panhandling at sunrise

I'm not on a quest for money this early in the morning (though maybe I should be). I'm out for a run through the 3/4 mile long "red carpet" of a park that leads up to Golden Gate Park, called the Panhandle. It's out the back door from my apartment, and I like to come here in the mornings. So do many others, it turns out.

a middle-aged Asian man stands poised on a square of pavement near the public restroom, arms raised to the sky. I wonder, if I knew how to practice Tai Chi as well as it seems he does, would I be brave enough even then to move my body so artfully in this public space?


A homeless man with a full salt and pepper beard ambles across the pedestrian walkway near the basketball court, large gray blanket rolled and slung expertly over his shoulder. He is walking SO SLOWLY as I approach the white stripes over which he inches across. I think of the Beatles crossing Abbey Road and wonder if anyone has ever asked if they made it all the way across the road or simply posed in the middle for their album cover shot. I wonder where this man is trying to go and hope it's nearby, because it's going to take him A LONG TIME to get there.

Two middle-aged white women stand on a patch of grass nearby talking and watching their dogs play. It feels Hollywood somehow. I'm sure these ladies are talking about their husbands, or ex-husbands, or their close-minded bosses at work. Life has worn them down to a place in which they've been forced to realize their own full worth and also the value of canine companions, and they've never been happier. 


I make eye contact with the east-bound runners as I head west, and try to imagine their glances back at me are saying "wow, I'm so impressed with your running style, and I want to know what song you're listening to because you're absolutely killing it!" even though in reality I know I'm THAT RUNNER, the one with holes in both sneakers, holding a full set of keys and a credit card in one hand (just in case) and a wired phone in the other, who is sprint/walking, never running. How many inner eye rolls or silent cajoles have I actually caused?

The eucalyptus tree looms over me as I circle back towards home. They say it's the oldest tree in all of Golden Gate Park. It's weird to stand in awe of this natural monument with the Stone Temple Pilots blasting through my headset too loudly, but it's also exactly right.

The stoplight at Stanyan Street changes and the armada of cyclists sprints forward. It's spandex rush hour for the helmet-clad here in the Panhandle. Biking to work is considered not only the coolest form of transportation in San Francisco (you have to be pretty legit to bike in such an inclined city), but also the fastest. These people are all tech gurus. They've done the math. They know. 

I jog past a man sprawled out in a sunny patch of grass (he's been there for God knows how long, and I'm not sure weather to feel sorry for him or jealous) toward Masonic Avenue, back home. Another day of Panhandling and not a penny wealthier, but all the richer for it.