a.m. hours of 10/25/2008: Tonight I met a homeless man who sincerely seemed to believe that I was an angel (although, at one point, he also asked if I worked for the FBI).
out walking by the bay, in the direction of the well-lit/tourist area.
There was construction closing off part of the sidewalk. I had two
options: walk into the nearby hotel parking lot and way around the hotel
to get back to where the sidewalk wasn't closed off, or cut through the
grass, past a small stone picnic table and stools where three homeless
people were sitting and talking loudly (about the Flintstones, I
think... I heard references to Pebbles and Bam-Bam). Being me, I chose
to go by the homeless people, knowing full well that they sounded
boisterous and drunk and would probably try to talk to me.
enough, as I passed them, I smiled and made eye contact, and a guy who
looked like Bill Murray, in a Hawaiian-print shirt, clashing plaid swim
trunks-style shorts, flip-flops, and a straw hat beckoned me over to
them. And being me, I politely agreed to sit on the fourth stool at
The guy said, "Meet Grandma!" "Grandma" was a
boozy old homeless lady, loud and with erratic movements, a
Chicago-sounding accent with stretched-out vowels, and a hairdo that
looked almost punk, like an accidental mohawk, dyed a garish red. The
Bill Murray guy was called CD, and a dusty-looking skinny guy, the most
normal-acting of the group, was named Josh, I think. CD poured brandy
from a big bottle into its cap and gallantly offered it to me. "No
thanks," I said, and when he offered it next to Grandma, she gulped it
down without hesitation.
We chatted, and at one point CD
said he wanted to show me "the statue." For some reason--I this is a
regular thing for him--Josh and Grandma groaned, saying, "Aw, don't show
her the statue." "She doesn't want to see the statue." Naturally I was
intrigued. "What's 'the statue'?" Finally, CD got up to show me, and I
followed him for a short walk toward where Midway, the big Navy ship
from WWII, is docked as a floating museum.
CD had seemed
normal at first... then I noticed that he was complaining about the Navy
in this vaguely conspiracy-theory way, so I thought, "Uh oh." He peered
at me and said, "You're an angel." He also said stuff like, "I knew it
the minute I saw you" and "It's you." I mean, this guy *really* thought I
was sent to him from God. He said, "My kind stopped thinking that your
kind existed." It was crazy--and I was strangely loth to disabuse him of
this idea, which seemed like a touching one as we strolled among
tourists and couples walking by the bay.
Somehow I had
never taken this very slight detour off the boardwalk from my usual
route--so I'd never seen this giant statue of that couple in that famous
photo of that WWII sailor kissing the girl... this one: http://blogs.knoxnews.com/knx/silence/archives/kissing.jpg
loomed, giant and surreal and floodlit above us, and CD said something
like, "Do you know why he did that? Because that's all he's got." A
theme of the night was that CD is very big on love--"I'm a lover, not a
fighter"--and nearly moved to tears by the very subject. (And yes, at
one point he talked about the possibility of making love to me. He
blurted out: "I wouldn't pound you if I were making love to you."
Meaning, I guess, that he'd be gentle and suave. I said, "Uh... oh...
that's nice to know.")
I thought, "Oh, okay, that was the
statue." But then we kept walking, and there was a cluster of statues
illuminated by more floodlights--a bronze Bob Hope speaking into an
old-timey microphone to a group of about a dozen bronze sailors. CD
said, "I want you to meet my best friend in the whole wide world," and I
figured he'd picked out one of the bronze sailors as a "friend." But
instead--with a few tourists around--he hopped up onto the platform that
"Bob Hope" was standing on, and talked into the "microphone,"
pretending loudly to be Bob Hope thanking the "boys" and saying they'd
be coming home soon. People stared, and it was embarrassing--but I think
people just thought I was taking my crazy uncle out for a walk or
We passed a ramshackle seafood restaurant on
the waterfront, and he said he was going to take me there, then added,
"I have fish in my house." And then, apropos of nothing, "I make potato
soup." He said he'd "crawled around in there" (inside the restaurant)
before. I said, "Uh, why did you do that?" And he looked at me
conspiratorially and said, "I was tempting death." !! I said, "Well,
that's a brave thing to do." I mean, you know, tempting death *is* a
brave thing to do, I guess.
We sat on a bench looking out
over the bay. I knew I'd get going in just a minute--but I was in no
hurry, had no plans, there were tons of tourists around, I felt totally
safe. So I sat with him for maybe 15 min.
He'd say things
like, "Are you scared?" (I'd assure him that no, I was not scared.) He'd
say something cryptic about a politician or what "they" were trying to
do, then peer at me and say something like, "Can you think that deep?"
and seemed disappointed when I'd admit that no, I wasn't really
following him. I wasn't patronizing at all, and the conversation
sometimes took on a surreal/ambiguously philosophical tone. I'd give him
answers he seemed to need. At one point, he suddenly turned and said,
"Did she love her brother more than she loved her husband?" His eyes
were full of tears when he said this, so I said, "No. She probably did
love her brother, in a different way, but I'm sure she didn't love him
more than she loved her husband." Miraculously, it was what he'd needed
to hear. (Yeah, that was out of the blue, had no idea who "she" was or
what the deal with the brother was.) Because he was sitting there trying
not to cry, my heart just melted and I actually reached over and patted
his arm reassuringly and said, "Aw, you're making me so sad! It's
okay." His crying made *me* feel like crying.
He kept up
with the angel thing (saying, "Who sent you?" and things like that),
although, again, at one point--he mentioned an earthquake that made the
bay spill over into downtown, and somehow segued into taking off in his
car and heading for Alaska to find his dad (?)--he suddenly said,
"You're not with the FBI are you?" and then, "But it's okay. I'm out
there. I'm on the Internet. My life's an open book."
said bizarrely poetic things, like about how he sees "the shadows in the
ocean." After talking about the shadows in the ocean, this image/phrase
struck me, the two of us on this bench under the soft glow of a
streetlamp, looking out over the dark bay, two lonely people sitting
together yet not really together... and I sighed in sadness, and he said
he heard it, and seemed to get what my sigh was all about. He said,
"You're a poem within a poem."
Finally, I said I'd better
go. I walked with him back to the boardwalk, passing bronze Bob Hope and
the bronze soldiers again. A group of three young black tourists (with
accents; I think they might have been British) were admiring and talking
about the statues. I could see CD staring at them, and I thought, "Oh
no, he's going to say something to them." Yep. He suddenly blurted out:
"They stole my harmonica!" to the tourists (not about them--it was never
clear who "they" were). Fortunately, the tourists were very sweet and
said, "Somebody stole something from you?" I was behind him, and gave
them an apologetic look and mouthed "I'm sorry" and one of the girls
nodded knowingly. I got him to scoot along out of their way.
walked, he was still clutching the bottle of brandy in its white
plastic bag, and he said, "I drink too much." I said, "I drink too much
sometimes, too." He generously offered me as much of the brandy as I
wanted--and I swear that he belched right in the middle of the sentence.
I politely declined.
On the way to where our paths
separated, he said, "I think I'm over trying to figure out who I am. I
have to figure out who I want to be." I told him that sounded like a
good plan. He looked at me hard and said, "I think I've found it. Thank
He then asked me if I wanted to be his wife. I looked down
sadly and said, "I can't, but thank you." He nodded, as if he'd expected
that answer. He said, "I know. I already had a wife. But if I were to
have another one, it'd be you." He reached out and very lightly touched
my hair when he said this. He said, "You're not my wife, but you have
the same energy as her." I took this as a compliment.
hugged good-bye, and I walked home, through the night and away from this
guy who'd thought I was an angel, leaving him with the shadows in the