A somewhat recent transplant to San Francisco, I still frequently find myself in awe of the degree of unexpected and potent human interaction it facilitates.
My ironic status as an extroverted attention whoring single occupancy studio resident, coupled with my easy access to the 71L, has led me on regular solo adventures into the infamous Haight neighborhood. An unwavering exaggeration of this eccentric city at large, each of these adventures tends to produce its own unique flavor and, more often than not, the seeds of a meaningful connection.
A Canadian journalist interning in San Francisco and preparing for a harrowing move to New York to write for the Wall Street Journal. Intoxicating chats with “San Francisco thugs” ranging from Oakland inner city politics to the respective benefits of different “grill” styles. A pacifist liberal days from abandoning her comfortable city life to make new brothers and sisters of the armed forces as a U.S. Army medic stationed in Korea. Or perhaps the subject of today’s post: an alarmingly coherent, self-proclaimed prophet with sharp shoes and a recycled mink coat. This story is no more or less significant than any other, but its chronological prevalence makes it quick fodder for the idea it unwittingly inspired: this blog series.
I (along with an unusual addition to my Haightful adventures: a beautiful partner in crime) first encountered Fast Eddie following a brief stroll through Golden Gate park and a bit more time at one of its playground jungle gyms than “mature” adults should be allowed to enjoy. My overall constitution at the time rested somewhere between enlightenment and child like adoration for the world around me. The line between these two is likely blurrier than we’ve been led to believe 😉
This first encounter was little more than a graceful nod, a fleeting smile. We mused briefly over the surprising endurance of the sun on what was meant to be a particularly dreary day. Some time later, as my interest in exploration drew to a close and the parks exit loomed ever closer, Fast Eddie showed himself again. This time responding gingerly to a group of young, self-righteous drifters quipping obnoxiously about his out of place mink coat. He stopped for a moment to wave and wish them all a beautiful Sunday before carrying on with an unaffected bounce in his step.
Finding ourselves on the same fateful path, Eddie and I once again exchanged knowing smiles and nods, this time with undertones of recognition as he removed a glove to shake my hand. The street light’s timing paved the way for our ongoing exchange of courtesies. We continued past McDonald’s and its accompanying street toughs, Ronald himself catching a brief glimpse of our sidewalk waltz as the conversation meandered naturally from talk of our home towns to his days as a world traveler. He spoke briefly with conviction, but without judging or preaching, of the powerful company he kept as a man of god.
I’m miles removed from the shadow of even the world’s least adamant religious man. Yet even I mused for a moment, as the three of us walked together, that this must have been how Jesus happened upon his disciples: a generous smile, a positive demeanor, and a sincere interest in the people he came into contact with.
As we passed Amoeba Records, Eddie invited us to join him and, in a moment of mutual spontaneity, we accepted. He led us to the music listening stations with precision that gave him away as regular. The three of us danced together in a row and sang songs from the Doobie Brothers’ greatest hits before finally retiring to the inviting warmth of San Francisco’s urban landscape. As our time drew to a close, we chatted about his daughters, our studies, his new home, and even his dry cleaning woes before we parted ways.
In the simple things, and in the unexpected adventures it throws our way: Life is beautiful.