Chapter 1 ~Tattoos and Tales
Dedicated to Babe, who without his presence in my life, I would not have known how to “Trip the Light Fantastic, nor, “Dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free.”
A Glittersmith is one of those people that you meet, who offer much in the way of adventure, explores undiscovered spaces with joyous abandon, and unpredictability sit on the edge of your seat for the whole ride. They are-a fan-my-brow fabulous person who walks with angels and magnificent misfits; yes that is a Glittersmith. I have only met a few that had that kind of influence on me, where I was swept up into their personality of their childlike spirit – followed willingly in their shinning smiles, and quirky ways like a child follows a butterfly as far as she can until it flies to high to see.
I met Paul Smith in 1969, three months after I graduated from high school, and moved to San Francisco. If there had been a soundtrack playing at the moment as he walked in the door, it would be this.
These Foolish Things ~ by Billie Holiday
A cigarette that bears a lipstick’s traces
An airline ticket to romantic places
And still my heart has wings
These foolish things remind me of you
A tinkling piano in the next apartment
Those stumbling words that told you what my heart meant
A fair ground’s painted swings
These foolish things remind me of you
You came, you saw and you conquered me
When you did that to me
I knew somehow this had to be
The winds of March that make my heart a dancer
A telephone that rings, but who’s to answer?
Oh, how the ghost of you clings
These foolish things remind me of you
The scent of smoldering leaves, the wail of steamers
Two lovers on the street who walk like dreamers
Oh, how the ghost of you clings
These foolish things remind me of you
How strange how sweet to find you still
These things are dear to me
They seem to bring you so near to me
The sigh of midnight trains in empty stations
Silk stockings thrown aside, dance invitations
Oh, how the ghost of you clings – These foolish things remind me of you
It was one of those captivating, soul kindling moments. I was sitting at the kitchen table at the sisters Leslie and Liza’s house, when their dog Nutritious began to bark. I never knew why they named him that, maybe because he was a healthy German Sheppard, but knowing Leslie, she probably like the syllables all strung out in a sharp set of three when she called his name, Nu-tri-tous.
Outside the door, climbing to the second story, I heard a booming theatrical voice.
“Nutritious! I hear you boy, is that you! It’s me, you remember me.” The sisters looked at each back and forth at each other, trying to recall the voice. “That’s that older guy we met in the park when we took Nutritious for a walk,” said Leslie. “Oh yeah, I remember,” Liza said, and went to open the door.” In came this guy in his late thirties, put his hand out for Nutritious to sniff, and patted him briskly on the head. “You are a good boy, Nutritious, you remember me, don’t ya boy; yeah we played Frisbee in the park.”
“Hi, Paul, it’s been awhile since we saw you, we only met you once in the park, and how did you know where we lived?” Liza asked, rather blown away he was standing in their apartment.
“My friend Bob, told me he dropped you off somewhere on this block. I just walked up to this door and opened it, thinking it might be yours. When I heard Nutritious barking, I knew it was the right one,” Paul said, quite proud of his navigational sixth sense.
“Come in and have a seat, I’ll make some coffee,” Liza told him. She led the way down the long hall that ran through the duplex. Paul followed and stopped for a moment. When our eyes met, I smiled as he came into the kitchen, and sat across from me.
“You look like an angel,” he said.
“What?” I’m just Laura, not an angel, but thanks.” I laughed, a little embarrassed by his forthright – no holds bar remark. He was clearly one of those people that said the first thing that comes to mind without a filter.
“No really, you are glowing,” he said.
“Hmm, must have been something I ate,” I said, trying my best to shift the focus with humor away from me. He laughed; the sisters laughed, and the three of them began to catch up from where they had left off, which was 3 months ago.
Leslie was a radiant beauty with long blonde hair, and turquoise eyes, flipped her hair off her shoulder, and said. “The last time I saw you, you were going back to Redondo Beach to be in a play or something?”
“Yes, the Community Theater to do Kismet with my friends Bob and Charlene. You have a good memory. Yeah, man, we wrapped that play up last week, and I thought I just come to the city to see you two again. My sister lives over in South San Francisco, so I’m visiting my nieces and nephews too,” he said in the friendliest of manner, as if he had known them for years.
“I love the theater! You are an actor then?” I asked him, keenly interested in anything he might have to say. He was charismatic in a spunky, full of life – envibing way; with a garland of the soul kind of laugh that peeled through the apartment in staccato jazz rhythm. It was infectious; I found myself laughing too, for no reason other than the joy of meeting a uniquely interesting person.
“Well, recently I am, since I got out of prison.” He added the prison, as if it was nothing; it could have been the words military, college or circus. He began rolling a Bugler cigarette, quite expertly as he went on talking. “I was in San Quentin for a parole violation, and while I was there, I got involved in an acting group. I loved it! Fuck, yeah, it was so much better than getting high, and doing all that crazy shit I use to do, that I just stuck with it when I got out. My friends Bob and Charlene invited me to audition for Kismet and I got the part of the genie.”
“Prison, eh?” I was totally curious now; he didn’t seem like the criminal type. “What were you originally in for?”
“I use to be really wild. I partied, and took all kinds of drugs. I was always getting stopped and searched so I already had a bad reputation around the town. I didn’t have much money one night to buy some drugs so one night, when I was already fucked up; I broke into a drugstore through the sky light. Well I found a couple of bottles of Seconals, and put them in my pocket. I’m not greedy, just wanted a few to have, and then I noticed that there was an old fashion ice cream counter in there. I went over and made myself the biggest chocolate sundae, with bananas, cherries, and nuts – whip cream all over the top; man it was fucking delicious! I was sitting on the floor behind the counter when the police came, and hauled me off to jail for breaking, and entering, robbery of drugs and eating their ice cream. He laughed out loud. That catchy laugh was bounced around us ladies like a ball, getting louder and sillier by the second.
“They sent you to San Quentin for that?” I asked him.
“Well, no I had been in other places on, and off since I was in my 20’s, mostly for drugs, parole violations, like going to Mexico. Once you’re in the California system, it’s hard to get out. When I was sixteen, I ran away from home. That was the first bust. My dad thought it would straighten me out to be in a reformatory. Those places are awful for kids, so I ran away from there. Well, parents couldn’t get back their kids once they were served with time, so rather than turn me in, my folks dyed my hair, and sent me off to Pennsylvania to live my Aunt. They put me in a car with a friend of my dads who he’d met as a sign painter at Universal studios; a kind of Sheikh of sorts.”
“A Sheik?” I asked, this story getting better by the minute.
“Yeah, that’s what my dad called him, the Sheik, because he always wore a turban. Well anyway, they dyed my hair black so I would look like his son. We rode all the way in his 1935 Lincoln K, and since he had an accent and I didn’t, I wasn’t allowed to speak in public for being found out. He just told them I was deaf and dumb if anyone tried to talk to me.”
“That is far out.” My mind was filled with the image of this scrawny fair complected kid stained in shoe polish, just riding around with an East Indian man across country in a big Lincoln.
“Yeah people thought we were royalty or something weird. It was all right until we went through Texas on a hot day, and the dye started dripping down my face. I had all these black streaks down my cheeks and shit, and they just thought the Sheik was some kind of pervert, and stayed clear of us,” Paul laughed. “It was awful. I was wierded out by the whole trip. But, I’ve been pretty weird since I was born, always restless, running away and reckless shit. My mother said when I was three, she was giving me a bath,for just a split moment, turned around for something, and I jumped out of the bath tub, and started running down the street bare bold naked.”
I pictured him running full out, arms wide out, scurrying like a wild goose down the sidewalk, free as a natural born citizen of the coolocracy; honking to his own tune in blue note jazz; yeah this guy was born to run.
“It was pretty funny I’m told, my mom went running down the sidewalk yelling my full name… Paul Richard Smith, you come back! I stayed with my Aunt for around six months until I turned seventeen, then I joined the Navy… spent some time in Okinawa. I don’t talk much about that. It was pretty boring but I got these great tattoos.” Paul said, lifting up his shirt to show us his two bluebirds on his chest. He rolled up his sleeve revealing a hula dancer that had turned into a freakish woman with drooping eyes, and a shedding grass skirt; her Lai was melded together, looking more like an iron necklace than flowers.
“What do the bluebirds represent?” I asked him, genuinely interested.
“If you see a bluebird, it means you are close to land, in the Navy they can also mean if you are shipwrecked you would definitely be rescued, or some shit like that,” he laughed.
I took in this poetic metaphor as if I had traced his soul within my own to mean that all his life he had been running, running not away, but running with his own spirit to an undetermined place in the world, seeking a refuge of belonging with someone he was destined to meet. He was out on his own island of bodacious bizarre, fresh as a clap of thunder, wild as loose feather in a fourth of July parade, rules and regulations baited him into rebellion, and no man or any woman was greater or lesser than he.
I said nothing. I knew him. I knew that life can cause one to move in directions that may be wrong, too man wrong turns but seeks to touch that which ferociously breathes in oxygen to keep its own fire alive.
It was getting late, and I felt I might be intruding on their own reunion so I went next door, where I slept on Hal and Sherry’s porch. It wasn’t too long after I had settled in to my bunk cot in the 4 x 6 foot room and started reading my Bible. I was reading the passage where Jesus raised the young girl from the dead. “Talitha cumi”, which means damsel, arise, when Paul knocked on the door.
“I was wondering if you had any rolling papers and might want to smoke a joint? I’ve got some pretty good weed,” he said with his eyes twinkling like a sprite.
“I don’t smoke pot. I am already pretty trippy on my own and it just messes me up,” I told him truthfully. It was the 60’s, and all my friends did drugs of some kind or another. I was accustomed to the curiousness’ of this procurement to not indulge as they did. My choice was born out of reason mostly. Why spend money on drugs, when one barely has food? Why put something into your body that might affect your future children’s well being? Why start some-thing that might cause so much hardship in a relationship as it had done in my family with alcohol? It didn’t make sense to me. But most of all, why seek spirituality through any other way than simply living ones’ life as joyfully as possible? I think I came into this life all ready up for doing just that.
“I see you are reading the Bible, those back pages don’t have anything on them, and maybe I could use one of those?” he said as a utilitarian answer to needing papers.
“I think that would be kind of sacrilegious don’t you?” I told him then laughed.
“I don’t think God will mind.” Paul said, there aren’t any words on that page.
I thought about it, and decided that I since I had little to offer to this new friend since I was living on a tiny back porch, pan-handled, and sold underground newspapers to eat in China town for 3.00, why not share? I tore half the back page out and handed it to him.
“Thanks, God will put a star in your crown for that.” he said genuinely appreciative.
“You really are a pretty good actor, aren’t you?” I observed with a keen sense of character that I had developed over my short years of just watching people. “You have a smooth way of convincing people of things they wouldn’t normally do.”
“I can usually find a way round things, it’s how I survived all these years.” He inhaled the doobie and blew a smoke ring. “See it’s a halo.”
“That’s what happens when you smoke the Bible,” I said dryly. “So where do you go from here Paul Smith? Do you have plans for the rest of your life?”
“I don’t know, I’ll get a job, maybe as a screen painter here in the city. I have a trade. I learned some things in prison. I was an assistant to the prison’s coroner for awhile too. That was far out. He was this old Italian Doctor, real nice man with a thick accent. One time we were dissecting a body and I had my thumb on one of his main arteries, and felt it beating. I told him that I thought the guy was still alive, I can hear his heart beating. He picked up a scalpel and wacked the artery off and threw the heart in a pan, announced … “The heart, she beat no more.” I was horrified! Fuck, it scared the shit out of me! Then he told me I was just feeling my heart beat as I was pressing on the artery. That was to weird for me. Shortly after that I took up learning how to screen paint in the prison shop.”
Paul had a fulminating way of speaking that cursed for exclamation points, hummed in between sentences like a motor waiting to take off, and laughed out whole paragraphs. It was fascinating to watch him speak, it was as if his hands were separate thoughts that led his stories, always a beat in front of what he going to say next. His head would shake a little from side to side first when something mischievous, or saucy was about to be said, with a twinkling look of, look-what-the-cat- brought-in smile. If one was laughing, he’d chime in with his staccato laugh, milking it for as long as you both could go.
“So what’s your plan, Laura? I guess you’re working right?” he asked.
“I just got here, I’m looking for a job, but no one seems to be hiring anyone like me without experience. I’d like to get off this porch and find a place of my own soon, I don’t like being dependent on the “kindness of strangers.” Something will turn up soon, as sure as there is a heaven.” I smiled certain of that. Paul gave me a fatherly pat on the head.
“Oh, I’m sure it will, there’s always room for a beginner somewhere. Hey look, it stopped raining!” he jumped up in the air exuberantly, giggling like a kid, running out to the back balcony outside the porch door. I followed him to the railing where we both stood in wondrous rapture of the double rainbow that appeared in the sky over the south end of San Francisco. “That’s good luck you know, double rainbows are magical,” he said. It was more than that to me; it was a sign.
A funny thing happens when the pieces fall in place, everything gets clear, and the air is elevated into a rhythmic swirl of awesomeness. Paul inhaled the last of his joint, carefully snubbing out the end to put in baggie for later.
“Well it’s been nice talking to you, I’d better get back to my sister’s house, my nieces and nephews are going to want to say goodnight to me before they go to bed.” This ex con had a heart it seemed, one that was longing for a more domestic life style.
“Goodbye Paul Smith, I hope to see you again, it’s been nice talking to you,” I sincerely told him.
My new independence from my own family had left me with a little lonesomeness that was born out of fledgling wings. It’s not uncommon, everyone goes through this phase, but a world of strangers can hardened the edges if one isn’t careful to find friendship with the arabesque beautiful ones along the glitter highway. I shook his hand goodbye, and noticed a star and a crescent moon burned off, the ink faintly visible in the shape. When I was in school, I signed my named in lower case letters with a star and a crescent after my name. It was the same spacing, the same direction of the moon and I couldn’t help wonder at the coincidence of meeting this man, called Paul Smith.
Chapter 2 ~Saved by a Cricket
Life leads us away from each other and then back again when the time is right. Paul picked up his back pack and turned to me.
“Well the stars are coming out; I better get back to South San Francisco to my sisters, so she won’t worry. I hope to see you around angel lady, nice meeting you.”
“Nice meeting you too, yeah, come back again.” I told him, hoping he really would; he was such a curious character that I wanted to hear more of his stories.
It was my vocation just to be and see what happened. I was traveling the streets of San Francisco, checking out stores and restaurants for jobs, writing and observing. I stopped on Market Street, revived from my earnest search for employment fresh as the yellow and white daffodils that bloomed in the gypsy garden carts on my way to Union Square.
How sweet is the bustle of 18 years of age? How new and fascinating the faces were to me, however weathered or broken. Their working days gone, old men, well beyond their present age, some sat in Union Square waiting for a hand out to buy another bottle of wine. Above the lonely din hovered one man in particular sitting alone on the stone casement, a distinguished looking man in his mid 50’s, though his clothes were ragged his stature still clung on to something upright. I immediately felt a great sadness from him that needed attention, so I sat beside him.
“It’s a nice day, are you enjoying the music?” I asked him as the Jazz band began to play.
“I am, I’m hungry though, can you spare some change?” He asked seeing me as a golden opportunity to beg. I passed over his question as if he hadn’t asked at all.
“My name is Laura, what is yours?”
“My name is Anthony,” he said, surprised that I would even care. I felt he had once been someone special; he still carried himself well and spoke with an air of intellect, which only those educated in the art of conversation can facilitate.
“I bet you once had a job, what did you do for a living?” I asked.
“You mean before I came to this disarrayed lifestyle of wine and begging?” He said sardonically about himself then went on in a kind of euphoria with a sudden clarity that even surprised him.
“Once I worked for Disney when I was twenty. I was a cell painter … I painted the bluebirds and the haunted trees.” His eyes wept silently, streaming in sea turtles tears of a life laid ruin in the wake of temperance lost. “I was married and had two children but they left me long ago,” his voice trailing off into a heavyweight of irrepressible remorse.
Around the corners of his mouth were hints of a smile that he must have used many times over once. I thought about how he was the one of the first who made branches move with wicked unrepentant grasps, tear at snow white as she ran fearfully through the forest. I saw twittering birds that flew all around in the balance of sweet air; the sun shining up to him as he painted in the cells with liquid promise. His eyes must have been glimmering with enthusiasm as he blended the colors, knowing that many children, years from now would see what he created. His life was all ahead of him, dancing with the pictures that once filled his life with tumescent joy but now his only hope was to quit drinking.
“There is always hope. There are shelters and programs in the mission where they can help you find a new beginning.” I told him.
“Yes I stay at one but it is not enough for me. I am just getting by, waiting for release; something to live for again,” he replied.
“How about giving it to a higher power, get a sponsor and the rest will come along, it’s up to you.” I patted his shoulder and gave him ten dollars. “Use this for food please, get something to eat, not another bottle of wine, just one meal.”
“Thank you.” He wiped away another huge tear that streamed in a river from his eye to his chin, then he looked into the blue sky as if he were reading his life up there, searching for a cloud just to take him home.
I was just about to leave when a lively jazz band of street musicians began to play ‘When You Wish upon a Star’. We sat peacefully together in a happier place as I sang along. “It makes no difference who you are.” I inwardly thought about how we all encounter a forest that either lurks to snag us with its scraggly pointed branches, or chose to be wondrously courted with loving welcome in a cricket’s song, ever allowing the stream of constant light to flow through us as we paint our cells in to make a story that is cherished. We sat quietly for a moment in the serendipity of our encounter. I saw him as he truly is inside and sang along with the song.
“If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do
Fate is kind
She brings to those who love
The sweet fulfillment of their secret longing
I hugged him good bye, looked up at the sunlit sky, hopefully wishing on a unseen star for Anthony, and that he would hear Ol’ Jiminy Cricket singing for him, and maybe, just maybe… like a bolt out of the blue, fate would step in and see him through, because; “When you wish upon a star, it makes no difference who you are, anything your heart desires will come to you.”
Chapter 3 ~The Heart Wonders
I moved out of the sister’s porch a few weeks later, having had enough of shared space and handouts. Met up and moved in with a new boyfriend, who was a runaway with fake ID. He’d been on the streets since he was thirteen. Wes, if that was his real name, had well honed street skills for a kid. I spent a month with him in North Beach in a ratty hippie hotel just to get out of the sisters porch. We were still selling papers, pan handling and getting free meals at Morries Dinner because Wes washed dishes there.
One day after one of his New York Style hamburgers, I was heading back to my hotel room in North Beach, and passed a short round woman with shoulder length sandy brown hair. She walked by me and slowed down, then turned and called out to me.
“Hey!” I turned and said, “Hello.” She approached me with a smile and went on to say, “Do you need some clothes?” I was taken aback, as I had been waiting on a box from home with some of my better clothes that Mom was sending and they hadn’t arrived yet. “Yes, I do. I want to find a job, but I don’t have anything that looks nice enough for an interview.” The woman had a sweet kind of Brooklyn accent, which tried to be boisterous but really came off more exuberant than brassy.
“My name is Katy, I’m a seamstress, and have a shop with all sorts of clothes that I collected shoes too, why don’t you come over and see if there is anything you would like.” She quickly added, I’m not a weirdo or anything, I just want to give you some clothes.”
“I do need some clothes, and you really mean it don’t you?” I had to ask, just so I could check out her vibe one more time. It rang true.
“Oh yeah, I am sure you can find something to wear. It’s just up the street.” I followed her up the block and we came to a shop that was in a basement. She unlocked the green door and we walked down the stairs into a room filled with clothes, shoes and material. Her sewing table was spread out with a party gown she was working on. “I do mending and alterations too,” she said.
“This is for a fancy debutante type who lives on Nob Hill.” She laughed like a flock of songbirds in the morning, loud and twittery. “Go look around and see if there is something you like that fits.”
There was shelf after shelf with racks from floor to the ceiling, all sizes, and all styles, some new and some used. “I pick things up at the Salvation Army or Goodwill if I like the piece or the pattern and sometimes redesign a new outfit out of the old, and sometimes I just get things for people that might need something to wear, like you!” She grabbed a sweet empire dress with tiny blue flowers on a chocolate brown background made of manufactured silk. It was lovely, delicate and tasteful with long sleeves that belled slightly at the wrist and handed it to me. “This looks like it will fit.” She loaded my arms up with skirts and blouses and found some leather flats and sandals for me. I was overwhelmed with her generosity. “This is to much, I won’t be able to pay you for all this.”
“Pay me? Oh no my dear, this is for free.”
“Thank you, but I want to repay you.” I told her folding the clothes into a paper bag she’d gotten out for me to put them in.
“Just think of this as a day that God spoke and someday return the favor to someone else in need. The Bible says that if you cast your bread upon the waters, it will come back to you. I say, If you cast your bread upon the waters, it will come back stuffed duck.” Katy led the way back up the stairs to let me out and gave me a huge bear hug goodbye. “Take care dear and good luck finding that job.”
“Thank you Katy, this is really a welcomed turn in my life; I appreciate your kindness and will never forget it.”
I didn’t just walk home, I floated, and it was like I was in a bubble filled with friendship and human kindness. It was an emotion new to me, coming from a complete stranger.
I got a job at Indian Imports, hired by a lovely man in a white suit named George. It was the perfect for me, as I was surrounded by silks, tapestries, beaded bags, and exotic jewelry. There were wind up toys that magically brought laughter to everyone that played with them as the whirred and chimed, danced and played music. Luxurious rugs of rich colors wafted with an organic hemp scent greeted me as I walked upstairs every morning to tidy the toys, baskets, and far eastern oddities on their shelves. It became my true living room, the home of my longing and refuge. To be surrounded by beautiful things is uplifting, even when one doesn’t own them. I could admire their beauty and daydream of the exotic hands that fashioned them into being from so faraway. Indian Imports was one of the first American business’s that bought from independent artisans abroad to help better their economic standing and provide a living for their families.
Wes and I went separate ways, and I left the North Beach Hippie Hotel and moved into what we called back then a Wino Hotel off of Market called The Jessie. It was run down but functional, with clean sheets, and a measure of decent people who were just down on their luck either by happenstance or demise. I saw an opportunity for peaceful coexistence with myself and these strangers that I was surrounded with. We were loners, all eking out a measure survival in the Jessie Hotel that was owned and tended to by the Sikhs.
The fundamental beliefs of Sikhism, articulated in the sacred scripture Guru Granth Sahib, include faith and meditation on the name of the one creator, unity and equality of all humankind, engaging in selfless service, striving for social justice for the benefit and prosperity of all, and honest conduct and livelihood while living a householder’s life. Sikhism emphasizes simran (meditation on the words of the Guru Granth Sahib), that can be expressed musically through Kirtan or internally through Nam Japo as a means to feel God’s presence, and to have control over the “Five Thieves” (lust, rage, greed, attachment and conceit). Hand in hand, secular life is considered to be intertwined with the spiritual life. Sikhs also reject claims that any particular religious tradition has a monopoly on absolute truth.
I liked living in the Sikhs hotel. The air of sandalwood, and ethereal flutters of India filled me with an exotic peacefulness when I entered the lobby where incense was always burning. My body melted off the frantic and disconnected rhythms of the city streets as I inhaled the sandalwood and was greeted with their smiles. The rooms were nine dollars a week. Yep, I said that right. I believe that they were offering a safe refuge for us poor folks, a kind of ashram more than running a successful money making business.
Their white clothes and turbans elevated the atmosphere in the once elegant but now dingy hotel; their peaceful smiles tinged the room in a blue aura. I passed the woman in white, wife to one of the Sikhs with her long ebony hair wrapped up high on her head carrying linens through the antiquated hall on my floor. She nods and smiles openly with recognition of me in a manner that warms my being with belonging. I opened the door to my room where the welcoming site of fresh linens on the bed lay neatly folded for me to change. She has done much more than changed the linens; for there is white light and friendliness left in the room so precisely that I can almost hear temple bells.
I sat in the old rocking chair that I positioned in front of my open window. The curtains billow gently in the breeze like spirits. I rock with their rhythm, slowly breathing in the late evening ambiance of the city. I want to tell the story; this microcosm in the poorest part of town is a movie of real people in the throes of their lifetimes all seeking shelter together in an old hotel. We huddled misfits in emotional splashdown whose days are numbered by a boom of developers moving into the area, are buying up old buildings to be torn down and their dusty pasts transformed into a twentieth century livelihood leaving us all to where, we do not know. These old hotels are a refuge from the streets, at 9.00 dollars a week; we can have a home and a bed, a measure of respectability and shelter from the storms that were inked on the parchments of our hearts.
Just across the street from me is a new office building being built that dwarfs us in its futuristic structure, making me feel that the Jessie is an apparition more so from another time, a portal of a past that we are moving through and the Sikhs are the gate keepers that are easing us all into its transition.
I close the window as it is getting late and crawl into my bed with the squeaky springs, look up to the ceiling medallion that holds the old pendant Edison bulbs. This was once an elegant room with flowered wallpaper that was a radiant blend of vibrant colors and flourished with gold motifs, which now are faded and slightly torn like an old scrapbook. I wonder what kind of people slept here and what adventures they were on.
My neighbors are men mostly, they are poor, alienated, and down on their luck. One morning as I was leaving for work, a drunk sloppily propositioned me. I told him I wasn’t interested and humored him by saying that he might have more luck down in the mission district. He was about to grab my arm when another man came out of his room dressed in an old navy tweed sports jacket, a white shirt with an ascot. He looked like a foreign language professor, or perhaps a literature professor in his early thirties; he was most dapper in a destitute kind of way. In a loud, aristocratic voice, booming out from down the hall, announced in no uncertain terms. “Unhand her good fellow!” The drunk turned in much amazement as did I at the turn of century vocabulary. “I said, let her go, just because we have little money or position in life doesn’t mean we can’t have dignity and respect for others.” The man became ashamed, mumbling I’m sorry, and went off staggering down the hall.
“Thank you, you are a true gentleman,” I said earnestly.
“You are welcome, dear lady; I hope your day is met with better encounters.” He walked down to his room and I never saw him again.