“People whom fate and their sin-mistakes have placed in a certain position, however false that position may be, form a view of life in general which makes their position seem good and admissible. . . . This surprises us when the persons concerned are thieves bragging about their dexterity, prostitutes vaunting their depravity, or murders boasting of their cruelty. But it surprises us only because the circle, the atmosphere, in which these people live, is limited, and chiefly because we are outside it. Can we not observe the same phenomenon when the rich boast of their wealth-robbery, when commanders of armies pride themselves on their victories-murder, and when those in high places vaunt their power-violence? That we do not see the perversion in the views of life held by these people, is only because the circle formed by them is larger and we ourselves belong to it.” (Resurrection, Leo Tolstoy, trans. Louise Maude)

New Readers:

Please start reading with my first post "A Cup of Coffee". Originally posted on March 19, the archival date changed when I made corrections on May 13, which is the date under which you can find it now.

I'll learn to manage this all more smoothly someday, but at present I have at most only an hour online each day (that thanks to the San Francisco Public Library system, without which I would be lost).

Friday, March 29, 2013


Saturn, God of boundaries and limitations, turned retrograde on February 18.

Don’t count on your luck.

Even though you may be one of those people for whom traffic lights turn green as you approach them, or someone for whom buses materialize at bus stops just as you get there, know that your luck has ended.

Saturn, not merely a God but a Titan, now slips backward in the sky, retracing his recent steps. This isn’t just a time (as your optimistic therapist might say) to “Be aware of your limitations and respect the boundaries that you and others have erected.” Between now and July 8th, you will come to know your mortality and your fallibility. You will feel necessity bind you, its wires wrapped tight around your shoulders and on down around the rest of your body, all the way down to your feet, your legs squeezed together and your arms pinned stiff and straight down your sides, like Saturn bound by his rings..

This is not “Close your eyes and trust the Force, Luke”: this is Keep your eyes open and your wits about you because Force is closing in all around you. No more lucky breaks. No more reasoning with authority. No exceptions. No excuses. No escapes.

You will do well to learn patience and persistence.

And, as always, “You’ll all do well to learn politics, or I’ll lay your soul to waste.”


It is coming down out there. I don’t mean that it is raining. I am talking about the cold.

When you live in San Francisco, you are reminded every day that the North Pacific is a very big -- and very cold -- neighbor. Even on the sunniest days, when you might actually find yourself sweating as you hurry along Market Street, about to be late for some appointment, or as you break into a trot to make the bus that is just then reaching the intersection, hoping you catch it so you won‘t be late for work, even then, when you are sweating, if you step into the smallest bit of shade you feel the deep chill.

The second you are out of the direct blast of solar radiation, under a tattered awning perhaps or just in the meager shade of a barren winter tree, the air grabs you and reminds you that a vast, close-to-freezing body of water begins maybe a mile or two from where you stand and from there extends for five thousand unbroken miles beyond, a power immense, indifferent, and inescapable.

Tonight, after a number of unseasonably -- even scarily -- warm days and balmy nights, Winter has risen up again and stands towering above us, a sentry at the dark gates of the Pacific night. The wind swirling around Him bites. Your ears and your hands hurt after just a few short blocks.

I walked no more than five blocks tonight, but in every block those who sleep on the sidewalk were already hunkered down. Blankets, quilts, sleeping bags, cardboard or paper, any covering at hand, shrouded not only their bodies but their heads as well. It was early, before nine o’clock, but every one of them was already wrapped up tight, breathing and re-breathing the stale air caught within their thick cocoons.

I remembered the warmth of that damp, exhaled air, thinking back to times in my youth when I went camping high in the Sierra or out by the sea, keeping my breath wrapped close around me in defense against the bitterly cold air under the impossibly crowded sky of stars.

What stars you can see in The City these days can be counted on your fingers, our ambient light blocking out the heavens. And even though we blind ourselves to them, the Gods and Titans still rule there. Even though we do not look to them, or even see them, they nevertheless continue to wheel across the heavens, with their “disinterested, hard energy.” Nothing we here below can do will block out the descending cold.

You who stand in the dark, upholding the icy stars and allowing the sea’s menace, watch over those who are not housed tonight, keep them -- Your frail and harmless creatures -- through this night. They did not ask for any of it. Dare not to let harm befall them.

And let not one of us who are housed tonight think that you are not also out there, feeling your own weight press your bones against the hard concrete and feeling the freezing night itself pressing down from above.

We are all out in the cold.

We are all far from home.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Traveling Light, Part 2

There are certain things which the bourgeois mind just cannot seem to grasp.

When I got out of County Jail following my second arrest, one of the friends I wanted to get in touch with right away was HG.  When I texted him the news that I was walking out of the jail at 850 Bryant Street, breathing freely for the first time in ten days, he said the strangest thing in reply: "I don't know what I should say to you," he said.

I have been often struck by the fact that HG constantly describes himself as driven first and foremost by Jewish guilt.  He complains all the time about his mother and her oppressive concern with propriety.  (Indeed, as someone whose mother is no longer living, I have found his denigration of her and the bitter feelings he expresses about her made me uncomfortable.)

So at first I took his remark to mean that he felt he needed some formal or conventional words to use on the occasion, that he was searching his mind for something his mother would say to a friend just released from jail.  But his mother, no doubt, would not have a friend who had been released from jail because she would never have a friend who was in jail in the first place.

I have to emphasize here how generous, caring, and helpful a friend HG has been all this year, ever since we first met shortly after I was "kicked to the curb".  While I was looking for a place to live on my own, he has often let me stay at his house, sometimes for two or three nights in a row.  His hospitality was especially helpful because he lives only a short walk from the gift shop where I worked.  And he not only housed me but also fed me on those occasions, too.  He even let me do my laundry at his house, which saved me a meaningful amount of money over the months.  I have to say -- and have said to him -- that HG is a mensch, and his kindness to me was a true mitzvah.

But I notice that since my second stint as a guest of the County Sheriff, in the three or four conversations we have had -- via text, as always with HG -- he has not extended an invitation to come to his house again.  Nor has he responded to my suggestions that we meet for breakfast or lunch.

I am left wondering what it was -- and is -- that he didn't know how to say.  And so another companion on this journey falls to the side, veering off on a different path which may or may not ever cross mine again.

I seem to be traveling lighter all the time.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Some Context

At this point you are likely to wonder who I am. Whether to credit my opinions or believe in the accuracy of my reporting depends on your sense of my character. And because I have admitted right off the bat that I spent time in jail, you have your doubts.

On January 30, 2011, the fellow with whom I had lived for a couple of years, MRM, picked a fight with me, called 911, and, claiming that I had scratched the back of his neck, had me arrested on a domestic violence charge. He refused to press charges, and I was released at 1:00 am on the 31st. He had an automatic stay-away order as a result of the arrest, and so I was unable to go home. In the ten days that order lasted, he requested a permanent restraining order, which was granted temporarily pending a hearing.

Thus began a period during which I was homeless but kept my job at a small gift shop in the neighborhood where we lived.

I got my own restraining order against him, and at the eventual hearing a mutual stay-away order was issued. That was in March of 2012. I did everything I could to avoid him but he continued to harass me through early August, when he filed a false police report alleging that I had approached him in the park, hit him, and caused him to fall down and hurt his wrist. He reported this imaginary incident two weeks after he said it happened. Despite all the reports I had filed with the police detailing the hundreds of text messages and emails he had sent me, the stalking he had done both electronically and physically, and even the visit he had made to the shop where I worked, all of which were expressly forbidden by the mutual stay-away order, I was arrested at work on a misdemeanor battery charge for having supposedly hit him.

I spent ten days in jail, until my great and good friend, AB, who himself has no money and lives on Social Security Disability benefits, used his Visa card to pay the $1000 to bail me out. No greater friendship is there, and I shall praise him to the end of my days.

When I got out of jail, I learned that I had lost my job. The owner of the gift shop didn’t want the atmosphere of love, compassion, and joy she so carefully cultivates disturbed by my troubles. I don’t begrudge her that. But the fact that she tried to deny my unemployment benefits on the basis of my arrest being my fault angered me so that I wrote her a bitter email, which I cc’d to all her employees. Now I worry that the fact that I was not hired at Trader Joe’s after a thoroughly successful pair of interviews is the result of a negative response from this former employer. So much for the wisdom of expressing your anger.

And even though our society tells us to be proud Americans, proud gays and lesbians, proud African-Americans, proud this and proud that, I do my best to remind everyone that Pride is cardinal among the Seven Deadly Sins, that indeed Pride is the sin of Lucifer and of the rebellious angels who were cast out of Heaven with him, and that the wisdom of Proverbs intones “Pride goeth before a fall”.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Traveling Light, Part 1

Homelessness is Expensive.

The housed tend to think that having no mortgage or rent to pay would mean that one could live cheaply.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  With no home, one has no kitchen, and every meal has to be purchased at restaurant prices.  Even a meal from a deli or grocery store, a sandwich, a prepared salad or side order (macaroni or potato salad, cut fruit) costs a lot.  And with no storage, you cannot buy anything in larger, more economical sizes, let alone in bulk.

Big-box stores such as Costco do have great quality items at remarkably low prices, but one has to have a good deal of money in order to take advantage of the low cost.  You cannot buy a variety of foods, variety enough to provide a balanced diet, without spending over $100, and quite likely $200 or $300.  You have to have money to save money.  Those with limited resources who are trying to eat every day on as little as possible, scraping by in an attempt to save the "move-in" costs required if they are ever to return to the class of the housed, that seemingly astronomical first and last month's rent and security deposit, have to pay the highest prices for food and other essentials.

The world is upside down.

The poor have the same kind of daily budget, by necessity, as rich do, by choice.  When the rich travel for business or pleasure, every meal out, each night's shelter, is a one-time expense.  Buying things in small quantities over and over again (toiletries, laundry detergent) in the "travel" size is an uneconomical necessity for the poor, because they can only keep what they can carry.

When you find yourself lugging two or three pieces of luggage with you everywhere you go, you have to make do with fewer things.

Some Advice:
Keeping Clean: Dish-washing liquid will clean your body as well as your dishes. I bought a small bottle of Dawn (best grease-cutter around) for 99 cents about a month ago, and it still has about a week left to it. It does a great job as a body wash and is not at all hard on the skin. (Skeptical?  Just ask yourself what manufacturer would make a product that causes “dishpan hands”?)  You get scads of suds from just a few drops, and it rinses clean more easily than any other kind of soap I know of. So I carry one small bottle of Dawn and have no need for body wash, hand soap, bath bar, shampoo, etc.

[Note: the reverse is not true; you could not use body wash or shampoo to wash your dishes. Such products include moisturizers, conditioners, and fragrances that would turn your stomach should you try to eat off dishes washed in them. They do not rinse clean but leave one kind of film or another behind.]

Food Service: You don’t need plates. Anything you can eat off a dinner plate can be eaten out of a bowl as well.

[Again, the reverse is not true.]

And one commuter coffee mug can replace any cups or glasses. It will hold both hot and cold beverages, and with a secure lid you have the advantage of not worrying about spillage when the officious security  guard or the "po-po" (that is , the police) tell you to move along.

What's wrong with having a picnic (or even camping out) in urban settings?  Why would I have to drive for miles (assuming I had a car) to some "natural" place, set aside never to be used as part of real daily life just so that I can spread a cloth, enjoy a meal, and go to sleep looking up into the sheltering sky?  Why shouldn't I do so on any open piece of ground I can find?  Ah, the laws of private property -- we shall have much to say about that bit of evil in the future.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Distance

I was at the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center about half an hour ago and found our names on a wall honoring Patrons of the Center: "W.S. and C.T., Patrons" said the plaque. As I left the Center and began to walk up Market Street a few minutes later, I started to cry.  I grieved the death of someone I used to be, a life that once was mine, a much better life than that which I am living now.

I was in the Community Center because I had become overwhelmed with fatigue as I walked up Market Street toward the Castro branch library.  I had slept well the night before, but that was the first in many nights that I had had a chance to do so.  For a considerable stretch of nights prior to that I had been up much if not all of the night getting high and having sex. 
Luckily the guy I had been with night before last took pity on me in the morning after our all-night binge.

He asked about my experience of homelessness.  I told him that I have to begin each day asking myself where I am going to spend the night.  As the day rolls on, I find myself anxiously hoping that I can answer the question before it is so late and so cold that I have to seek out the places where I can go inside for a few minutes at a time to get warm: a hotel lobby, a donut shop, an adult bookstore/video arcade.

The best alternative is obviously to be invited to spend the night in somebody's house or apartment.  The downside to those invitations is that they pretty much always involve sex and drugs.  So while I get to stay warm and comfortable, I rarely get to enjoy a full night's sleep.
When I told this truth to the guy I had spent the night with, he invited me to stay the following night, which was last night, "with no expectations."  I was touched by his generosity, his true hospitality.  I accepted and slept soundly for many hours.  I awoke feling rested, and he started fondling me.  I did my best to perform well.  I was grateful for the sleep.

I long for a place where I can lie down alone.  I am more grateful than I can say to the friends and acquaintances who have let me pass a night or two -- or more -- with them during these last months.  Yet as kind as they have been, I have not been "at home" in their homes.