Tuesday, July 15, 2008


"Spare some change?"

Having worked, now, for years in and around downtown Portland, the ubiquitous begging has become background noise, an ambient rhythm as I pass from block to block.

But it has not always been so. I have not always had such a high level of social immunity. Once, there was a time when I would actually acknowledge and address each out-stretched cup with jangling change. Once out of alms, I would smile and nod apologetically to each beggar that I bypassed.

Seems, perhaps, Tom also felt the same sense of obligation...

It was our first full morning in the city by the bay. The sky was blue, we were downtown and decided to take a walk.

"Spare some change?" We heard around every corner. Out of every alley way. Behind every bus stop. The walkways were lined with cardboard plats, orderly arranged, demarcating each sidewalk stake. Ranks of beggars accosted us every other step, shaking their cups, vying for the last few pennies in my pocket.

Dr. B., I think, kept his eyes closed and held on to my shirt sleeve, pretending they were not there. Tom, on the other hand, smiled and joked with the squalid masses.

And then, we met him. Him. The guy. He was probably 25, but looked like he was 50. Thin and dark-skinned, he shifted uneasily from side to side. His pitch was that he wanted money to buy a burger, and strategically placed himself outside a McDonald's to lend an air of credibility to his tale of woe.

He actually leaped out at us, blocking our path. "Say gentlemen, might you have just a few cents to spare for a hungry brother who wants to buy a burger?" Dr. B clenched his eyes tighter and began humming to himself, apparently firmly rooted to his happy place (Though I shutter to think what his happy place might be...) Tom, of course, took up the conversation.

"Well, that certainly is the best pitch we've heard all day! Sadly, my chums and I are fresh out of cash, having just run the gauntlet of your neighbors." Tom sad sadly with his mock-documentary-narrator voice, motioning with a broad gesture to the long line of beggars we had just passed.

"But I'll tell you what," he said with an earnest smile, "If I see you again, I promise to buy you a Big Mac."

"Shit, man, you got yourself a deal." And with that, they shook hands and we went on our touristy way.

The day was filled with the usual sight seeing. Coit Tower, Lombard Street, Golden Gate Park, Fisherman's Wharf, cable cars, the bridge, etc...

That night, we found ourselves tired but antsy, sitting in our room. We were on the second or third floor. Our window opened out onto Post Street and the front of the hotel.

The weather was nice, so Tom and I decided to take a walk. Dr. B decided to stay inside. Although, he seemed to have a special interest in the window...

Once out in the night air, we discovered many well-dressed women in evening gowns populating the various street corners in our neighborhood. It didn't take long to figure out what they were up to, and we quickly began playing the game of "Spot the Undercover Cop." We strolled down the avenue taking in the sights, but in the distance, far behind, we heard the strange sound of a man hooting: "hooky hooky hooky..."

We made a broad circuit, taking note of skyscrapers and sex shops. There were signs advertising live sex shows, which I thought sounded interesting, but perhaps a little too naughty for me at the time...

Tom and I turned a corner, and started back up the hill toward the hotel. This sidewalk was empty and dimly lit. The breeze had blown in and I noticed a chill. I picked up the pace and walked a little faster. We passed a blackened alley and I noticed a stirring shape out of the corner of my eye. A second later I heard the rustling shuffle of someone moving behind us.

"Hey! You fella's want a blow job?" She offered, "Five bucks!"

To say that she was a filthy toothless weather-beaten wrinkly old sea hag, would be unfair to sea hags. She was the incarnation of filth. Filth to a staggering degree.

Still, though, $5. You really can't beat that.

I joke...

I grunted and turned, preparing to outrun her knife-wielding accomplice likely standing behind her. Tom, however, flashed his charming grin. "Sorry ma'am, I'm fresh out of fives, but thank you kindly for the offer!"

We turned and walked away. After three seconds passed, the indignant hag bellowed out: "Fuck you! What are ya, a couple of FAGS??"

Well, we were two men taking a stroll at night together in San Francisco, so she probably shouldn't be faulted for her assumption. Nevertheless, we could not wait to get back to the hotel and tell Dr. B.

We exited the elevator on our floor and rushed into the room, where we found our friend perched precariously on the window sill, leaning out as far as he could manage, calling to the call girls below, "Hey hooky hooky hooky..."

"Hey, did you guys know most of them were cops?" He asked.

"Ya, we figured that one out." We replied.

The next day found us in a completely different part of town. Blocks, if not miles, away from our hotel neighborhood. We were walking down the street, seeing what there was to see. We passed another McDonald's, when suddenly we were accosted yet again by another pan handler.

"Say gentlemen, might you have just a few cents to spare for a hungry.. HEY, IT'S YOU GUYS!!"
No lie. It was the exact same guy working a completely different beat in a completely different part of town.

"You promised! You promised!" he said with glee as he pointed his long dirty finger at Tom.

"You got me." Tom said, and we all walked into the burger joint together...


  1. "I joke..." not as much as you might like.

    "What are ya, a couple of FAGS??" again, not as much as you might like.

  2. I just can't believe you ran into the same guy again...we have that here in Portland the same ones repeatedly emptying the ashtray near my office and the latest on the corner near my office is a woman with her two dogs. I feel more sorry for the dogs than I do her...is that bad?

  3. OK so the neurons are firing finally and I am starting to remember this trip. The next day after you two were called homos, I remember walking down to the bart and you each put a hand in each other's back pocket. Maybe you wanted to see what it would be like to have man love, maybe it was a little social experiment to see what the reaction would be.
    I can't get that image out of my head. My two buddies smiling and gay and no one seemed to care.

    Hey, you wanna buy a watch? Remember that guy?

  4. bonaventure hotel10:57 AM

    Wrong story asshole. The watch guy was in L.A.

  5. Dr. B must be focusing a little too much on his two "gay" friends, forgetting where he was....

  6. I don't rmember a watch guy. i do remember the Phone Guy -"Hey you wanna buy a phone?"- but that was when you broke down in South Central.

    I wasn't there fop the phone guy because I was working at the Christmas Store at Eastland.

    I do, however, remember you blowing Tom on the BART.

  7. Anonymous1:30 PM

    Don't gay men work at the Christmas store?

  8. I thought they became dentists

  9. The guy on the corner of Vista and Commercial Salem in the morning, the one with the finger for an arm; he is the same guy on the Goodpasture Island Loop exit on the Beltway Highway in Eugene after work. Does he ever his Lake Oswego or Portland? I am sure I might see him when I pass through Medford.

  10. sebastian1:53 PM

    No one that likes NASCAR or drinks coors light can be gay...and the body hair...ewww yukie pooo.

  11. Sebastian, have you heard of in the closet gays? They try to act more manly to cover that gayness....

  12. the finger5:01 PM

    I make a good arm. You never know whether I am waiving at you or flipping you off

  13. I'm positive you've made all of this up.

  14. So were the live sex shows for gays?


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