wanted in a sexual way (and she never got me). The first couple days, the girls would say this is so boring, and I would tell them. “Boredom is a state of mind”. It was over and over for the first couple days like an automatic refrain every time they would say they were bored.

The one clear tale that sticks out in my mind was one night. I had gone somewhere, and told them I would be back at a certin time and place. I walk back onto the mall in Santa Cruz and I see Laci walking down the street. She does not look right, and when I encounter her she isn’t acting right either. I try and talk to her, and find out where her sister is (not really sisters by the way). Her eyes are glassed over and I am having a hard time understanding what she is trying to tell me at this point. So I walk her down to the corner where I was to meet them, and there are always lots of people on the corner there. At that time it was pretty much a vacant corner, people called it ‘hippie corner’ or ‘the cage’.

I had run into a friend of mine while walking down to ‘the cage’ and he seeing that things weren’t right followed me down. We searched the crowd and were able to find her sister Lori and pull both of them to the side. We talked to them, and did some asking around and found out that someone had given them LSD. Now there was a girl that Lori mostly had hung out with that was bad news in my book. She was there with us, trying to contain the situation, and she immediately starts trying to cop a buzz from Lori.

Not liking the crowd, and the influence of this girl, me and my friend start to walk the girls down the mall. We know what the problem is and now we can start to address it. I have little to no knowledge of drugs and LSD, so what we needed was to find someone know would be a could trip sitter for the girls. A trip sitter is basicly a person who acts to control your tripping to keep you safe and prevent you from having a bad trip if possible. On the way down the mall, we run into my sister (not my real sister) Raven. The three of us take the girls to the bottom of a near by Parking Garage, and Raven says she will watch them while we search for a friend of ours who is known to be a good trip sitter.

Now Lori, and Laci also, but more so Lori was acting like a bird from the time we first found her. Putting her arms out and talking about flying. I have not tripped on acid, and I don’t know that I want to. Such cases and people I do not know how to deal with and I don’t understand what is happening inside their head.

We went down the mall, me and my friend, and it didn’t take us long and we found who we were looking for. Our trip sitter followed us back to the parking lot, wanting to help. Most people knew me, and most people respected me, and knew I was taking care of these girls. There are certin things that people assume about homeless people, and it is true for some of them, but not for most of my friends. I trusted this person because while he supported acid use, he also was concerned about the fact that they were given it so young, and that they might not have been told what it was.

We get back to the parking garage and go to the bottom floor to find it empty. We go through a mild panic and then start to search for them. I take the elevator to the roof, and there they are. I don’t know why Raven was thinking when we had taken them to the basement of the parking garage for the very reason it was a safe place. The roof was not a safe place. The first thing I saw was Lori was walking along the wall around the edge of the building. One mis-step would have meant a four story fall to the hard ground, which in her state a mis-step wasn’t so unlikely.

The tale ends in a much lower note after that. We get them down off the roof, and they soon talk about being tired. Our trip sitter says that sleeping it off might be the best thing for them so I take them back to our camp and we go to sleep for the night.

If you recall, I don’t remember how long we were in Santa Cruz. However after sometime there, the girls talked me into going to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. I remember while we were hitch-hiking out of town they were throwing rocks into my jeans. I had these really big jeans I was wearing, with big hole at the knees, the fashionable kind of holes. Well they were trying to get the rocks in the holes. I told them to stop and they started to sing. ‘Dante angry Dante…’, which I wasn’t but it was so cute I couldn’t say anything else.

They told me during that time that they would miss Santa Cruz. I asked them, didn’t you think it was boring. In reply they both stated, ‘boredom is a state of mind’.It was touching in a way that maybe something I had said mattered, or changed the way they thought of things.

We got back to San Francisco, and they met their former street dad. Well they told me that they wanted to travel to New Orleans with him, and then they left town. I don’t know where they ended up, I like to think that they returned in the fall to their families, however they could just as easily be strung out under a bridge somewhere, or dead. They weren’t my real kids of course but just that time with them I had grown to care for them a lot, and even today I have a certin amount of concern for the unknown that they face. It made me want to have my own kids, that I could teach, and give the tools to make themselves and the world a better place.


The first time I flew in a plane was with my dad.

The flight was from San Francisco to New York. We were going to visit his family.

The land moved slowly away outside the window. I could see the San Francisco Bay. Then a field of houses. Over Stockton farms were visible as a grid across the landscape. Then we were in the clouds.

Ever since I was young I dreamed of flying. But not in an airplane. In my dreams flying was simple. I would take a step. Then I would take another step before my foot hit the ground. I would repeat this trick faster and faster. Until I had climbed into the sky on an invisible staircase.

I don’t recall much of the trip with my father. I visited his sisters, and his brother. And their family. I wouldn’t see most of then again for over 20 years. I will never know what I missed in those years. What I missed by not having a relationship with my family in New York.

In my dreams flying didn’t scare me at first. But sometimes I would feel like Icarus. Don’t go so high I would say, but I kept going higher and higher anyway. Maybe these dreams were about escaping something in my life. Or just escaping my life.

There were times I was afraid of falling. And others when I just didn’t care. In many of my dreams I would fly over water.

I would be safely in the sky. And below me would be an ocean of water. If the sky is the mind. And the sea is emotion. It should be clear I have been using my mind to flee my feelings for years. And I have.

Flying back from New York I remember the clouds. When you are above the clouds looking down they look solid. They don’t look like an infinite number of tiny drops of water. But more like a snow covered landscape. A magical landscape.

All of my plane trips have been connected with my dad. Once later I flew to visit him in San Francisco. At the airport we talked to a limo driver. He was hiring out his services, and asked in which district of the city did we live. Instead of taking a cab home, we took a limo – with some other people. I had never been in a limo before. And I never have since.

Trying to go home from the trip there was trouble with my flight. The airline put me up in a hotel for the night. The next morning watching TV in the lobby I discovered Mr. Bean. Oh yeah, I know I wasn’t the first one.

I never much liked the flying dreams. You would think they would be exciting. But they aren’t. In a way it is all so boring. Flying though the air, and looking down at the world. And often they left me feeling alone. No one else was flying through the sky with me in those dreams.

In fact there are rarely people in these dreams. And to the extent I even thought of others, it was to hide. In my dreams I wouldn’t want others to know I was flying. I would just hope they wouldn’t see me.

And I do hope people don’t see me. I can’t fly away from real life. But I can run away in other ways. Run from people and there prying eyes. Run to where people don’t see me.

The last time I flew in a plane was with my father. I was so stressed about missing the plane. The plan was for me to fly from Colorado. I was living near Vail. Then I would meet him near Washington, D.C. in an airport. We would fly together to Long Island.

The thing about me is I am objectly unsuited for many common life skills. I could list a dozen basic areas of knowledge, which I just don’t seem to posses. And getting myself together enough to catch a plane is a real struggle.

The flight was paid for by father. His sister had died. And he wanted me to be there for the funeral. Only the second funeral in my life. So we flew out to New York. And saw the family he left years and years before. The family which was only a shadow of a memory to me. My dad flew away from his family too.

When my niece was born. I left town. My sister hasn’t ever forgiven me. But like my father. Like Icarus in my dreams. It felt like an escape at the time. And I did escape. But like I said, flying around in the air all alone isn’t much fun.

Since my last trip to New York me and the cousins are friends online. As much of a friendship as can be experienced through social media.

In the last few years flying dreams have been more rare. Ever since I cracked the code. Maybe dreams are trying to tell us something. If we don’t get the message they try and try and try. Then one day it falls into our awareness. We hear the lesson. And the dream stops.

We dream other dreams. I would like to say I am closer to my own emotions. But I know it is a lie. Also I am no closer to my family either in California. Or in New York. I haven’t even seen my father in over five years. Since the trip to New York. I haven’t seen my sister in an even longer time.

Being alone is escaping. Flying away. Pigeons can always find their way home. But don’t count on finding your way home. I never have.

(A Room to Write exercise about flying)


For two years I lived on the streets. In Santa Cruz. In San Francisco. And in Berkeley. At the end of the two years I was born again. Not in the Biblical understanding. I was not the person who left Bethany, when I moved to Portland. But in someways of course I was the same person.

The change was so dramatic. My believe system had been totally gutted. My family concepts had been remade. My plans for my life back on the drawing board. I used to think I had created myself completely in those two years. And it was a hard two years.

There were times I slept directly in the rain. Times I camped on sidewalks. And food was never certain. For two years I was a nobody.

When I rented a room in Portland, I got behind on the rent. My landlord would yell at me. He’d threaten to kick me out on the street. My lack of response just made him angrier. But I had been on the street. I wasn’t scared. And as a friend pointed out, I was used to being worthless.

I did a lot to create the person I am today in those two years. And there is no way I could ever be honest and say different. But, I wasn’t 100 percent a new person. The pieces of who I became was a jigsaw puzzle on the ground. Many of the parts I used to build myself were new. But many more were not. They had been there before. Maybe inactive like dormant DNA.

But I have to be honest and say, my mother, my sister, my great-aunt and many others helped create me. I think there was a part of my who wanted to think I didn’t owe anyone anything. Being born into the world by oneself means freedom. No one can say, “I did something important for you.”

And yet many people did.

A lot of important changes took place in this time period. It is hard to say when it all started. During my last year of college I started to think in a different way about politics. When it came to be Woman’s History Month, I took note. I started spelling woman with a “y.” And Black History Month.

At one point I recall reading a book about metaphysics. My roommate at the time, (not Ben) disapproved. I dyed my hair blue. And it was the scandal of the campus. In 1996 I started the year off by becoming a vegetarian, and I still am today. I was growing to feel less and less like Bethany was home for me. So, wanting to travel wasn’t a surprise. Feeling the need to explore the world.

And I met Krishna devotees for the first time. The beauty of the religion. The tastiness of their food won me over. They became close friends. And I often went to their ashram. Not just for the food, but for the service. For what they call bhakti yoga. And sometimes what they called karma yoga.

My new friends had their own dogmas. They don’t eat onions. One devotee told me you should never be naked. Even when you are alone. Because you could offend the sky. And sometimes I would wear nail polish. This was also frowned on by devotees. But, they were always loving.

But I have been able to let the dogma go. In a way it is harder for me to do with Christianity. Maybe because the church and I have deeper wounds. And the dogma is more rooted at a deeper level.

It has been years since I have gone to ashram often. But I still love their music. And their love of god. Christians always say, “Jesus love Me.” A devotee once pointed out. But what about their love for God.

During these years I met Micheal. Who is still a rock in my world. Though I stay in touch with him too little. This was the time I had the deepest love I may have known in my life. And the best of my travels took place in these years. So much of who I am, goes back at least in part to these two years.

But even what sometimes felt new, was old. Moving into a new faith was easy for me. Because I was never aligned with the mainstream views. My faith in God has never been something critical to my identity. And I think my upbringing is the reason. My great-aunt might not approve. But I learned to think independently from her.

My years on the street also gave me courage. And it boosted my confidence. Even today I know I endured two harsh years. And I know now, I can endure almost anything. My time on the streets made me stronger. It made me more self-reliant. More willing to take a risk.

But Mother in her own way planted the seed of courage. For better or worse, I doubt she made it possible. Just by being who she was as a person. A stubborn person who didn’t follow the rules. A person who enjoyed reading, and thinking about things for herself. I haven’t given my mother the credit she deserves too often. She is a strong woman, with a lot of challenges. But she raised three healthy adults. Well, mostly healthy.

In my last year of college, I was depressed. And on the streets I was also depressed. In my opinion homelessness is just a symptom. The real disease is depression. It is the biggest struggles for most on the street. I know it was for me. Being on the streets didn’t solve my problems.

I took a break from life. And they were waiting for me when I came back. They are still with me. But a light was born inside me in those two years. I can’t say how or why. But looking back, my life started to get better. Not just relative to the basic rock-bottomness of the streets.

I changed my name to Rainbow. No longer was I a child of a poor mother. Or a person out of step with my community of believers. People on the street don’t judge you like other people. Whoever I was for 18 years of my life. I was now in charge of my life. And in some ways I have never felt more in charge since.

I burned myself to the ground. And like the phoenix I came back. Two years of the streets. And then more years of struggle. But who is to say my life would have been easier. What if I had gone down the path I had planned. My fear was, and is, I would be facing a deadly existential crisis about now.

Would I be one of those people who have it all. But one day is found hanging in their closest?

Only once in my life have I ever really felt like I wanted to die. And it wasn’t on the streets.

During these years I don’t know what happened with my family. From this point on, they slip further and further out of my life. I recall one Thanksgiving. I had planned to visit them in Fresno. But Mother was complaining so much about my sister. I told her, “I’ll call you back.” I hung up and called a friend in Seattle, Washington. “Can I come see you.” Then I called my mother back and canceled. I rode the bus for 24 hours to have Thanksgiving with my friend. My love. But her story still waits to be told.

If I had my life to live over again. Those two years on the streets would be my choice all over again. In two years I grew more than 10 years before and 10 years after. But it isn’t a choice for everyone. And it is a choice which comes with a lot of risks.