Love & Haight

April 2005     San Francisco

I have to preface this account of living low on Haight St with the story of why I was out on disability for a little while.  At the time, I was working as a carpenter doing a $1,000,000 remodel on the highest house in San Francisco, right under Sutro Tower.  Here is a condensed version, originally entitled “Gravity 1, Chris 0” :

I got another big break!……except this one is in my leg.   I was at work, adding a piece of trim under the eave of a new section of roof. This involved standing on a ladder atop a lower section of roof, and leaning it against the outside of the wall I was working on.  Suddenly the ladder slipped out from under me.  I followed the ladder down and bounced off the roof, then slid ass-first under the safety rail, followed by the 10-pound electric sawzall.

Having foreseen this possibility, I spun in the air and attempted a controlled two-footed landing.  I would have walked away from it laughing like the stunt man I am Hahahahahhahahaha if I had not landed in a yard with a 30-degree pitch to it.

Snap.  My ankle rolled and I heard the fracture.  All of my other parts checked out ok, and the sawzall and ladder stuck in the ground and not into me.  Fortunately I did not land on the concrete stairs or the wooden fence nearby.

The Mexican roofing posse up above were yelling down to me to not move, while my boy Mick climbed off the scaffolding and around to the neighbor’s garden that I had dented, almost twenty feet below. He was calling in the three digits until I told him to “Hang up that f-ing phone, I am not paying $1500 for a short ride in the meat wagon. Put me in the f-ing truck.”  I was so bitter about getting injured again, first thing Monday morning.

Fortunately the hospital was only a mile away, so off we went for the first day of my new 6-8 week vacation and even further reduced wages.  I am tired of the illegal immigrant existence that I lead and I will be happy to graduate and move on to a less hazardous line of work.

UCSF found one fractured heelbone and the trauma center at SFGH found two more ankle fractures, all on the right side.  The left leg got off easy with sprains, swelling and bone bruises.  For those keeping score at home, these are bones #19, 20 and 21.  Blackjack!  Still, that means I have only splintered 11% of my rickety skeleton so far.

– Splint Eastwood


On to Love and Haight:

Fortunately I had worker’s comp and health insurance, but that is not the case for everyone.  Being out of work can lead to a downward spiral, and mine began with colorful interactions with the locals of Lower Haight Street.

I was leaving Nickie’s BBQ (bar) late one night, with my buddy Adam who was ahead of me trying to find a cab to take us somewhere else.  I was on crutches crossing the street when an old black woman emerged from a bus shelter and shamelessly accosted me.  “Son, you don’t need a cab, I got what you need.”   I laughed and tried to crutch around her. “Baby, I just want to suck yo’ dick.  How much?”  Being on disability pay and sensing opportunity, I immediately started negotiating how much she would have to pay me for the favor.  We settled on $100.  American.   She must have been too cracked out to see that I was pulling a reverse on her, though I could barely keep a straight face while negotiating this oral agreement and watching traffic drive around us.

She would not show me the money, so I attempted crutch off, at least to the sidewalk.  Nope – she was planted right in front of me, and I could not get around her.  Cornered in the middle of Haight Street, what do you know, she got her hand into my pants, and changed her sales pitch to “Baby I want to suck it for free, let’s go over there”  and tried to lead me there with a firm grip on my unit. Taking advantage of the handicapped – seriously, I had a crutch in each hand, she was keeping me off balance, cars passing on each side, my gear in a chokehold, laughing so hard and loud that I thought I would fall down,  asking her out loud “Why me?”  The crusty old derelict must have had a fetish for cripples.

Then she dropped this line: “Wow, you hung like the state of Florida.  C’mon and gimme some of that.”  That is how I knew she was on heavy drugs.  She was a  crooked salesman;  she was lying like a dirty rug.   I pulled away, dragging the 27th state in the Union with me, and attempted to clamber into the cab that Adam finally hailed.  Old Miss Cracky-pants tried to get in with us, offering free helmet all the way, until I paid her off with a dollar and crutched her out the door.


You know you are scraping bottom when even the local neighborhood bums start cracking on you. Several times each year I have the pleasure of getting into The Mud Falcon and finding that a homeless dude has invited himself inside. Usually it is because I have left a back door unlocked, but twice it cost me a window. Why my ride? I do not know. It is a banged up 14-year-old urban econobox, but for some reason the junkies must believe that I have four kilos of Afghani Brown heroin under the seat and a case of screwtop wine in the trunk.

The bastards did break in and steal my disco ball once. Amazing. What is the street value on a used 3″ disco ball? Last week, I found my car ransacked again, smelling not-so-fresh,  and the trunk wide open because they never close it completely.  They missed the parking meter change under the floormat again. Dummies. I did get a perverse sense of satisfaction from the bum’s apparent frustration, though: he had found a permanent marker, lowered the  driver-side visor and written across it, as if I did not know this:


Ah, the ghetto life.


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