Too Far to a Service Station


Girl (detail from a painting by M. R. Robinson)

They fade into the background of our lives. Each, someone’s lost child, even the old men with their beer breath and ragged chins, even the zombie crews who defecate on sidewalks, in alley ways, and behind the driftwood on the beach. “So do we just keep ignoring this problem that won’t go away?”

I stepped out of Anglin’s today and almost didn’t notice her but she stopped me–not the man in front or the couple behind–but me.

Clutching a leather rope tied to the ratty collar of a silky Australian Shepherd and carrying a heavy backpack with a blanket roll, her thin body moved with the easy swing of someone used to carrying weight but she didn’t look older than 16 even with her silver nose ring.  “Please, is there a gas station soon?” She gestured South, ahead of her down Broadway, a street that unsuccessfully tries to pretend it isn’t Hwy 101 for the 2 miles through Eureka.

She looked at me with dark eyes through a fringe of tangled hair. “No, not for quite a ways–at least a half a mile,” I smiled, “Back that way, North, is your closest Service station,” and turned to get into my car.  She arched her neck away so I wouldn’t see the tears escape down the ladders of her lashes.  I slid into my car–two ships passing.

My head as heavy as my heart, my neck bent like grass in the rain. With my head against the steering wheel, I watched from the corner of my eye as she sank against the wall of a building, huddled away from the sidewalk.  Not understanding her sadness but needing to do something, her dog put his paws on her shoulders and lapped up the drops spilling from her eyes.  Gently she pushed him away and made him settle down.

I came to stand beside her. I didn’t want to get sucked into this morass but I came to stand beside her.  “Are you..” but by the time I finished with “okay?”  I had sunk down in the dirt between the buildings, the vortex of her wet eyes had pulled me into her world.

At first, she waved me away, trying to hide her tears, but when I touched her arm, she told me, “I’m going to be okay.  I’m just upset ’cause this guy I knew, he just hung himself, hung himself, and he was all.. and I saw him.  He was just dead and why? I mean like everybody knew him. He just hung himself, why?” Her words tangled with her sobs, muffling them and the traffic noise and the snuffling of her dog straining to burrow his nose into her neck made all but the gist of her story disappear between her heart and mine.

I knelt there through the rain of her tears.  No, there was nothing I could do, she said.  She’d be all right. Below the ragged skirt she wore, The dog pressed his shiny silver coat against her brown legs streaked with grayish grime. When her tears slowed a little, I slipped back to the car to peel a ten and a five from my wallet and tuck them into her hand.  “Call your Mom,” I said little knowing if her mom might be the one she needed to run from.  “Tell her you’re okay.”

She said she’d be alright so I left her to drive South.  I needed to get gas. From the Chevron. On Broadway.


Dedicated to all the homeless, sad, crazy people that we as a society and as individuals don’t know how to deal with.  Thanks to Richard Marks who gave me the courage to tell a tale I’m not very proud of.



  • I’m fighting back the tears. Thank you for sharing.

  • You were braver than most, to actually become a part of this young girl’s life for a few moments, to ask about her instead of waving her off or hurriedly giving her money. You will probably never know if your kindness and/or your $15 might have made all the difference, might end up changing her life for good.

  • The usual Humboldt reaction to a person like this is much more negative. Sad that we have such horrible attitudes towards people who live in poverty, but it provides us with the evidence of evil one needs to trudge on in this world, I’m afraid.

  • I feel for her,and him, and you, and us in your tale. But, I also must admit to enjoying the artful way you told the story. You are gifted, my friend. mark

  • I’m reminded of another young girl at the Reggae festival, about 10 years ago. She, too, was alone, and had found herself in a situation she didn’t know how to handle. Through circumstances too involved to explain here, I found myself and my husband, searching for her among the crowds wandering through French’s campground. After much searching, we located her and tried to convince her to come home with us and we would put her on the bus for home the next morning. She called her mother, who was in another state, and assured her she was safe and with people who were going to take care of her and she would be home on the bus in a couple of days. But, that never happened. After talking to her Mother, she decided that she could’t leave her “friends” and turned and disappeared into the crowd. I called her mother and told her what had happened, but since the girl was of age, there wasn’t much else we could do.
    Several weeks passed and I received a phone call from her parents. She was missing and no one had heard from her since the phone call. I think about her and wonder if she ever went home or if she is still wandering.

  • You’re right, they all do belong to somebody. You would think by this time we would have found a way to help them other than criminalizing being homeless and making their lives hard. I see what they do in Seattle. To keep them out of bus shelters they install small seats or uncomfortable wire ones. Or they take the bus shelters out. Make it illegal to sit on the sidewalk. And so on. Some of this stuff, like taking seats out of bus shelters, affects the disabled, too. When will we remember they are still human.

  • I keep telling myself. I had a turkey in the back. I had salami. The dog would have been a nightmare. I was going to be late to get my son. The last hitchhiker I picked up, ten years ago, was such a scary experience that I promised myself I would never do it again (though I actually have broken that rule) but I still feel like the Pharisee that passed by on the far side of the road. I think if she had asked me to drive her, I would have but because she was proud (she never once asked me for anything, in fact, she kept bravely fighting tears trying to act tough so I could go on with my life.)

    Aunt Jackie, I hope you’re right but my conscience tells me I needed to do more.

    Mark, I only had a little time to write last night but I desperately needed to do more than just tell the story. After reading Richard’s piece, I couldn’t not talk about her even though I am ashamed. We must do something more than we are doing. I don’t have a plan but I am willing to help. We as a society have got to find something better than forgetting these people–not just for their sake, for ours, and for the sake of any of our children that might someday collapse in tears of despair on a dirty sidewalk.

    Mom, I love you so much for trying with her. I was thinking last night on the way home how many people you and dad have touched and given a hand up. There have been so many kids over the years that have gone camping with us or fishing and hunting with Dad. I’m so sad for that girl and her mother. I hope they found each other again.

    Silverstar, you summed it up. “when will we remember they are still human?”

  • It’s tough, but I can’t help but wonder if you’ve been had, Kym. A lot of panhandlers have stories like that. I’m wondering if you’ve been had?

    One thing in the gal’s defense is she didn’t hit you up for money right away. Sounds like she never brought it up. So, maybe she’s legit or maybe she just came up with a good system for raising cash.

    There was a gal hanging around the Rite- Aid in Henderson Center, Eureka, a week or so ago. As I approach the door she walks up to me and asks something along the line if I wanted to buy an apple or an orange or some such. She said something along the line of needing a few extra dollars to make it to HSU for classes.

    She certainly looked like she could have been a student at HSU. Didn’t seem like a homeless gal.

    I suggested she go over to the corner of H and Harris to the bus stop and she could make it to HSU with the money she already had. She said she didn’t want to leave her car here and wanted the money for gas- almost believable as there’s a gas station across the street and it would have been easy to assume her car was parked nearby.

    I almost rudely blew her off telling her she shouldn’t be doing that kind of stuff here and she needed to move on. She just walked away.

    When I came back out of the store she was walking away with her bicycle which conveniently was nowhere in sight during our back and forth. She looked at me and didn’t even seem to recognize me.

    Needed gas money, huh?

    Next time you’re down on Broadway near Anglin’s, keep an eye out for that girl. She could still be hanging around hitting people up with her story.

  • Correction: that was supposed to be the bus stop at Harris and F Streets in Eureka, right across the street.

  • It’s not easy dealing with homeless people. I’ve worked with homeless veterans for years, and there are those who actually prefer the lifestyle (such as it is). Of course, there are plenty of people who are just down on their luck, have mental issues, drug addiction issues, etc.

    I liked the way the story was told. Very poignant.

  • Kym, you tell a story well, and you have a good heart. I have followed the heartbreaking homeless story clear back to when Regan closed the states mental hospitals. He said it was “A Neighborhood Problem”. The rest of the world was sending California their disadvantaged because we were one of the few states that took care of them. The rest of the country even laughed at us and called us the land of “fruits and nuts”, referring to our Gays and crazys.

    I’ve been full gamut on the “Homeless issue”. and I’m firmly convinced that it is not a “Neighborhood Problem”, but a national problem, and that it can only be solved on a national level. Maybe Obama will help, do you think that he will have the time?

    The only thing that I know for sure Kym, is it is certainly not your mom’s or your fault.

    Like you, I have too many sad homeless stories to even start to talking about here. Vote for me for president and I will give you an America that you will like.

    Oh, by the way, did you see that Heraldo gave us kudos on his blog? I feel like I’ve made the big time. Herado’s blog is a great service to Humboldt county, along with Eric’s blog in Southern Humboldt. It is great that we have such community involved people. I would really like to meet Heraldo(S?).

  • For those of you in the Southern Humboldt area, there is always a need for food donations to the Homeless Shelter. They recently opened for the winter months and meals, and warm clothing are always appreciated.
    It doesn’t solve the problem but it is a small beginning.

  • This past weekend my husband was working at 6:30 am on Sunday (because he goes to school full-time he has to work weekends). His Arcata workplace is the frequent attractor of homeless populations because it has a bench and when he lets himself in, in the morning he usually just lets them stay there until 8:30 or 9 am. (Usually until the start of business because there are women who work in the building and it is frequently scary men on the bench.)
    So when he arrived, he locked himself inside and clocked in and noticed a girl and a guy that he estimated to be about 19 making their way to the bench. Both were filthy, had the Meth-look, and were drinking hard alcohol from a brown paper bag.
    Rather than kick them out, he let them stay because it was early in the morning and he didn’t feel like being the bad guy. About an hour and a half later he remembered that he left his car unlocked and realized that was stupid and checked on the drunken pair. Sure enough the guy had wandered over the car, was looking through the window and had his hand on the door handle and was obviously planning on pilfering it. He chased them off, but I’m sorry, it is really difficult for me to feel bad for most of these people I see on the streets because they are ON DRUGS or have serious mental illness that is untreated.
    I cried when I read your post Kym, but as a mom of two elementary school kids, I am terrified of what I see happening in this community. For those people who find themselves cast out of society, I think there must be some tragic stories. But once they turn to meth it’s almost impossible to rehabilitate them. I know a mom of a teenage son (17) who has been heartbroken a hundred times over trying to force him to get off drugs. She is now penniless from paying juvinile hall fees and court fines and if she could drop her kid off in another state so that she could just not think about him anymore, I think she would. (He’s violent with her and even brings his friends to her house to rob her and sell her stuff for drugs.)
    I know a person whose sister offered to babysit her kids and while the woman was shopping at Costco, she passed by her sister with her children panhandling on the corner.
    Kym I know the story that you and your mom shared here was different, but for everyone out there interested in helping people who truly want to change their lives, please donate to a food bank. Serve food at a soup kitchen. For god sakes, buy diapers for those places locally that serve dozens of meth moms (and meth-addicted babies) that can’t buy diapers because if they had money they would spend it on drugs. If you want to do something to make a difference help the people who want help. I swear they exist. What do I do you ask? I give food to the families who need food baskets during the holidays, I buy a toy or two for the Salvation Army drives or Eureka Fire Fighters drive and I work like hell to teach my children that if they want to have a good life they need to stay the f#$* away from drugs.

  • There are so many lost children on the streets of my town….so much impossibility facing me down every day. Grim. I, like many, have a hard shell of protection against them and against my own emotional response to them. You broke through your shell for a moment. Be proud that you did, and you’ll be more likely to do it in the future. As always, be careful.

  • Thanks for sharing, Kym. Nothing else I can say, except read the story in this week’s Indie about the people trying to take care of own homeless and poor right here in SoHum.

  • So Kym, Totally off subject, but you brought it up. You said that you worked as a telephone Operator Big “O”. I thought that you were way to young to be an operator. Both my mother and my aunt worked in the Garberville office as Operators. They worked with Stella Ellis, and the boards that they worked had the cords that you pulled up from the desk in front of you, and pluged in the make the connections.

    You must have worked with the “New World” ooperators, with the electronic switchboards. I would bet that you worked with Jennete.

    Would you concider doing a post on the changes that you saw, or maybe some good stories of what it was like before you job was moved to India.

  • Kym-That is a great human interest real life event. That is played out so many times in our county. Thank God you were there for someone in a time of need. Compassion is a great attribute. Angels are smiling on you.

  • Kym, thanks for sharing your story. I volunteer at a day house for the homeless on Sundays; the stories always break my heart and make me realize that all of us are closer to homelessness than we realize. I used to pick up hitchhikers, but when I moved out to CA, my dad made me promise that I wouldn’t do it again. I never have – because I cannot break that promise – but it is so so hard to do when I see people that need a lift.

  • I’m proud of you Kym, even if you feel you didn’t give all you could have; you gave much more than you had to. What you did took courage and compassion, and unlike the time and cash, those two qualities come back to you in greater strength.

    You never know what other people are carrying for baggage and it’s easy to judge surface appearances. While handouts of money may be abused, basic acts of human kindness are never wasted. We have a natural tendency to want to shield ourselves from those in despair, but becoming numb to the suffering of others doesn’t make us happier. The part in us that feels suffering is the same part that feels joy.

    We’ve all got so much to be thankful for this season.

  • I wanted to start a conversation about homelessness. I’ve read all your comments and some of you have sent private and wonderful emails. Each one of you gave voice to an aspect of what I thought. Everything from Fred’s “You probably were had” to “give money to shelters, not individuals” to “Geez.” Thank you.

    And Kato, you rolled it together, ” The part in us that feels suffering is the same part that feels joy. We’ve all got so much to be thankful for this season..”

  • Hey Kym,

    I don’t know much about being homeless, the homeless problem, nor how to help them. However, I know what it feels like to not have much money – enough, but no extra. I know it so well, that I feel like a bit of a fraud in my current comfortable suburban life.

    I WANT to be compassionate to the homeless & the hard luck people who approach me outside stores. However, the part of me that remembers not having any extra money wins almost every time. It doesn’t mean my heart doesn’t hurt for them – even if they’re running a con. And the part of me that would feel joy at being able to help someone truly in need does suffer when I choose to not give & sometimes not even acknowledge them, whether it’s with thoughts of “what if it would help” or “get a real job”, the suffering of negativity is the same.

    My point here, I guess, is that I’m usually always torn when approached for a handout. However, I’m not all Scrooge, and I do donate to organized charities and causes.

  • Thanks for telling the story.

    Like has been said, it’s a HUGE national problem. It would be wonderful to find a way to solve the whole mess on a large scale, but for now, today on the street, one on one is a good and real way to help at least one individual. That’s what it’s about. Each individual homeless person needs something. Thank you Kym. Love is the answer. That’s not a cliche, it’s the truth. It’s always gonna feel somewhat awkward or incomplete but it’s good. Love is the resource we need to tap. I don’t think the Govt. is coming to rescue the homeless any time soon.

    I was homeless for a decade. So I know a small bit about what it’s like from the inside. Fred is right, it could’ve been a con. But it doesn’t sound like it from the way that you described it, and I think that you’d be able to suspect something, feel something was up, if it was. She didn’t ask for anything but directions. And the tears, it’s hard to fake emotion and tears, although there are some good actors out there.

    There’s no doubt about it, there are some very nasty characters out there. Like thistles in the garden, sometimes colorful, but be careful if you interact with them –they can hurt you. Yet it is often the people who you don’t notice that need help the most. The one’s who are more laid back and find it hard to communicate… The one’s who are by nature less aggressive and don’t know how to hustle the street. And then there’s the one’s who have the kind of pride that your girl had. I love that kind of pride. You caught it beautifully in your story.

    You did good. $15 is a lot of money to a homeless person. And you gave her hope. That may have been the greater gift, the money is gone now, but she remembers you, and knowing that there ARE people who care will help her to strive onward. It may save her life. When you are out there and it seems like nobody cares… that’s what kills the spirit. Just a smile, a recognition of equality, a little respect, can do wonders at times.

    Anyway, what more could you do? Well maybe take her home and make her your daughter for the next five years. That might help…

    Seriously, even that might not heal what she’s been through. Almost everyone that has been on the street for a while is suffering. They are in pain and trauma/stress, no matter how well they may have learned to hide it. I wonder what the guy who hung himself was going through and what circumstances brought him to that. Even the people who “choose’ to be homeless” are not doing what they really would choose if they had more realchoices. Believe me there is not one out there who wouldn’t prefer a cozy cabin up Salmon Creek to sleeping under the bridge, or wherever. Sorry, I’m rambling now.

    But I wanted to say, thanks for caring and sharing, not just with her but with us. Your writing is fantastic. I feel that someone like you relating a story like this, because of your talent and your ability to bring to the surface the deep emotions of your readers, is important! .

    Did you have your camera with you?

    Coincidentally, I have a photo of a homeless (by choice) artist from Chicago on my blog right now.

  • I am glad she had the dog. As rough as it gets in this world, the love of a dog can make everything a little less lonely and a lot more bearable.

  • Heather, Probably it is like several people have said, donating to organized charities is the best way. But sometimes, I just can’t help it, I hear the story about how the thousands of starfish washed up on the beach and some one is throwing them back one at a time. And a friend comes up and says, “You can’t save them all, you can’t even save most of them. Why are you wasting your time? What you are doing doesn’t matter.”

    And the starfish thrower answers, “It matters to the ones I throw back.” So I do something but probably not enough and probably not the right thing.

    Headwrapper, I read about that woman working on scraps of paper. I was fascinated until I found out she sometimes wouldn’t sell to a fair colored person and the freckles on my nose mutinied;>

    I hadn’t realized you had been homeless. You helped me twist around to look at what happened from another angle. Maybe she isn’t doomed. Maybe she is just passing from one phase to another and maybe I helped a bit. And Yes, I did have my camera but, I must not be a real journalist or artist. There is no way I could look at her and say, “Hey, your grief is really interesting. Would you mind letting me take a few pictures?” Honestly, I didn’t think of it until I was home and then I was ashamed of wishing I had been able to capture the tears and the grime and the bewildered lost look and the exhaustion.

    Max. Her dog was so well cared for and healthy. Beautiful merle coloring. and they obviously loved each other.

  • I was homeless for six months, too. I wasn’t on the street, thank the gods, but in transitional housing. I was a success story for that place, and still am. Although I have mental health problems, I like being warm and fed, so take care of them.

    One of the saddest things about the meth epidemic is that we could stop it cold. The psuedophedrine needed to make meth is a very complex chemical that must be made under lab conditions. If we could just get labs everywhere to stop making it, meth would disappear. We did that decades ago with the chemical needed to make Quaalude. What’s stopping us now? The OTC drug manufacturers who want to sell you decongestants, that’s who. Think about that next time you see a meth addict. We have stopped the manufacture of meth in the US by all the hoops we have to jump through to get our Sudafed, but now it’s manufactured in Mexico and shipped up here.
    Homelessness is sad. Some people are taking different tacks. For instance, there is a building where active alcoholics can now be housed here in Seattle. Isn’t it better to let them drink inside, than drink on the street and freeze to death?
    And speaking of panhandling, there were many times when I was living on $339/ mo plus food stamps that I gave serious thought to panhandling for enough money to buy toilet paper. Never did it, but it was tempting.

  • I know you Kym, and you are a service to others type big hearted person. You have done many many kind acts to benefit others. Bless you for who you are and all you have done.
    Many of us are richer for your having exactly this experience and sharing it openly, and creating feelings for the plight of others.
    I know regret, a missed opportunity to help hurts angels the most.

    I agree with an earlier poster that you responded in the moment by being present with heart for another’s suffering. Acts like that, you don’t see the ripple of good effects that may have started.

  • Kym… Your story brings up so many experiences. We are bombarded with “spare change” and I have become habitual about saying no. It seems to me that a huge part of the problem is the cost and lack of housing. Even as starving hippies, We were always able to find an affordable rental. We did live at my mother’s for awhile and in our VW bus for a month or so. I know young people in the city (LA) who are in their thirties and still living or moved back in with their folks. They just can’t afford rent even with decent jobs. About a year ago, I picked up a young woman hitching to Miranda. I recognized her as a clerk in a Gville shop. She told me she had two kids and was renting a place at a Miranda motel. New owners combined the units and raised the rent to $1200 a month expecting growers in the hills to use the places as townhouses. She was going to have to move and had no idea where she would go. She was in tears. The marijuana economy is brutal on the poor. As the old timers would say, you can’t rent a doghouse for $800 a month around here. My rent before I bought this place was $80 a month. Of course that was 1983. I realize that I am incredibly fortunate to have my own place and I’m aware of my good fortune every day when I go to the Deerhorn to get my newspapers. If you ever wonder where the worker bees live in Marin County just look for the trailer parks along the freeway. Capitalism at its ugliest.

  • Last winter we lost two of the regular fellas from the streets. Fate put me in a place to serve one of them a few months before his passing. One afternoon I left town and arrived at the foot of my road up into the hills when I remembered I had forgotten to complete an errand for someone. Usually I would get mad at myself, but I recall thinking that something else must be going to happen.
    After completing my task, I went back to my 4Runner, opened the door, was greeted by the a strong unwashed person smell and I yelled when I saw the little hobbit guy sitting crowded into the back seat. I had a piece of plywood in the back which left no room for anyone, but he squished under the board with little headroom by the window.
    I told him he scared me. He apologized and with rheumy eyes asked me to take him home. I asked where he lived and he said Miranda. Not knowing if I could believe him, I asked his buddy, Big Ugly (now deceased), if he, Mikey (i think), had a home. He verified that he did and I went to load his stroller onto the top of the plywood. Uhoh. He had his brew and food in bags wrapped up in his sleeping bag, which was smelling and sopping wet with poorly wrapped up jeans. I figured he must have used that back seat to change just before I came to the car. Gingerly, I placed it all into the back of the truck, with my little devil advisor screaming at me.
    We set out and after getting his increasingly green color to fade a bit with wide open windows, we had a little chat all the way to Miranda. The whole ride, while maintaining my charitable friendly demeanor under the influence of my angelvoice, my devil was jumping up in down yelling stuff like “you have trollpee leaking into the back carpet, the car is going to smell like beerpee!”. part of me was shaking my head, what did you get into? when we got to his home, the board was a little wet but I escaped my worst fears. That individual was gone from the planet a short while later, his passing remarked upon only by our wonderful minister sharon in a beautiful column in the paper.
    I don’t share this to toot my horn, but to point out that the whole time I was “serving”, my own self interest was equally loud. Human nature.
    You did fine by that person, sister bigheart.

  • I was fascinated until I found out she sometimes wouldn’t sell to a fair colored person and the freckles on my nose mutinied;>

    Well, she did sometimes sell to fair skinned people but she charged them more;-) I am redheaded with freckles too. But that wouldn’t have stopped me. I would have had one of my dark skinned friends make the purchase. And what a treasure one would have! Now that she’s famous, if you want one of her paintings, you have to pay a collector a fortune for it. See the Hammer gallery in Chicago. But there are other great street artists out there. A few months ago Kristabel posted a fantastic painting that she got from a guy living under a bridge in Portland. Did you see it? It was fucking brilliant!!! To my eye she got something as valuable as a Godie. It’s just that the world hasn’t found out how valuable his work is yet. To most people he’s just a worthless bum. But some day he may very well be in a museum and Kristabel will have an officially santioned masterpiece. If you go searching the homeless camps today you will find some great unrecognized artists.

    As far as the argument of the artist’s bias or philosophy of life tainting the art, to my mind that is nonsense. Great art stands on it’s own. There’s always going to be folks out there who think Dali’s work is no good because he was a fascist, or Picasso’s no good because he was a womanizer, etc. etc. etc ad nauseum. What a dreary world this would be if art had to be morally sanctioned.

    Kym your writing is your gift to all, some have homes some don’t. And a photo cannot necessarily capture the truth better than words. You didn’t need a photo and I totally understand why you couldn’t bring yourself to get a picture. In fact your story might be better without a pic. In the greatest art the readers, or the viewers, imagination is an important part of the whole experience. I didn’t really want to ask you if you had your camera, and I apologize. It was sort of a way to tease out your feelings some more, but I couldn’t resist. But now, in a way, I’m glad I did and that you responded truthfully. I couldn’t have asked her for a photo either. And when I was living on the street I wouldn’t have liked being “shot” myself.

    With your words you got the portrait, the “art”, —the tears and the grime and the bewildered lost look and the exhaustion. Thanks again. And keep writing!

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  • A few months ago I lived in a loft apartment on the edge of skid row in downtown Los Angeles. One day I decided to count; 24 people asked me for money! I told all of them no and I also told them what their number was (you’re number 17!).

    The service providers there came up with a great idea. We residents received stacks of homeless cards. If someone asked me for money, I’d ask why he needed it. If he said food, then I gave him a card listing the locations and times of free meals. If he said shelter, I gave him a card listing the missions with beds. If he said bus money, I gave him a card directing him to a nearby place giving free bus tokens.

    Yes, I was busy with the paperwork, but I saved lots of money! Eventually people knew me as the man with the cards and I was left alone.

    I don’t think Eureka has the same level of services for the homeless. I’ve even heard there is no meth detox/treatment center here. Is this true?

    Kym, it doesn’t matter if you were had or not. You acted from the heart and you made the right choice for you. Just remember that you can’t take care of everyone out there on the street. Next time it might be better to just let go.

  • Silverstar, I’m glad that you aren’t living in transitional housing anymore but I’m glad it was there for you when you needed it. I got a chuckle when I read Joe’s response to panhandlers above and pictured you telling him that you needed tp–

    Joe, what would you have done then;>

    Old Man, I hope someday to write in a way that helps people be more understanding of each other. This piece came from the heart and seems to have touched a few of you. I hope the girl is somehow getting some extra strength from our good wishes for her.

    Ben, Every time I buy groceries, I wonder how motel maids and gas station clerks can afford to live. I remember being young and having that sick feeling every time I went to pay bills. There was never enough. And the marijuana economy can make it hard (though some people are benefiting who would have struggled otherwise.)

    No Saint–That is a great story. Your depiction of the “angel voice and the devil voice” cracked me up. That is exactly how I felt! Thank you for being there that day and listening to your angel voice.

    Headwrapper, At first I thought she might have had a traumatic experience with a fairhaired person but then I got to wondering if she didn’t think it just made her more memorable and increased her cache. Kudos to her if it was the later. I love how she learned to make the world conform to her instead of the other way around. The photo of her looks so jaunty.

    I think if I were a great artist/photographer, I would have thought first of my camera. But, my “angel voice” and my “devil voice” were having such a loud argument that I couldn’t hear myself think;>

    Joe, 24! I’d get hardened, too. I like your response. I wish we had more services here. But still some cards with similar info might be helpful. Though how you would have responded to Silverstar’s request has bemused me for several minutes now. I know I would have gone to the store right then and bought her some!

  • I think if I were a great artist/photographer, I would have thought first of my camera. But, my “angel voice” and my “devil voice” were having such a loud argument that I couldn’t hear myself think;>

    OK Kym I held back the first time you said it but now you’ve repeated it and I have to pipe up. This bit about you saying you are not a great or real artist/photographer/journalist etc. because you didn’t take a picture is just pure crap. Please, where is your artistic pride? You ARE a real artist imho and an artist does things her own way. There’s NOTHING anywhere that says you aren’t a real/great etc. artist cuz you missed a photo op. It may mean that your not a real jerk though 🙂

    I think the issue is about detachment. Think of the cliche of an artist standing back from the easel, finger to chin, contemplating the work. It takes detachment. But it also takes passion. It takes both Apollo and Dionysus. Or as you put it, the devil voice and the angel voice. Vincent Van Gough, used to give all his money away to beggars. It had to do with his passionate temperament. His big heart. Nobody says he wasn’t detached enough to be a great artist. NO. He was Van Goug!!! He had a huge heart and much compassion. You can see it in his paintings. The same quality is in your writing. Vincent would understand why you didn’t take a picture. And so do I.

    The bottom line is —art is never more important than life, then a human being’s suffering.

  • Headwrapper, I think my idea comes from reading about how the most amazing artists I know usually put their art ahead of their humanity. Right now I’m thinking about the photo journalists and reporters in war. They take photos and write copy that rip our hearts out. They change the world with what they do but to do that they talk of walking by suffering human beings and/or thrusting their cameras into faces of agony. I couldn’t put the community above the individual–I think. Maybe if I was surrounded by suffering I would be forced to dull my senses though.

  • Kym, wonderful telling of the tale. The homeless problem is so very complicated and I don’t have any wisdom to add to all the wonderful comments already here as we are isolated from things up here in Alaska. There are homeless folks in Anchorage but many are fiercely independent, chosing to live under a blue tarp at 20 below – sometimes dying – than participate in the available programs offered and in a true show of ignorance, Anchorage has passed a law making it illegal to give money to panhandlers – a law that is thankfully ignored by the kind-hearted and law enforcement alike.

    I do know that although your heartfelt $15 to her was a great way of acting locally, your true gift in this instance was telling the tale and providing a forum for discussion. You have thrown a pebble in a still pool of water, and you have folks thinking . . . . . . .

  • I am sorry that your comment at 10:54 led me to a joke:
    You are a photographer and stranded with your camera on a roof in a sudden flash flood from a levee break. The current president was in town at a photo-op for the rebuilt levees. Amazingly, he is hanging onto a tree limb and the current will sweep him right by the corner of the house. You can save the president, or get his photo and win a national award. You are utterly panicked by the obvious question…..

    Color, or black and white?

  • Steve, I’m having a hard time imagining living outside in your area! Thank you for your kind words.

    Grace, First I cracked up but then I thought of who is Vice President…I think I just might have to consider reaching out a hand.

  • Like Beauty embracing the Beast, our beauty is deepened as our beastliness is honored. The poet Rainer Maria Rilke realized this when he said he feared that if his devil’s left him, his angels would take flight as well.
    excerpt from Meeting the Shadow
    edited by Connie Zwieg Ph.D. and Jeremiah Abrahms

  • That is the problem of all artists though. We do not know where the gift comes from so do not heal or even try to heal our broken parts for fear, if we fix those, we will lose the dangerous gift of art. That one has killed a lot of artists. It might be better some day to acknowlege we do not have to be broken to make art and do not lose art if we care for ourselves. That one has not gotten much attention though. It is much more romantic to think we should foster our injuries in order to make art.

  • Healing, yes. The quote above was from this site… .
    which is a sort of Jungian school of integrating the dark and light of one’s being. So the sense in which the quote is used is to acknowledge the dance of light and dark, and to integrate those energies in oneself. So I am sorry if I fed the mythos of the suffering artist as i didnt mean to.
    Good post tho max, as artists frequently seem to over-identify with their suffering. Some of it is the pain of being sensitive. Some of it is hugging their cactus.
    Self-love is a must.


  • I couldn’t put the community above the individual–I think.

    No I can’t either. The community is an abstract ideal. But the individual, each individual making up the community, is real. We cannot expect a change in the nature of the community without a fundamental change in individuals, whether for good or for bad. Such changes come from one on one personal encounters between people, not from campaigns or journalism or “art” aimed at the masses. That kind of “change” is as superficial as a religious group baptism –it doesn’t last because it doesn’t touch the inner core of the individual self. The bottom line is that the value of the community depends on the moral and spiritual nature of the individuals comprising it. In the end the individual will assert herself.

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