It is 11:31pm, and I’m sitting alone in a booth at Hooters. They will be open until 1am, and that’s good. It’s a place to be until I have to leave and find another place to be. I spent all of today moving from McDonalds to cafés and back. It killed the day, being online.
Have you seen the movie about the end of the world, where the man sees a giant tidal wave coming towards him? (Actually it’s now a disaster movie cliché.) There is nothing for the man to do, nowhere to go, no place to hide, so he just stands there and waits for the inevitable?
Then there’s the movie “The Life Aquatic” when Bill Murray is in a helicopter flying over the ocean with his adult son whom he had met recently, for the first time. Well, the helicopter breaks. Bill looks at the ocean below as it rushes up to meet him, and he says, “this is gonna hurt.”
Yeah, I often use movies as metaphors to describe things. Movies are things many people have in common. Well, at least among those who watch movies. If you have seen a movie I reference, you know better what I’m trying to say.
Well, those two movies scenes describe my current state. I see impending doom, but there’s nothing I can do about it. I just wait for it to happen.
I’ve been down this road too often to not know what is happening. And it’s gonna hurt.
I understand that for others my situation is frustrating. They are perplexed by my actions and attitude. They wonder why I’m not acting like they would, if they were in my situation. Well, I’m just me. I can’t be them. Being them doesn’t work for me. I fail at that even more than I fail just being myself.
It is now 12:03 and I had a late dinner here. I shouldn’t have eaten. I wasn’t hungry and I shouldn’t have spent the money. I should have traveled in the other direction and pulled up a slab of cement for the night. I could fall asleep right this minute if I let myself.
It’s going to take some time and practice to acclimate myself to street life. I need to take it slower. I think tomorrow after this night of sleeping out, I’ll find a cheap motel room (one with it’s own bathroom, this time) so to catch up on sleep one more day before hitting the streets again. Oddly enough, for the past couple months I had been getting very little sleep in the shelter tent, so I’m on the streets already suffering from sleep deprivation.
It’s so stupid how they run the shelters here in San Diego. If they let you in, they won’t let you take a break from it, not even for just one night. Do they not understand that their shelters, though a refuge from the streets, are also a source of stress?
From September 16 2013 until May 29th 2014 I spent every single night in that shelter tent. That’s a about 260 days on the same routine every single day. Making sure that regardless of what I was doing, I had to return to the shelter before 8pm, and had to stay in the shelter’s limited area until the next day. The soonest they would let people back out was 4:30 am. If I failed to meet that 8pm dead line I would lose my bed and they would put me back on the street. It’s not like the shelter was much more comfortable than the street, the floor of the shelter is asphalt, being that the shelter is only a large single tent set up in a parking lot.
Oh well, I’m sure somewhere in this city there’s a place, some out of the way nook I can hole up in, be relatively safe, and can get some sleep. I’ll just have to take the time to find it – and hope no else is already there.
In the mean time I’m marveling at the sights of the city as I walk through it. I hadn’t seen outside of the tent property in the evening since I first arrived in here in San Diego. It truly is a beautiful city – the sun setting, lights coming on, and a cool gentle breeze rolling in over the bay.
In the Gaslamp District the streets run thick with young people – college kids mostly, dressed to the nines, as they used to say. They are more earnest in trying to impress each other here, than say at work or church. Most of these kids are attending one university or another, and so the slacks and dress shirts are for show. They didn’t actually just get off work at some prestigious law firm or financial institution. But hey, these girls don’t know that. And speaking of these girls, also trying to impress, wearing the tightest and shortest of apparel. Put them side by side with high class prostitutes and you wouldn’t be able to tell them apart, until one of them becomes offended at the remark.
Club after club down each street, each venue looks the same to the casual observer. A low heavy beat pulsates through the walls to the outside. Some clubs have had the windows removed, but still it is dark inside and it’s difficult to see it. The crowds are thick. Squeals and laughter and loud talk – drinking glasses clinking and occasional cheers. The streets are packed. Car engines rev for no reason. Bikes with three seater trailers attached are peddling revelers from here to there – a fun ride while trying to remember where the car is parked.
Closing time comes to the Hooters restaurant. I ate too much. To make sure the waitress didn’t get too upset with me hogging up a whole booth to myself for two hours, I ordered desert as well – 6 bucks for a small slice of not so good tasting key lime pie. I shouldn’t have done that.
Like the man on the verge of drowning, the panic is setting in. The process of returning to the streets is never easy, even though I know what to do and how to do it.
The main reason I went to the Hooters restaurant is because they have wifi. Well it wasn’t working so I just wrote instead. When the restaurant closed I packed up the laptop, paid for the diner and walked back outside. I continued walking in the same direction I was heading in when I arrived at the restaurant. Slowly the crowd of people thinned out. I was heading farther away from the Gaslamp District. Then it dawned on me that I was heading in the direction of the SRO hotel I stayed in the night before. I was exhausted and knew that I needed to sleep soon. Sleep deprivation hurts. In a few minutes I was justifying spending the money to get another motel room for the night. But it was near 1:30 am. Would they have any rooms available? The Rock and Roll Marathon was in the morning. Surely the place would be full. I told myself it would be worth it just to check and see.
I got to the front desk and the attendant said that his computer was in the middle of the nightly audit and that he wouldn’t know what was available for another 45 minutes. It’s ok if I wait? He said “ok” and so I sat in the lobby and brought out my laptop. Nothing says, “He must be an ok guy” like brandishing a laptop. An hour passed and the audit was done.
Then to my surprise and great relief a room was available. To top that off, the attendant said that, because it was now so late and I was so kind to wait, that he set it up so that I wouldn’t have to check out until the following day, being that I wouldn’t be getting a full nights sleep that night. And he wasn’t wrong.
At some ungodly hour, perhaps 6am, a drummer started wailing away on his amplified drum set. Low and behold, the Rock and Roll Marathon course included running right past my hotel. And this drummer was set up as one of the many entertainments for the run. I didn’t checked the time but it seemed like about a two hour long drum solo – all as I drifted in and out of sleep. I would have been pissed if that were to be the total of my rest, and stay, in the SRO.
About noon I decided to get up, head out, and got something to eat. I had breakfast at Grand Central cafe. It is a café on the corner of the YMCA building where I stayed. This café had been in business since the Y first opened in 1924.
I remember my mother’s saying, “it was busier than Grand Central”.
As a kid I thought she was talking about Grand Central Station in New York City.
But I knew she’s never been to New York, and then seeing the name of this place, it all made sense.
She was talking about this café. If I have not mentioned it before, this building is where my parents met in 1956. The Y used to hold Saturday night dances – they met on the dance floor. My mother taught dance classes, My father was working part time in a dance troop. My father’s 3-person troop did floor shows at restaurants, dancing around tables as people ate. That was a thing, back in the 50s. My father looked like Gene Kelly, my mother favored Shelley Winters – both before and after the weight gain.
Oh, and I don’t know how this happened, but somehow during the night, in my 8 x 10 foot SRO, I lost one of my socks.