Here’s a little story...When I lived in L.A. with a couple of very funny comedians, one of the girl’s niece from the Middle-West came out for a visit. When asked what the little visitor wanted to do in Tinsel Town, she replied, “Meet Jay Leno.” Leno had just had be anointed with the Tonight Show. At this point in time, Leno and his shining, gleaming, bright white comedy-producer, Jimmy, were accepting jokes and material via faxes from comics. You could fax Jay, see your line or bit in the monologue, and then get a check for fifty bucks per bit. These were heady, new times. My roommate called Leno to see if he would meet her and her niece who in a Make-A-Wish moment, wanted to meet him. Leno said, “Yeah, yeah, sura, b’ing har up and Ah’ll give her a toura of tha place.” So Mr. Leno, who at that time could be argued as THE comic’s comic, one of the best jokesmiths that ever existed, gave a tour of his home and legendary garage to two complete strangers for a few hours in the Hollywood Hills, making this young women’s dream. That was almost twenty-five years ago...
Since the Conan debacle, the girlfriend and I have boycotted
NBC. It actually wasn’t that hard. She had to give up Matt Lauer and Thursday night comedies and I in turn threw out my American Apparel catalogues. I know it doesn’t make sense but that is a by-product of negotiations in a relationship.
We might watch the Olympics and then get rid of the Peacock again- until mandatory viewing is required at another time.
The reason I bring this up is because that great organization, NORML, the pioneers of the War against the War Against Drugs, had paid for an ad to run on a CBS owned billboard preaching Legalization. The company that ran the advertising wing was okay with putting on NORML ad forty feet high in Times Square, but when it came time to play, CBS nix the advertisement. Now people are asking for a boycott against CBS. I may be all about boycotts and supporting stuff with our dollars or not. I’ll do what we have to see legalization through in a responsible way. But don’t ask me to give up Dave and the Mentalist.
And that my friend is called subjective reality.
View From the Haight
Yesterday my production staff, TeamBrian and I hit the streets trying to find what the papers are calling ‘Road Warriors.’ Road Warrior is the name given to a new batch of homeless kids, and they are kids, who are more aggressive than your usual street people who walk up and down Haight in a trance with sporadic shouting and rants. There are the Hippie kids and oldsters who end up on Haight St. for a variety of reasons but the so-called Road Warriors are different because the stories say, they shake down other homeless and threaten the straights with violence if they were to call the cops. Besides for the in-your-face confrontation when you don’t give the Road Warriors spare change when asked, they travel with Pit Bulls and other flesh eating animals. Intimidation is key tool here.
Shortly before Christmas the talk of the Road Warriors surfaced. Although they were never given that name by the people and merchants I knew from the street. Mostly my friends talked about these punks that were sitting in front of their stores, scaring off customers. Then a feature columnist from the Chronicle started a series on the Haight and this so-called new crop of aggressive street kids. Apparently he came to Haight Street to do some interviews. Okay, this is where I come in, but many weeks later.
So when TeamBrian and I went looking for these punks, these Road Warriors, we couldn’t find any of the usual suspects in the usual places. See, my Haight Ashbury encompasses many kinds of street people-the way I see it. There are people who live on the street I’ve seen or known for years. With a few exceptions, these men and women live among us without much fanfare. Living in the Haight, everyday kids get off of a magic bus with sandals, a dog and a guitar, hoping for a better life than the one they had back home. Blame Jerry and Janis for this. In the Panhandle close to the DMV, the brain cases sit. They’re mostly men who sit depressed, talking to themselves. They never ask for money. The smell can be over-powering but for the most part they are harmless and don’t cause trouble. Then there are the poor children... They’ve been asked to be pimp out by a parent or there is some form of sexual abuse or a parent strung out and these kids have absolutely no other place to go. Not everyone has choices.
I’m leaving out the ones who are on a party circuit and those who don’t fit between the lines or who have fallen through the cracks. Or they are smoking crack and have given up. And of course, like the Birdman of Telegraph Hill, he didn’t trust the Man and hid in a shack for twenty years feeding pretty parrots.
There just isn’t one kind of homelessness.
When TeamBrian and I went on a search for Road Warriors, we couldn’t even find any homeless. Usually like the way Sarah Palin can see Russia from her doorstep, I can see people camping and bivouac out in the neighborhood. Y’know the old saying...cops, whores, and the homeless- they never around when you need them. We walked the length of the Panhandle only finding one guy crashed out in his sleeping bag.
Since getting a new Police Chief a few months ago and the Chronicle stories about the crazy homeless in the Haight, there has been morning sweeps by the cops of Golden Gate Park, the Panhandle and the surrounding streets of the Haight, rounding up the vagrants and putting them somewhere???
Before the Chronicle articles there were as many as fifteen to twenty people sleeping in doorways and between trees and cars on my block. I’m talking in a one block range. This was the new normal.
My belief is the confluence of the new police guy, the poor sales of the Christmas season in the Haight, and the Pit Bull toting street punks contributed to the new policy concerning the street people and the sweeps.
We couldn’t find anyone really until we went to Hippie Hill in the Park. TeamBrian and I approach a group of maybe ten to twelve kids age sixteen to thirty with one old guy around fifty sitting in, sharing some joints and a few Forty's. Some sat on the green park bench while others jammed in the mid-morning sun laughing and singing. That is until I showed up.
We had a camera and a microphone recording. Walking up to the gang, I asked if I could talk to a few of you guys for a documentary I’m doing about people living in the Park. That’s when they turned on me. They no likey cameras and microphones.
There were shouts of who do I think I am taking their pictures without signing something. That’s when TeamBrian starting backing up slowly towards the bike paths and I found myself alone with this band of homeless kids. I showed them that I turned off the mike and my camera man has vamoosed. A couple of harden street chicks, maybe nineteen years old, egged a few of the guys on to inflict damage against me, who they now saw as the Man.
That’s when I asked about the Road Warriors. This stopped them dead in their tracks laughing. One of the quieter kids spoke up. Letting out his hit, barely able to contain himself, he blurted, “I was there when this reporter asked a bunch of us questions. He wanted to know what we called ourselves, or who we thought we were, or something.” The kid adjusted his wool cap and said, “So one of the dudes I’m with said we’re called the Road Warriors. And that was it. HE believed us.”
Oh, they all laughed at pulling over one on the Man. So I asked, is there a type of person on the street aggressive like the paper suggested?
That’s when the pitchforks and burning torches came out again. They all got in face shouting and taunting me with verbal jabs.
- “Man, ninety percent of the people on the street, WANT to be there, MAN.”
- “The hip-hop club on Haight Street is more dangerous than us!”
- “There are no Road Warriors. We’re all Road Warriors!!!”
- “You know what a fucking shelter is LIKE!!! Bedbugs, you get rob or raped.”
- “—There’s no smoking in the shelters either...”
- “What about our RIGHTS! Our HUMAN RIGHTS!!!”
- “It’s an eighty dollar ticket if you get caught sleeping in the Park. G.A. gives me 59 bucks a month. Do the math!!!”
- “Dude, I liked to see you live on 2 dollars a day. I get TWO HUNDRED FUCKING BUCKS A MONTH in Food Stamps. TWO FUCKING DOLLARS A DAY FOR FOOD!!!”
There was more but due to the lack of movie equipment going, I could only write down a partial list of their complaints and suggestions. Plus their mood was getting piqued by my questioning and thought that might be enough for one day.
I caught up with TeamBrian near the edge of Stanyan Street and like intrepid explorers, we laughed at our good fortune of having made it out alive once again from the belly of the beast.
Tonight there is a meeting about the Homelessness in the Haight at our local library. The kids at the bench said that they were going to be there to stand up for themselves.