An old buddy from the GNN days was seeking a picture. I decided I would post a few. While going through it, I found this picture:
I'm the pale kid in camofluage in the picture, which was taken a few days before I walked out of the city. The big guy in the picture is "Papa", a vietnam vet who lived in the door way of a closed down drug store near the corner of 7th And Market in San Francisco. I lived a block way in a cavernous basement beneath 6th and Market and When walking home from night shifts papa and I gradually grew to be good friends, spending many late nights and sunny afternoons discussing life and slinging stories.
On every return to San Francisco, I look for Papa. I haven't seen him since this picture was taken five years ago. If any of you know his real name, his whereabouts, or can contact him, let him know Sean from San Francisco would love to share another cigarette and has a much warmer place to spend the evening.
Papa was a fixture at Seventh and Market, a man who many protected and who protected many in one of the grittiest parts of the city. A disabled vet who lost his right leg in Vietnam after leaving his family hog farm behind, his decline to the streets was inevitable, given our country's definition of "supporting the troops". While I have spent lots of time hanging out with homeless vets from every war since Korea, Papa was one of the wisest and kindest of all. While I'd occasionally help him, he helped me much more than he may ever know.
There has been much recent talk about percentages. Let me assure you that papa is the 1%
He is the 1% who gave his life for his belief in this country. While he did not die, his life was so changed by his wounds that he was left destitute, to fall between the scracks of society as he slept upon the cracks in the street.
He is the "bottom" 1%, disregarded by those who ordered him to a foreign nation for reasons still argued upon by historians and political scientists.
He is the top 1% who, though he has nothing, gives the world to everyone around him. His presence and arbitration in the sixth and market district of SoMa calmed tensions, settled disputes and gave consolation and consultation to others who society had feigned to swallow whole.
He is stronger than 99% of us, who would wallow and consume ourselves in self pity at the lot we were dealt, but who instead still took every day as he could, once explaining to me that he had a good day because somebody had stolen his crutches, and in an hour or two, friends had found him a better set and padded em out real nice so he was able to walk to the Chinese restaurant on the corner for some $1 chicken legs.
Hanging on the closet door behind me is a small nylon American flag that Papa gave me for Veterans day in 2005. He thanked me for serving when he gave it to me. Someone had been through the tenderloin passing them out to homeless vets, and he said he was excited to get it because he wanted me to have it.
I'm not sure what that flag means. Perhaps it is to remind me how small my sacrifices were. Maybe it is to recall the things that are possible when we continue to believe in the fight even when it maims us. I like to believe that it is to keep me thinking of all the things that flag means to so many people around the world, a thing to burn, a product to sell, a symbol of freedom or stamp of oppression. This flag, gifted to me by Papa, simply makes me think.
So, Bigato, there is my pic. I'll post another soon.