City Streets: Selfies with Anthony

He was sitting on the ledge of a stone wall near the entrance to BART.

“How are you doin’ today?”

“I’m well, how are you?” I said as I passed by.

“Good, a little cold over here.” He was sitting in the shade, away from the hot rays of the sun. “Any change?”

I shook my head.”Sorry, I don’t have anything.”

“Have a good day,” he called as I walked away.

When I reached the corner and stopped to wait for the crosswalk signal, I realized I had coins in my change purse. I pulled out some quarters and walked back, sitting beside him and dropping the coins in his cup.

anthony

He gave me the two most recent issues of Street Sheet, a newspaper printed by the Coalition on Homelessness and given to homeless people, who then sell it on the street and keep 100% of what they receive.

It was his sixtieth birthday, and he said he was trying to earn enough to buy himself a burrito. I wish I had offered to take him out to dinner, but my mind was focused on getting to the hostel and setting my bags down.

Before I left, he gave me directions to the nearby farmer’s market, where he works two days a week. I hope I run into him again.

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Storytime: Yo! Yes?

It’s ridiculous how endearing this book can be with so few words. Chris Raschka gives Dr. Seuss a run for his money with this all-dialogue interaction between two kids that begins with the oh-so-simple “Yo! Yes?

YoYes

It’s almost a call-and-response. “Yo!” says the first kid. “Yes?” replies the second. “Hey!” “Who?” One is sassy, the other shy. “You!” “Me?” (Amazon describes this book as having two characters, “one black and one white,” which was weird to read, because it makes the story about race, and I never really read it that way. Sassy and shy was how I always identified them.)

Check out that hand on that hip! So sassy.

Check out that hand on that hip! So sassy.

And the conversation continues from there, no more than three words per page, totaling 34 words all together. It’s sweet and straightforward, and yet so much fun. The drawings manage to express the emotions behind the dialogue. Kids learn to read not only the words, but also the body language of the characters. It’s an example of how reading is more than just words, of how tone and context affect the meaning.

It’s a lovely little book that captures how perfectly simple friendship can be.

 

Costa Mesa

They’d created an oasis in the tiny backyard of their Costa Mesa home. Bamboo and greenery softened the harsh boundaries of the fence, and lush plants separated the space, creating a hidden space for a few chairs and a table. A string of lights crisscrossed above us, the baubles lighting up the greenery.

Everybody was warm inside from drinking sake. They were into Japanese culture, so we sipped the warm sweet wine out of a small wooden box, and despite my best efforts, I spilled every single time.

She built a fairy house at the base of one of the plants, a little teepee made of large dry leaves and a few sticks. James found a thin stick with tiny bunches of balls, and handed it to Dave. “Ohhhhh, that’s perfect.”

baublesoflight

As the sky darkens, the magic only increases. Organic silhouettes embrace us in peace and serenity. I wrap the warm brown blankets around my shoulders, and Elana perches on Dave’s lap. James brings out a hot kettle and five mugs; we didn’t realize we wanted tea until the exact moment he showed up.

Later, Dave drops his mug, and it breaks on the patio stone beneath him. “Aaaaand my foot is burning.”

But nobody panics at the sound of shattering, there is no stress here. Objects break, it’s the way of life. Here, Dave, we’ll pour you another. The kettle’s still hot.

City Streets: Selfies w/Pedro

I’d just finished a Zumba class at the 24 Hour Fitness on Van Ness, and I navigated the sunny streets with long strides, eager to get out of my sweaty clothes and take a shower. He was sitting on a corner, under an umbrella attached to his wheelchair. Masking tape held up the hand written signs on his table, proclaiming the good news about Jesus. As I crossed the street, he waved me over.

“Spare change?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t have anything.”

“Come sit down, I want to talk to you,” he gestured me over.

I perched beside him, on a low plastic stool in the shade.

Pedro and Me

Pedro and Me

“How old are you?”

“I’m twenty-two.”

“I was twenty-three when I came to this country. Now I’m seventy-seven. It was 1962 when I left Cuba. How many years ago was that?”

He waited for my response, and I tapped the numbers out on my fingers, because doing math in your head is hard. “52?”

He’s pleased with my answer.

“Now tell me, what are your goals– what are your life goals? Do you know what you want to do?”

I gave him the same spiel I’ve been giving to family and friends for the past few months: just graduated from college, currently focusing on traveling and writing, and starting massage school in the fall.

He asked me again, “What are your life goals? What do you want to do with your life?”

This time I didn’t hesitate, and gave him the purpose for my life, the one I carry deep down inside me, the one that guides my dreams:

“To make the world a more beautiful place, through love.”

At this, he smiled deeply. “There you go! Now we’re getting somewhere.”

“Your hair smells good.” He reached a hand out, and when I nodded, he touched my ponytail. “It’s beautiful.”

“Can I touch your hair?” I reach up and pat the poof of white hair on the crown of his head. It felt like cotton and clouds, all softness and air.

Pedro's Card

He grabbed a stack of index cards from his table and handed me one. In shaky all caps was written the information for a local church: address, directions, schedule, even radio station. He then wrote his phone number and his apartment number down for me, and had me read the numbers back to him, so that he knew it was legible. “I am your big brother now. I’ll look out for you. You call me if you need anything. And come to the church.”

He took my hands between his, rough and warm, and he prayed over me, first in English, and then in Spanish. As I left, he asked me again for change, and I showed him my hands, empty save for my phone and my hostel key card.

“I came from the gym, remember? I don’t even have a purse.”

Storytime: King Bidgood!

“King Bidgood’s in the bathtub and he won’t get out! Oh, who knows what to do!?”

Thus starts one of my favorite childhood books. It’s got that swing to it, that rhythm from nursrey rhymes and playground songs that makes it easy to pick up. Kids feel like they’re reading along, and they know what comes next.

The illustrations are what make this particular rhyme memorable. The attention to detail makes every page engaging, with unique and dramatic details hidden in every corner.

Yeah, that's the king in his bathtub, with a cake topper of himself in a bathtub.

Yeah, that’s the king in his bathtub, with a cake topper of himself in a bathtub.
And yes, the text is backwards, cuz of the photo.

As time passes, the sun goes across the window, changing the light of the familiar stone arches where these pleas for help have been occurring. The characters have melodramatic faces, each more amusing than the last as they take their turn in the spotlight, trying to rescue the king from his pruny fate.

Seriously, this lady is freaking out right now.

Seriously, this lady is freaking out right now.

And the story, well, it’s just like one a kid makes up, while playing in the bathtub. “I am the king! I will never leave my tub! Bring me my lunch, bring me my soldiers!” Maybe the best children’s authors are just big kids themselves. Which just confirms what Tom Hanks taught me in Big. Adults are boring, so hold on to your inner child.

It's all about being a kid at heart.

It’s all about being a kid at heart.