Spring was in the air yesterday in Ocean Beach as I walked down Newport Ave. The Ocean had the color of cobalt blue and the wind was strong, although decidedly warmer than it has been. Is it possible? Is summer just around the corner?
I was on a break from preparing the evening meal at Sacred Heart of OB’s Ministry for the Hungry. I had just a quick lunch at the Old Townhouse Café, said “hello,” to several of my friends and acquaintances as I took my early afternoon walk down to the Ocean for a little head clearing, back stretching, and to let people know about the dinner; an activity which has become an alternate Tuesday ritual for me.
As I approached the corner of Bacon and Newport, the sidewalk narrowed because of the metal planter box around the palm tree. There were several people walking toward me, but enough room we could walk past each other. Then this fella about half my age, and little bigger, came toward me and from behind the group. Apparently he was very important because he was in a hurry and I was impeding his hurried, self-important day. As he passed me, he did not brush against me…he threw his entire shoulder into me nearly knocking me to the ground. I grabbed the metal railing to stop my fall.
The fella continued on his way without a word. But of course I had a few.
“Hey! What was that all about?” I said while he was still in ear-shot.
“Your blocking the sidewalk, get outta the way.” He replied.
“So you knock me down?”
“Get a job asshole!” was his reply.
A few more words were exchange as he climbed into his newer model black Jeep Rubicon. Other than my strong suggestion he, “get out of OB, we don’t need [his] kind,” I truly apologize for any which were offensive. I write it off, however, as being in a state of shock. Granted, I was wearing chef pants, a surfin’ t-shirt, sneakers and a beanie, but I was clean and clean shaven. And for those of you who do not know me, I am bespectacled and my hair (what’s left of it) is white. I was not pan-handling or carrying a sign. I certainly was not drunk or high…I was just walking down the street, perceived as homeless and nearly knocked to the ground because of it.
Now I’m a big boy and I will not suffer any long term, post-traumatic stress as a result of this encounter. The event was disturbing nonetheless. It was disturbing in the sense this fella felt he was justified in doing violence to me because he perceived me as homeless. As I continued my walk, I began to ponder what the homeless and poor encounter on daily basis. The physical and symbolic violence done against them for simply being poor. The metaphorical spitting upon them if you will.
So I have to ask myself, and perhaps you who are reading this, has Ocean Beach become such a place of violence? Have we, as a community, become so intolerant we would condone such violent behavior toward anyone, let alone the most helpless and unprotected? And if so, what is the hope for our community? I remember a time not too long ago, when this was not the case. But change has come and with it, apparently so too has intolerance and violence as an acceptable response.
Well, these are some of my thoughts the day after…as usual, I welcome yours…
In Peace, Jack