In keeping with my experiments with the 33-Stanyan traveling down Haight Street, I also took pictures of Mission Street through the window of the 14-Mission bus. The technique could not get simpler, nay, cruder: hold up my iPhone 4 in Landscape orientation, randomly take dozens of shots, then discard at least 90% of them. You know, the way all great photographers work.
In transit on Saturday afternoon, I did run into a little story.
I waited for a bus at 16th and Folsom after shopping at the Rainbow Grocery when I observed a homeless male, Caucasian, maybe 30, piloting two shopping carts piled high with all of his possessions, one cart covered with a green blanket, one covered with a brown. On top of the brown rested a cardboard tray, the kind that holds four six-packs of canned beer. This tray held about a dozen bananas and about three each of apples and oranges. The tray slipped off the top of the cart and it and all of the fruit ended up in a gutter.
“Excuse me, your fruit-”
“S’OK, man, S’OK.”
It had started to rain, and he made a line toward the nearest tree on the sidewalk, parked his shopping carts and just stood there. He just left his lunch, dinner and possibly breakfast in the gutter. I looked at him, wondering when he was going to fetch his food. As it turns out, he didn’t need to do anything.
His ladyfriend, also burdened with two shopping carts, had trailed behind him by quite a bit but finally caught up. She might also have been about 30 years old, but the years had not treated her kindly. She stopped to collect the tray and place all of their food in it. I helped by gathering up the apples and one of the bananas. Her boyfriend contributed by calling out, “Thanks, Mister.”
She never said a thing and kept her head pointed down.
He said, “Hurry up, woman, get your things and get over here.”
She joined him and they and their four shopping carts with their lives’ possession found shelter under the tree. I continued to wait for my bus, but would glance over at them occasionally.
And every time he glared back at me. Which puzzled me at first; hadn’t I helped out his girlfriend and treated her nicely?
Maybe that was the problem.
Maybe he thought I was trying to muscle in on his woman.
Maybe he wanted me to know that she was his property, not mine.
Poverty and homelessness really do hit women harder than men, don’t they? Think about it; he was the best she could get out of this world.
And when San Francisco fails people, it can fail them badly.
Vonn Scott Bair