GATED COMMUNITIES AND HOMELESS DINNERS

An old friend from my Tahoe days, visits me in San Francisco. We haven’t spoken in over four months, pre-Brazil.

“Natasha” has a new condo in the East Bay with a private lake, a tennis court, AND she adds proudly, “It’s in a gated community”.

Perplexed, I ask, “What are you afraid of?”

“Are you joking?” she says. “Haven’t you been watching the news? What about that guy who was killed at the Giants game and how about that woman who disappeared last week in Oakland?”

“Yes, I heard about it,” I said. “Over and over again until I began making a dive for the off button.”

“Don’t watch the news Natasha,” I say. “They bombard you with horrible stories, things that in reality happen rarely. But because it is all that you hear and because you hear it so frequently, you begin to believe that crime and danger lurk everywhere and that you are the next victim – unless you lock yourself behind the safety of a gate.”

She just looks at me strangely.

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I accepted Marc Bruno’s invitation to attend one of his monthly dinners for the homeless. Bocce Cafe in North Beach donates the space and much of the food. Other restaurants like the North Beach Cafe graciously prepare desserts, salads, bread, and drinks. The purpose of these meals Marc says is to give the homeless a feeling of community by sitting down to dinner with their neighbors.

And so there I was eating at the table with people I normally see emerging from blankets on a corner.

28 year old Punky, died last week of liver failure, and tonight they memorialize him. Tall lanky “Macaroni” talks about what a kind soul Punky was, how he’d do anything for anyone and how they were all going to miss him, but hey, he is in a better place now. Then one after another they stand and talk about how Punky touched their lives.

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