Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Running Bear

While waiting for my destination for the day to arrive in an hour, I decided to walk up the pier aways to a bench and sit for a spell resting my tired feet while looking out across the bay. Two birds with one stone. Soon after I sat, a dark skinned Indian toting a guitar took up residence on a nearby bench, opened up his case at his feet, removed the guitar and began singing and playing. He was wearing a black cowboy hat with silver trimmed hat band, a leather duster and a silver trimmed belt but by the shape of his clothes, I could tell that he was most likely homeless. He only new a few chords and had a pretty good set of pipes on him but what really floored me was that song after song he performed could have been right out of my list of favorite songs. I sat there listening, enjoying the performance and the scenery.

About ten minutes later, an obvious drunk man staggered up and slumped heavily onto my bench. He sat there in silence for a few minutes and then leaning over, slurred something at me that I couldn't understand. "Pardon me," I said and asked him to repeat himself and then with immense concentration and some liberal interpretation, I was able to figure out he was asking me if the San Diego Padres were playing that day. I gave him the affirmative and he resumed his slump. The day was chilly even with my light jacket on and this man was wearing only a thin t-shirt. Soon he hugged his shoulders, slumped all the way down onto his lap and more than likely passed out. He stayed like that for the next twenty minutes and it amused me being the center of attention to passersby who no doubt wondered why I was sitting with the homeless drunk man. The dark skinned Indian kept on playing and eventually drunk man revived himself and heaved himself out of our bench. He started tipping right towards me and I put out my hands to catch him but he caught himself and staggered off down the street.

Soon afterwards two more homeless guys who came strolling up to the dark skinned Indian. The exchanged homeless pleasantries mostly centered around the weather and then proceeded to tell the Indian that they were a dollar short of a pack of smokes and wondered if he had any money. The Indian told them that he had twenty cents so far but they were welcome to it. One of the new homeless guys bent down and evidently only took a dime because dark skinned Indian told him he could have both and he obliged. It struck me as sad that homeless guys were taking to bumming money from other homeless guys all in the name of cigarettes. But I guess that is all they have to spend it on, that and beer, because from their conversations, they got three hot meals a day from a local church and because San Diego is sunny and 70 degrees on average all year round, their tarps and cardboard were adequate for their needs. Unfortunately for them, they didn't know I was in town and had brought four days of overcast, windy, cold and half the time rainy weather with me.

Those two men set off and the dark skinned Indian continued to play his guitar singing one favorite song of mine after another. I was almost sorry when boat pulled up to the dock, set the gang and began taking tickets from the four other passengers who were going with me. When they were boarded and the dark skinned Indian finished his song, I got up, walked over to him and asked his name. He told me that everyone called him Running Bear. I told him I enjoyed his songs and gave him a twenty which is all I had on me at the time. He thanked me and told me I was a friend to him and could come back anytime. I told him good luck and walked on board the boat.

This is only the second time in my life that I have given money to a homeless man. Most of the time I prefer treating them to a meal because I know that giving them money will probably be smoked or drank away. But Running Bear put on such a good show on the pier bench along the bay in San Diego, I was okay with that. He probably really needed it because is started raining in the early evening that day and didn't stop until almost twenty hours later.

7 comments:

R. Sherman said...

You didn't give him anything. You paid him a generous wage for entertaining you. He earned every penny. While I'm not opposed to giving freely with no expectations for a return, I certainly applaud those folks who take whatever skill they have and use it to generate an income.

Cheers.

Eutychus2 said...

Ed....
You don't think his mysteriously playing your favorite tunes was a coincidence do you?

Eutychus2 said...

Ed..... sorry, in my prior comment I meant for the question mark to be a exclamation point; because I don't believe it was a coincidence, nor do I believe he had researched the music you like before he held the concert.

sage said...

A nice story and a good touch. Thanks for sharing and for responding generously.

Ron said...

Awww, Randall said it so much better than I could. Suffice it so say that I think the best way to help people is to provide them with something worthwhile to do and pay them for it (or to compensate them for something they did, in this case). What they do with their moola is up to them.

Ron

Three Score and Ten or more said...

As a puppeteer, I have acquaintances who have been busking and doing pretty well for years. I appreciate it. I used to look forward to going to certain cities because the entertainment was inexpensive and all over the place.

PhilippinesPhil said...

At first I was impressed with Running Bear's largesse to his fellow homeless dude. Then it dawned on me that that particular bit was actually a show put on for you, to put you into a giving mood. Its a well-worn con. I used to live in Oakland back in the 70s as a young Marine and spent a lot of time wandering up and down Telegraph and Broadway plus lots of hanging out around Lake Merit. I used to observe the bums and panhandlers "at work" and I grew to despise them for the crap they pulled. They were the kings of figuring out how to part working stiffs from their money. We're just suckers to most of them. Wet blanket signing off.