Monthly Archives: November 2015

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.

More Santa Cruz people…

I met many of the people on the street with little ado. One day they would just walk into town. Or maybe they had been in town. But hadn’t been on the street.

Happy was a person who just appeared. He had clear mental health problems. But he was a sweet person. Other people mocked him. They made fun of him.

“Happy days, happy nights…” he would say often. This is why people called him Happy. His named was John.

He dressed like a hippy. No, not like the hippies on the streets. He dressed like a hippy in a movie. He was a hippy. Rumors floated around on why he was crazy. Too much acid in the 1960s.

We found out later he lived in special housing. The housing was related to his mental health. But someone should have watched over him better.

“She’s so cool, she shits cool ice cream…” was another thing he said.

At some point someone gave Happy a toy gun. He had the mind of a six year old. I never saw the gun. But others said he would point it at people. One night he went near a night club downtown. He was playing with his toy gun.

When does a six-year-old boy understand the game is over. Is it when the police come? Is it when they bring out their own guns? Or is it when they shoot him dead on the street. Happy was a man. A man with problems. And the Santa Cruz Police Department shot him dead.

On the night of the shooting I was with a friend, Erin. The sirens seemed to be everywhere. And people gathered in a large crowd to see. We didn’t know someone had been shot. We didn’t know Happy was dead.

In the days after those people who get upset, got upset. Few people noticed Happy when he was alive. Unless they were noticing him as a joke. While many came forward saying he was their friend. I never saw he had any real friends when he was alive. Real friends weren’t there to help him. I wasn’t a real friend.

I had first met Erin through Sean. And the night Happy died we were talking. We had met on the street. She was a pretty girl, a smart woman. And over time we became friends. We would spend time together. We would take walks. And I started to fall in love with her.

But she wasn’t in love with me. A proclamation of love to a friend makes things awkward. But we remained friends until she moved. Then we still stayed in touch. A few years later I visited her in Arizona.

I had caught a ride with a friend from Boulder. I was in Tuscon to see Erin. We spent some time together. Then she asked me where I wanted to camp. It hurt me. If I had been a normal friend, she never would have asked the question. I told her I came to visit her, after asking if I could come to see her. And I asked to stay at her house. She was living with her dad. She let me stay. But I’ve never been in touch with her since.

I also don’t know where I met Ken. Like Erin we were friends after the streets. It wasn’t until years later I cut off communication. When I met Ken we camped by the river together. He was older, but he was agile. He wasn’t old. Later he got himself a place to live on the mall. But this was after I moved away.

The story I recall about Ken is about my camp site. He had been on the street for a long time. Maybe we met when we camped near each other. The last place I camped in Santa Cruz was along the river. He said it was too close. I felt safe.

Too close, too close. But then he quit telling me because I wouldn’t listen. But my life was changing. I had plans. And one day I took a bus and left town for a new life. The night I left it started to rain hard. And it rained and rained. And the river flooded. A couple years later when I returned for a visit I found my campsite. My tent was about six inches deep in the mud. I was too close.

I don’t recall much about Willie. He was a drunk. And in the worst way. He needed the booze. He was the one who was the first person I knew with a sign, “why lie I need a beer.” But he did need alcohol. When he didn’t drink he got the shakes.

Once he told me the beer sign made him more money than a food sign. Which made me mad. Because I didn’t drink and I couldn’t bring myself to pretend. But he was a good man. He was a good friend. At one point he gave me a shirt to stay warm. The bugs which came with the shirt didn’t keep me warm. Bugs are a part of life on the street. Shelters stock the medicine like a shampoo.

Willie was back and forth between San Francisco and Santa Cruz. In the city he told me a large cardboard box was him home. I don’t know where he slept in Santa Cruz. But one morning they found him frozen to death behind the thrift store.

Maybe he was someone’s father. Or someone’s brother. He was someone’s son. And more than a few people’s friends. No one should die alone and cold behind the thrift store. Like so many on the street, he needed help.

Another person I knew both in San Francisco and Santa Cruz was Roy. He wasn’t homeless. But he did spend time on the mall. And I got to know him. He was a gay man, but never hit on me. We became friends. And when I needed to move he helped me.

Once he planned to meet me in San Francisco. But he was a flake. He didn’t show. When I saw him later he asked me why I didn’t meet him. I informed him I was there, and he caved. It was a bluff, he was hoping I hadn’t shown up. In which case I wouldn’t know he had flaked.

I’m not any of my other friends knew Roy. He was a landlord in San Francisco, from what he said. He had a place in Santa Cruz and a place in the city. Before I left he took me over for a visit. It was a decent place. He was a decent person. I never asked him for much, and we were friends.

I became friends with some of the local high school girls. I never took a serious interest in any of the girls. But I had a crush on a couple.

One had blue eyes and dark hair. I recall finding her attractive, in a cute and dark way. A lot of the girls were goth. “Ohh my goth, why don’t I just staple my hand to my forehead,” they would joke.

“I’m just going to die… die… dye my hair black,” was another joke.

But this blue-eyed girl was sweet too. Once we played a game of war with playing cards. But I got bored and started to cheat. Not cheat so I would win, but so she would win. And she caught me. But it was fun, she was cute and it was just a game.

There was another girl, who was friends with my friends. This made me think we were also friends. But she was a little colder and distant. I made a mistake once and got caught stealing from the store where she worked. The store kicked me out for life. She saw me being kicked out. A year later, I went back to the store. I saw her and she saw me. Soon a manager came and asked me to leave.

Another girl told me she was the sheriff’s daughter. And she was wild. Like Drew Barrymore as a youth. Or Paris Hilton in later years. Maybe we didn’t really spend much time together. But I do recall a time talking with the girls.

Once I was talking to one of them about lost things. I had my bag with me. She pointed out it was easy to find what you were looking for, when you didn’t have many things to look through. She wasn’t being flippant, more just understanding a part of my life. If I remember right these girls also knew Tony. And it may have been through him I got to know the girls.

It was a small group. And nothing happened between me and any of them.

The other girls I got to know in Santa Cruz were the church girls. One of them was Christie. She and her church would wash people’s feet like Jesus. They had a mission just off the mall. She was the sweetest most caring and loving person I have ever known. I loved her with a simple and pure love.

The number of times I went to service at the church. We sat and talked. She would wash my feet and give me clean socks. Even when I told her I had plenty she would give me more. For a while I didn’t have to launder my socks because I kept getting clean socks. I wasn’t changing them every day like I do now.

Maybe she was just a sweet girl. Or maybe she was a girl sweet on me. But I felt so dirty at the time. If I ever had thought of being with someone like her, it would have seemed impossible. I hope where ever she is today, she is happy.

Her friend was different. It was to her friend had proposed the hymnal cleaning offer. I recall talking to her friend about Satan. And how Satan was a needed part of the plan of the Biblical god.

If man and angels had freewill I explained. At someone point someone would use it, and then become Satan. Besides, freewill is only free if there is a choice.

The church feed us, and clothed us and tried to offer us salvation. A good number of beautiful people worked at the mission.

I didn’t go back to campus after they kicked me out. But I did make a new friend from Bethany. We got to know each other, it was my second year on the street. I had been off campus for a year.

When M moved to Seattle he gave us a ride. He once gave me a notebook to write poetry. We became good friends, but lost touch when he left Bethany.

He told me about a night in the pool room at Bethany. Someone was talking about me, saying bad things. Which is funny since I hadn’t been around for a year. But he asked them, “do you know Chris?” Then he told them to shut up or deal with him.

One of the oddest friends I had was a hooker. Yes, and she was open with most people about her work. “So what, they go out to a bar and meet someone and go home and party,” she said. “I also go out to a bar and meet someone and go home and party.”

The only difference she pointed out, was she got paid in the morning. I believe I met her one late night on the mall. I was knitting. We went and got some food together. I wasn’t attracted to her. Not because she was a hooker. But just because she wasn’t my type.

She was a funny girl. A sweet and caring person. And we had some good times together. I recall one morning we had stayed up all night. And then went to the park and watched the sunrise. As the sun came up we found a spot on the grass and went to sleep. It was only illegal to sleep in the park at night.

Between the lines

“We are alone.”

“Does anyone know?”


“It feels good doesn’t it?”

“With you here, like this alone? Yes.”

“And why can’t we…”

“Please we don’t have much time.”

“Do you love me?”

“Yes, I love you. But I…

“There is no but is love Charles.”

“I love your butt.”


“May, please.”

“Don’t please me.”

“Okay, then I won’t.”

“No, no please do. I wait all week watching you across the hall.”

“And I watch you dear.”

“Why are we so silly?”

“Love isn’t silly…”

“Not love you fool. We’re not loving, we are silly.”

“What are we doing now?”

“Hiding, and love doesn’t have to hide.”

“I know.”

“You’ve known for ten years Charles.  But in all these years you haven’t changed.”

“I have changed.”

“Not towards me dear, and I think it is time I changed.”

“But May, my life without you?”

“I think you’d better get used to the idea. Tonight may be the last night we will be together.”

“What can I do? How can I…”

“You know what, you know how, but you won’t.”

“The kids, the house, my career. How can I throw it all away?”

“And what have I given up these last ten years? I could have started my own family. My own man, my own child, my own life.”

“You want a child May?”

“Not with you! Not now, and I am starting to think not ever.”

“But May, I would…”

“Would do anything unless it is something difficult. I think you want to have your cake and eat it too.”

“You aren’t being fair.”

“Fair, you disgrace the word by letting it form on your lips.”

“And what about your husband?”

“My husband is different. I would leave him, I have before.”

“Then why haven’t you?”

“And be alone when you turn me to the cold? You’ve said you couldn’t leave her. You said it Charles. You said it.”

“I want to leave her. I want to be with…”

“No you don’t, stop it. If you wanted to do it, you would. At this point I have to believe you like a little on the side. And you like your life with a safe woman, children and job.”

“But we could have…”

“I am not and never will be your safe woman. I hope you remember tonight well.”

“You going to walk out of my life? Go back to the putrid fellow you married in high school?”

“He is a good man. He is…”

“A drunk who doesn’t love you. Who spends all his time at work or on the golf course.”

“You have no right…”

“When was the last time you made love? Made love with passion the way we make love?”

“I don’t know Charles.”

“Any wonder you don’t have children.”

“I can’t stay. I can’t go. What can I do?”

“Don’t cry dear. I am sorry. I really don’t want to lose you. I would…”

“Stop it you asshole. I don’t want to hear anymore of your ‘I would’s. Because you never do any, and I doubt you.”

“Doubt me?”

“How can I not doubt your love for me? I lay awake at night with my pillow. The tears are the only thing real.”

“What should I do?”

“Take my hand from me now. Take me body and soul. I want all of you.”

“You barely took all of me last time.”

“Stop being an asshole. You know I am not making some childish joke.”

“I am sorry.”

“I know you are, now apologize.”

“You’re funny.”

“Don’t touch me, and keep your pants on. I don’t want you to touch me. I am nothing to you.”

“Nothing. After all these years, how can you say such a thing?”

“After all these years, exactly. What have you done for me? Flowers on my birthday Charles. My fucking mother sends me flowers too.”

“You know if I were to…”

“Yes, what would people say? Maybe they would see we love each other. Maybe they would know it is the right thing.

“Where are you going?”

“I don’t know. I don’t care. I just need space and time.”


“Take your hands off me. Stop trying to hold me.”


“You know how badly I want to kiss you right now. How much I want to lay down in this cheap hotel bed with you? How much I want to feel you inside me.”

“I want it too baby.”

“I know. But not today.”

“Fine, you walk out the door. Walk away from everything we have together.”

“What do we have together? A hour of sex on your lunch break every Friday. I spend more time with the barista at the corner.”

“You fucking him too.”

“Her, she’s 16 and hot. And she would be better in bed than you.”

“I get it, you like girls.”

“Hey prick, it was a joke. What I really want is a man who loves me.”

“I love you dear.”

“Love me on my back. Love me with my underwear around my ankles. But you have no idea who I am. Where did I grow up?”


“Nebraska! Have you been hit in the head? I was born and raised in Alaska.”

“Isn’t it close. Out west some place.”

“Why did I ever fall in love with a east coast snob like you.”

“I don’t know geography, so what?”

“My favorite colour?”


“Have you ever seen me in blue underwear? They are all green, do you even pay attention?”

“I am just tired.”

“Tired. Me too. Goodbye.”

“Please Nancy.”

“Nancy is your wive’s name.”


(a Room to Write exercise)

The Way Back

But I am not lost
any more than leaves are lost
or buried vases
This is not my time
I would only give you second thoughts

I know you must call me traitor
because I have wasted my blood
in aimless love
and you are right
Blood like that
never won an inch of star

You know how to call me
although such a noise now
would only confuse the air
Neither of us can forget
the steps we danced
the words you stretched
to call me out of dust

Yes I long for you
not just as a leaf for weather
or vase for hands
but with a narrow human longing
that makes a man refuse
any fields but his own

I wait for you at an
unexpected place in your journey
like the rusted key
or the feather you do not pick up
until the way back
after it is clear
the remote and painful destination
changed nothing in your life

-Leonard Cohen

The Empress

Our journey starts with the fool. All the early cards are forces helping us. The Empress is the fourth card. But it is numbered 3.

In the cards before we got wisdom. The cards gave us the tools we need.

The Empress is about nurturing. She tends to our bruises. Like The High Priestess, she is the earth. From her flows the power of the Goddess.

The number three is about growth. On the card is a woman. She holds a shield with the sign of Venus. The planet Venus rules Taurus. The primary earth sign.

The Empress is the safe harbor. But as the saying goes: ships weren’t made to sit at harbor. The Empress is the soil. All things depend on the life which grows from the soil of earth. The soil protects and nurtures the seeds. It warms them, cools them, waters them and feeds. But the seeds growth forth into the sun. And when they die, they return to the soil.

The Empress is the mother bird. It feeds and feeds its baby. But when the moment is right. The mother bird will kick it out of the nest. It must learn to fly. And so must we.

The power of The Empress is no less than her partner. The next card in the deck. The Emperors power is different. And it finds a different expression. But do not let the softness of The Empress fool you. She is just a committed to your growth. She is just as focused. Just as driving, in her own ways.

If we can take the lessons of the Empress to heart. Our experience with The Emperor will go easier. As the path takes us from one card to the next. It is almost always the case one leads to the next. If we learn the lessons of one card well, the next is easier.

The Empress is the mother. So it could represent a mother in your life. Someone who is becoming a mother. Or just someone who is giving birth to a new energy. There are times in our lives when we give birth to ourselves.

We experience the energy of The Empress when we change our own lives. Transforming ourselves and our center of focus. Like a butterfly we shed the dust of our past. We pull ourselves out to become our true selves.

We can mother a new project or new energy. A work of art may take a focus and commitment like a child. Although on a whole different scale. We put our time, our strength, our energy into its creation. We put ourselves into its being.

The whole journey of the tarot is the journey from the mother. And then returning to the mother. What Leonard Cohen called the “remote and painful destination which changed nothing in your life.”

We are the same when we finish the journey. The world about us is the same. But we ourselves have grown. We have become mothers. In giving birth to ourselves. We give birth to a new world. In nurturing ourselves, we nurture a new world.

There is no separation between us and Goddess. All of her healing and nurturing power is ours. We cannot complete this journey alone. We understand our place in the universe by touching the heart of the mother.


Feed the People

Feed the People was started by an Egomaniac with a big heart. Sean was a loud man. But he was a caring person. Never shy to speak his mind. He often spoke up for others. He would talk you out of anything he could get. But he would share all of it himself.

I got to know Feed the People while eating their food. What they made was hot soup. Sometimes they would serve bread and juice. Sean had once cooked with Food Not Bombs. But he had personal disagreements with the group. And so started Feed the People.

The first person I got to know was John  Earth. In some ways John was the opposite of Sean. Where Sean was loud. John was quiet. But they shared a concern for others. And they shared the mission of the group. It was a simple mission, feed people. They also shared a deep friendship.

When I became associated with the group Sean was in jail. I do not recall the reason. John was looking for a place to cook. And having a hard time keeping the group functional. John was the mother of the group, taking care of the day to day details. Sean had been the father. His was a more active role. But both were important.

When I met John Earth I was living with Amy. She had talked about helping others. She was a caring soul. I thought she would want to help John. When I asked her she said, “yes.”

So John started to cook in her apartment. And we would carry the food downtown to serve. We made the soup from donations. It was always an odd selection. We chopped and boiled anything we got. But never meat, or dairy. It was always vegan. Always made with love. And it was always yummy.

During this time I was also spending time with friends from Bethany. One of them was Doshia. I had known her while a student. But I got to know her more after I left Bethany. Shannon was someone new to the school. But we became friends, as she was friends with Doshia.

When Doshia heard about the feeding program she wanted to help too. She had a pickup truck. Instead of walking the food downtown, Doshia would give us a ride.

Over time the four of us became friends. Then Sean got out. When he came back to the group, he took the lead again. He was a natural leader. And to be honest I felt pushed aside a little. I felt like less important.

Amy and I had been close. But at some point she said we would just be friends. This had been upsetting to me. But on one trip to San Francisco I met M.

When I came back to Santa Cruz I introduced Amy to M. It was an odd meeting, quiet and awkward. It may not have been a wise choice for me. But I don’t know if it was a choice I could have avoided without changing my life in Santa Cruz.

The night I recall the most was at Amy’s. Sean had been talking about having a party. And it was going to be at Amy’s apartment. Well, amy’s parents completely supported her. And before meeting M I had spent almost a month living with her. I knew she was nervous about her parents finding out about me.

Amy was a caring person. But also a quiet person. When I invited the group into her home it was John. And John and Amy had much in common. They were both had a natural peaceful spirit. But Sean had a natural active spirit. And I knew at times Amy wasn’t comfortable with his level of energy. But she would never had said a word.

Well, back to the night things went bad. Sean was talking and planning a big event. In my mind I grew concerned for Amy. My feeling was this wasn’t something she would want in her apartment. Also it could cause problems with the apartment management. By this time I was not living with her anymore. So, it wasn’t my interest.

“You haven’t even asked Amy,” I stated at one point. Which was true, he hadn’t. But it wasn’t Sean’s nature to ask. He assumed people were as giving as himself. Often this worked for him. But in this case I think it was a mistake.

Well Sean got upset. Amy got upset. And M got upset. Looks like I did a great job. But the event never took place.

Sean got upset because I challenged him. He was an egomaniac. I don’t think he conceived of Amy not approving. Maybe he got upset because he knew I was right. People get upset when they are caught, and they know they are wrong.

Amy got upset because I spoke for her. As much as she would never speak for herself. And maybe it wasn’t my business. But to this day I think I made the right choice. She knew it was out of concern for her. Of all the people, she may have forgiven me the easiest.

And M? Well she got upset because she felt like I still wanted to be with Amy. I made a lot of mistakes in my relationship with the two girls. Sean later told M I never defended her like I did Amy. Which was true. But M was a different person. A stronger more able person in many ways.

There was another time I recall. We were at Amy’s with Shannon and Doshia. I don’t know if M was with us. They started talking about old souls. Sean had said Shannon was an old soul. Doshia asked about herself. And then we talked about a few other people. Then Doshia said, “what about Rainbow?”

Sean’s comment was he would tell me when I acted my age. Which was fine with me. I didn’t put much stake in the whole discussion. I still don’t today. I’ve met many old people who aren’t wise. And I have met many young people who have much wisdom. Why would it be any different with souls?

One time when I wasn’t around Sean made an odd comment to Doshia. The tension between me and Sean was growing. I was never sure what caused this tension. It must have been something mutual. He was a Sagittarius, a sign I often don’t match with well.

“I’m not going to let Rainbow come between me and my girls,” he told Doshia. Which is a funny thing for him to say. Of the list of girls he could have been speaking of, most were my friends first. Besides the fact, people don’t belong to people.

At many times I wanted to impress Sean. In some ways I looked up to him like a father figure. But I also resented him in ways. Because he was so confident. So sure of himself. Maybe for my part the tension came from this internal struggle. I wanted his approval. But I didn’t want to be another of his groupies.

Sean had a way of getting things. I don’t know how. And as far as I know it was legit. We would watch movies for free. Not by sneaking in the side door. He would talk to someone at the ticket counter and we would walk in the front. And he invited almost anyone.

The group got donations from various places. The only one I remember was Odwalla. This was before Coke bough the company. So it was when they were still good. We got gallons and gallons of juice. And we gave it all away. Odwalla was a different company. You could ask a driver for a sample, or an out-of-date and they would often give you one.

At some point Sean’s girlfriend went on a trip. He was alone in his tent and offered to let me and M stay. We were there for a while. On the last day, me and M cleaned up the tent. We wanted it to be nice for Sean and his girlfriend. Me and M moved into the woods. As a parting gift we left them a couple condoms. We must have just thrown them on top the blankets.

The next time we saw Sean he was threatening my life. Said he had trashed his tent, left a mess. It wasn’t the truth. And I would not back down. Giving in felt like becoming another of the people who bowed to Sean.

For days we avoided each other. M and I felt nervous. But I also felt like he wouldn’t hurt me. At one point I told him: “this is America, we don’t submit to terrorism.” Sean was of Iranian decent.

I know at some point we got together and talked. If I remember right the problem was resolved. But we were never close again.

It was through Sean I met Erin. Who became a close friend for a number of years. She is someone I still miss today.

I’m not sure the last time  I saw Sean. Or John Earth. Or even Amy.

The saddest part of the story comes years later. John and Sean had gone to Fresno. Sean had gotten tired driving back, and asked John to drive. Later John said he hadn’t felt tired himself. But, he fell asleep at the wheel. The van was wrecked and Sean was killed. For a while there was a concern they were going to charge John for his death.

I felt how much I had loved Sean after he died. I learned a lot from him. He was an egomaniac. But he also had a big heart for others. I am sure he would have helped anyone.

The Light Brigade

It was a long day at work. Someone called in and I ended up basically closing two departments. It is good to be dependable. And I am glad to be a good worker. But I wonder at times if they really appreciate me. I leave you with some Tennyson.

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
“Charge for the guns!” he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turn’d in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre stroke
Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.

Copied from Poems of Alfred Tennyson,

The People of Santa Cruz

Gandalf is one of the first people I met. Many people on the street use aliases. Besides I have forgotten a lot of names.

Gandalf was older. Maybe in his 70s. But he lived on the street. When I first moved to the street I made hemp jewelry. The idea was I could sell it to earn cash. But in places like Santa Cruz, spanging is easier. Spanging in asking for money – spare change.

The first few hemp pieces I made were bad. But he encouraged me. He asked for one of the pieces I made. I felt like it was worthless. But he not only accepted it as a gift. He wore it for years on his leg. It is possible he thought it was good. But more likely he wanted to support me.

One memory I have of him was a few months into my experience. I was walking and saw him at an outside restaurant table. It was a popular and yummy place to eat. He offered me some food, which I accepted. But I must have been pretty hungry. He said nothing as I ate most of the food.

I remember him for being friendly. A generous person with a wise word. When we discussed found blankets he pointed out they should be safe. Anything which lives on humans, dies after two days of no contact he informed me.

Two girls also introduced me to the streets. They were the ones who taught me hemp jewelry. It isn’t hard to do. And so it is hard to sell. Also I got a ticket early in my experience for selling downtown. They were Koala and Maya. The friends were young, under 18. They spanged a lot to get by, but also sold things. I met them in the transition period. Two things which added to my negative image came from them. One was a small hemp pouch I wore around my neck. The other was a patchwork bag. The bag wasn’t strong at first. Over the months I had to repair it. But I did keep it for a long time.

The two girls talked about Rastafarianism. And I believe Koala had dreadlocks. These were hippies. And first meeting them was interesting. They drew me in, because I had so much to learn from them. But I was never sold on everything they believed. Shortly after I went to the street they moved out of town.

I’ve put together a list of people I want to discuss. But for the most part it isn’t in any order.

One of the oddest people I knew was Killer. I am not sure if the drugs made him crazy. Or if he was just crazy. At first there were moments of friendship between us. Once he talked to me, and showed empathy when I was having girl problems. Another time we spanged together. A cop stood by watching us. So I made a sign reading: You pay him how much to stand there and watch us? People found it to be funny.

But there are some scary and sad memories with Killer too. Probably in a regular life he would have been a good person. But drugs and life on the street can change people. Some of the odd things about him. He tattooed “your name” on his penis. And would tell random people on the street. “I bet I have your name tattooed on my penis.” People would expect to see their name. If they expected to see anything. But many people did see his penis.

Once we were sitting at the cage. And there was another man there. This person was saying they didn’t like the word “like.” Well me and Killer must have been in a mood. Because we started using the word as much as we could. “We don’t like you don’t like the word like. We like it.” The guy said there was a “lie” in like. The more we used it the more upset he got.

At some point the cage where we all hung out was taken down. They were planning a new building. Like many cities they would place a temporary wall along the sidewalk. Maybe because he feared change. Maybe just because he could. He tore the wall down, at least once. He said he grabbed the top and used his body weight rocking back and forth.

Killer was a gutter punk. On the streets in Santa Cruz, San Francisco and Berkeley there were two groups. Many people would cross between them. But most were either a hippy or a gutter punk. And they kept to different areas of town. But usually along the same strip.

Killer once said he wasn’t looking for a woman for love. And it wasn’t for sex either. Just someone to keep him warm at night. A sad if slightly funny comment, which must have been true. It was a thought I had myself.

Laurel wasn’t named for a street downtown. There was a Laurel Street in Santa Cruz. I used this fact to remember her name. She is one of the people I wish I still knew. She was sitting on the sidewalk when I met her. She wasn’t homeless. Just a person knitting. And I stopped and talked to her. I was so much more open to people when I was younger.

She was amazing. When I first met her she taught me how to crochet and also how to knit. On the same piece of yarn. And she gave me the yarn. This skill is something I have passed on to many others in my life. And I still can knit and crochet.

She invited me to a music show. It was outside of town a little ways. During the show we ended up making out. And I enjoyed it, but it also makes me a little sad. I never saw her again afterwards. I could have kissed any girl. She was a special girl and I wonder if things could have been different. But who knows.

Another girl I met on the street was Daniel. Swilly Daniel is what she was called. In street lingo swilly is drunk or drinking. The young girl would drink with the long-term alcoholics. But she was a good person. It is sad to know she is likely dead now. Once she told me about how she missed her boyfriend. He had been arrested. Well, it was his habit to fart in the morning. She said, farts when she was waking up reminded her of him.

We were friends. I was never attracted to her. But I did care about her a good deal. And we helped each other when we could. For a while we shared a camp. Like I mentioned before, you don’t just share a camp with anyone. Her and Killer were a part of my first trip to Berkeley. This story will come later.

But she drank a lot. I can’t imagine it didn’t cause her problems. Health problems being the least. Once she had told Killer she didn’t want to have sex with him. But they drank together. And she woke up naked next to him. “What did you do to me?” She yelled at him.

Then there was the VW Girl. Not the name she went by of course. I met her one night at the cage. I stole a candy bar and shared it with her. We talked. Then spent the night in her van. No, we didn’t have sex. For a couple days we were close. At some points she would tell people she was my girlfriend. But it never seemed real. She was a student. And we made plans to take a trip. When she went home at one point she told me she would return.

When she came back it was much later than planned. And she came with another man. It broke my heart. We weren’t close anymore. The new guy was named Tree. And he features in an upcoming story. I remember I saw her in Santa Cruz, and then again in San Francisco. Years later at a Rainbow Gathering I saw her again. We talked about the time period. We both expressed some regret and concern about how the other person felt.

I don’t recall much about her. But she was a sweet person. And she was pretty. She gave me her shorts to go swimming with once. She never got them back. In a ritual of anger I put a rock in them and threw them in a river. She had also given me some other clothes. I carried these with me. But after a while I pushed them under a bush. In some ways I wanted to keep them, come back for the clothes. But also I wanted them to be lost. And they were lost.

Another interesting person was Mushroom. I don’t recall the name he used. But one day he told me how he was walking in the woods. And he said he had just picked a mushroom and ate it. I expressed shock, and said it was a dumb thing to eat wild mushrooms. He agreed, but didn’t even know why he had done it.

I believe he had a small trailer he lived in south of town. But he spent a good deal of time downtown. And I don’t think he worked because he took off with us on a trip without notice.

Klepto took the name because he liked to steal. There was a music store downtown. Many of us would go and listen to music. I believe he stole a lot from the store. One night I was camping with a mutual friend. He came by to chat. Then left. We shortly heard a car alarm. And it could have been anyone. But we thought it was him. He was a gutter punk. Like many people, in a normal life he would have been someone different. He was funny, kind and a good friend. I imagine if like me he changed his life, he could be anywhere today. He was young when I knew him, a teenager.

I don’t know how to start on Moon Cat. He had deep issues. Sometimes he would beat his own privates. He was lonely. And would scream about how useless they were because he was alone. Someone told me from time to time a woman took sympathy on him.

Moon Cat had a cat for a long time. The cat would ride on his shoulder. A trick which they pulled off on a bike.

I’m not the first person in this body, he would often say. And the first person didn’t take very good care. Maybe the result of his mental illness. But in someways are any of us the first people in our bodies. I am not the person I was 20 years ago. And I can say the person I was 20 years ago didn’t take care of this body. But for Moon Cat it seemed much deeper.

He wanted to become a vampire so he could get women. There was a group of people who played at vampires. Maybe some of them believed. There was also a live action role play group in town. They played a vampire game. Let us also not forget we are talking about Santa Cruz. The place where The Lost Boys was filmed.

I used to watch the movie with people. Then point out it was filmed in Santa Cruz. Then in a suggestive voice say, “I’m from Santa Cruz.” I did it to give people a little scare. The whole vampire thing didn’t get Moon Cat women. And I was never clear on what he did to become a vampire. The people he dealt with were young. But I would like to believe they didn’t really drink blood.

Moon Cat needed help. Someone should have been helping him with medicine. Helping him with day to day life skills. He was a smart person. A caring person. And with a little help I believe he could have managed his mental health issues.

I’ve told the story of the man who told me I would go to hell. Because I was effeminate. Well I told Phil the story and he found it funny. Imagine he replied, you’re in hell trying to explain. He put his hands in the classic effeminate pose. “Honest Mr. Devil Sir, I was closing the window.” “Honest Mr. Devil Sir, I was playing the piano.” “I was waving to my mom.”

What I recall about him the most was his photography. He always had a camera with him. And he took pictures of people downtown. There was a part of me which wondered if he might be attacted to underage girls. Often he took their photos. He would give them a copy if they wanted. And a couple times he gave police photos to help when someone went missing. As far as I know and have reason to believe he never acted inappropriate. I wonder if the pictures were his way of meeting a need, he knew would be wrong any other way.

It wasn’t just young girls. The only photos I have of myself from this time are from him. And he later started to buy the girls whistles and other things for self protection.

He took me to his home a couple times. He was a professional wing nut. Which is to say he got a social security check. I know onetime he was talking to his mother. He was up for a review for eligibility. “Don’t forget to tell them when you dropped me on my head,” he told his mother. He was funny. But also smart.

At his home he explained how a wet sponge grows mold. Place it up again the corner of the counter so it can dry out. And he told me about trapping fleas with water and a night light. He was an odd person. But one of the friendliest and open people I have known in my life.

He told me doing photography made him see the world different. And said the city should think about its placement of signs. Once when talking to a girl at the Christian mission he offered to wipe all the hymnals so they wouldn’t be dirty. She didn’t take him up on the offer.

In the end he may have just been lonely. And found photography was a way to connect with people. Who doesn’t love photographing teen girls. And how many adults take time out of their lives to get to know new people. I know I rarely do. And he was a decent photographer.

I met Raven in San Francisco. At first she told me her name was Sarah. When I informed her Sarah was my sister’s name, she said she’d be my sister. We talked and got to know each other a little.

The next time I met her was in Santa Cruz. She became a part of the vampire group. The same one Moon Cat admired so much. Her boyfriend was a vampire. And we became close.

Because of her age, and our relationship it wasn’t appropriate. But I was attracted to her. But we remained close friends. One time she wanted me to taste what a clove cigarette. So she kissed me. And it was good, but odd.

Life for the vampire tribe in Santa Cruz was a bit of a teen drama. The kind of issues which are harmless in the hall of middle school and high school. But they were played out on the streets. Towards the end people in town forced Raven to leave. We weren’t as close by this time. And it was never clear to me what was the problem. I know at some point she had some legal trouble with a local man named Tony.

Raven had developed a sister of her own. And after Raven left I stayed in touch with this girl. I know I helped her out a couple times. In fact there is a funny story.

M and I were at a local store. There was a security guard inside the store. The company was First Alarm, it also patrolled The Mall. People would call it false alarm. So I made a comment, “who called a false alarm?” The guard got angry and tried to kick me out of the store. What I hadn’t know was First Alarm had taken over a contract from another company. I had shopped at the store a lot, and knew the other company.

I stopped a manager. Informed him of what was happening. The manager told me to just buy my things and said we were okay. We walked away and didn’t say anything more.

The next day the security guard found me the next day. “My girlfriend said I have to apologize to you.” Turns out his girlfriend was this street sister of mine.

I wonder often what became of Raven. She had her troubles. I think the men around her took advantage of her and used her. But she never got into the drug scene. She wasn’t a drinker. She was a lost young girl on the street. When she they banished her I tried to tell people, “she ‘s young.” But so were the people condemning her.

I felt close to Raven. And I doubt there is much I wouldn’t have done to help her. I think she knew. In the end, when she left I remember a sad moment. There was nothing I could do to keep her. Honestly it may have been for the best. I can only hope getting away from the scene encouraged her to grow up.

The person she had the legal problems with was Tony. A double amputee. He sometimes walked on prosthetic legs. But more often zoomed around downtown in a wheelchair. He wouldn’t often shake your hand because his gloves were dirty. He would do a fist bump.

Why does late-middle-aged man hang around with teenagers? He wasn’t there to abuse them. If I remember right he was gay. But during the whole time I knew him he never had a relationship. Once someone put a lion on top one of the downtown kiosks. “It’s a message to me.” he said.

Maybe he viewed himself as a mentor to the youth. Many on the street seemed to look up to him. I had a number of deep conversations with him about life. He was always interesting. Always friendly. And a couple times I spent the night at his house. He didn’t work. I believe he lived off a disability check.

I once asked him if he worked for the government. We went to a store, which was closed. He dug some cigarette butts out of an ash tray. He once told me where the best places to get snipes in town. Snipes are cigarettes which have been smoked, but have tobacco left. When I asked again later he told me I should have gotten my answer. He explained the trip to get the cigarettes had been done to make a point to me.

Many things are possible. Around the time I left town he was becoming homeless himself. He was having some financial problems. It was probably temporary.

We talked about women a lot. I would claim someone wasn’t being honest. He would point out they were just not being forthcoming. And he was right, it wasn’t the same. He had an amazing intellect. The kind of person who sets himself up as the judge of all things. On the internet he called himself, T.S. Idiot.

I learned a great deal from Tony. Things about life. And just ideas and understanding about the world. I’ll never know what motivated him to spend his time with the rootless youth. But he was a teacher for me in an important time in my life.

He once told me he found me interesting. I didn’t worry as much about the things he worried about he explained. Then added, I did tend to worry about things which didn’t bother him. He is one of the people I’d like to see again. To be able to show how much my life is different. Being able to talk to him, would make me feel how much I have changed.

One night I was on The Mall. And some drunk girls were walking around. The guys at the cage were trying to make some moves on the girls. I was curious. The guys and the girls were sitting on a bench. I sat down on the sidewalk. Then one of them got up and sat next to me. I believe we kissed.

Tony came along with Raven’s boyfriend and others. They got the girls away from the guys. Then helped them to get to safety. Raven’s boyfriend made an interesting comment later. He said when he saw the girl with me, he felt better. Because he trust me and knew I wouldn’t take advantage of them.

I think people misunderstand the amount of community which can exist among homeless people. Raven could have stayed. I doubt they would have harmed her. But she wouldn’t have been a part of the community any longer. And I think this is the reason she had to leave. She had to go and find another community to join.

In Santa Cruz it was a diverse community. From Tony who lived in a house. To a few people with intense mental health problems. Too many young teenagers, who should have been at home. And older men, beyond the age of the sex game. They were all accepted, and for the most part respected. We all had aliases. People didn’t know much about each other. But they accepted each person as they presented themselves.

If I thought I could go back. To find those people and the community again. If I could live in those summer days forever. I would. But summer doesn’t last forever and you can’t go home again.

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.