As I walk down the street, a harmonica moans soulfully in a mass of tourist waiting in line for the Powell street cable cars. The air is frantic with scents of people from all over the world. One whiff carries a heavy drakkar noir, next a sweet floral scent wafts by, followed by the pungent assault from an unknown source smoking marijuana.
The afternoon sun glows softly on the surrounding city buildings. I stop and stand, invisible, in a corner observing the ebb and flow of people; just another guy on his phone drinking some form of a latte.
As the crowd of people stroll by, they reveal tiny fragments of their lives;
Girl: “They said it was from asphyxiation, but I’m not quite sure”
Cable Car Guy: “Hey, Hey! Wait your turn in line if you want to ride the cable car!”
Jesus Guy: “Jesus Christ loves you!”
Harmonica Guy: “I’ve got a great big woman and a itty bitty bottle of wine”
Asian Lady: “Jake? Jake doesn’t even have a car!”
My cover is now blown as a homeless guy approaches.
Homeless guy: “Hey, hey buddy, got any spare change?”
I nod him off as a homeless street performer begins a raspy acappella rendition of Sam Cooke’s “Wonderful World” followed immediately by “Stand By Me”. His performance is rewarded by several tourist in the form of a few dollar bills—mostly out of pity I think to myself.
The tourist seem bemused as his act continues sampling Motown hits from over the years. His energy is boundless, yet he shows all the characteristics of many years of hard living. One finds himself questioning, “what’s his vice and how did he end up like this?” .
Sadly this type of character is so commonplace in SF you could fill the library of congress completely full with their stories.
While typing this, the guy spots me and asks if I will watch his bike as he makes his rounds collecting tips. I oblige and he sets off to collect from the tourist in que—It’s suddenly painfully obvious to me, I’m not as invisible as I had previously thought.
After fending off an invading vagrant wearing a derelict shark shaped hat, the street performer gives his audience an encore of his best Sam Cooke cover and is awarded with a few dollars. He talks to several kids, thanks me for watching his bike, smiles and pedals off as quickly as he arrived, a few dollars richer.
I regret my original judgement of him. He was polite, courteous, and although his hustle was raw and crude, it had a genuineness about it that you can’t fake. Maybe this was real soul, the type of soul that one could only acquire from living such a life #deepshowerthoughts.
The crowd begins to dissipate along with sun. I grow tired of standing and head back to my motorcycle to go home, maybe just a little wiser than when I had arrived.