142 – ooooof

<end photos>

<begin incredibly honest, and vulnerable gibberish>

tonight I got off work fairly late (8:45), and hadn’t taken any photos yet so I got off muni to take some shots of the bridge. I shot for a while and then walked down to embarcadero bart to catch the train home. I needed smokes so I passed the entrance to bart and walked up to the 7-eleven. around that particular spot of drumm street there are always homeless people loitering; I passed a few and gave them my casual nod and slight shake of the head that I have practiced to perfection to answer their yet unasked request for spare change. i’m fairly street smart, or so I like to think and I have this spare-change-request response down pat – it’s automatic. like I said, it comes out of me before they even have time to ask… an affectedly slight smile of understanding, and a little regret coupled with a shake of the head and… I keep walking. the truth is, I very rarely do have any cash on me so my response is not a complete lie.


as I was about to 7-eleven an older man, long white beard with a mustache that covered his mouth completely, stopped me to ask for change, or if I could give him any help. I replayed my afore mentioned response and kept going. he was still standing there when I got done buying smokes and came back out to the street. I offered him a smoke and he turned it down, saying he didn’t smoke or drink, quit years ago but asked if there was anything else I could help him with. I told him I didn’t have any cash and hoped that would get me off the hook… after all, I was gracious enough to offer him a smoke, why couldn’t he just stop guilting me and either accept what was offered, or let me off scott free?  but, no. he told me that really all he wanted was food. he said he was hungry and if I could just buy him some food with my debit card that would be all he wanted.  I declined his request, mumbling something about having to get home to my kids. I turned and walked back to the underground entrance to the train. as I got close to the train entrance a feeling in my gut began to build and was really completely taking me over by the time I got to the stairs… it was something about his eyes. they reminded me of my grandfather I think. the fact that he was so nice to me, calm, not really all that pushy or demanding, and genuinely just asking for my help — it was really hitting me hard. I turned away from the train entrance and stood on the corner, pacing back and forth, smoking and not too very far away from crying (why, I don’t exactly know). I thought of what it would be like to go back and tell him I changed my mind, that I wanted to buy him dinner – hear his life story if he wanted to tell it. I thought of the photos I had to edit when I got home, I thought of the dinner I hadn’t even eaten yet, I thought of my back hurting from the herniated disc i have… but most of all I thought of my motives: I thought what it would be like to write this story and say how I changed my mind and went back and helped, I thought how I could probably photograph him and how much the readers of this blog (you?) would probably like that, and in turn how great I would feel about myself and my one moment of gruelingly contrived ‘selflessness’.  I realized I was screwed either way, I realized pretty much the only thing I was considering was my own outcome, my benefits and gains from the decision at hand. I realized I was making this decision based on what would benefit me the most in one way or another.
when I couldn’t stand my thought process anymore or the overwhelming feelings I turned and walked to the train as fast as I could, where I’m now typing this and coincidentally realizing i have no clue why i’m saying all of this in public, except that i feel the need to release it.


at some point in my life I stopped making decisions that 12, or 14, or even 18 year old me would be proud of current me making. perhaps i’m just tired and a bit delirious (i am) from working over 30 hours in the past two days, or perhaps this is something that i seriously need to look at in myself… who knows.
maybe you relate to this, maybe you don’t.  either way, i suppose i thank you for reading all of my emotional spew.
i guess all i’m saying is: here’s to being a better me tomorrow. here’s to not being callous and chalking it up to street smart. here’s to remembering to do things for their inherent benefit rather than purely for their collateral rewards.
<end incredibly honest, and vulnerable gibberish>

CR May 23rd, 2013 at 2:51 am

Thank you for sharing this beautiful & heart-wrenching story (& beautiful photos), and, most of all, thank you for the reminder to live a life that the zealous, idealistic, and completely well-intentioned and often selfless teenage me would be proud of. I think that far too often we replace what we know to be true with what we claim to have learned about the world, and in so doing often replace the truth with a more comfortable lie that we’ve convinced ourself is a higher truth.

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