WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Fact or fiction?

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I used to work in San Francisco in an office that was actually an old Victorian house, in the Inner Sunset District, if you know the city. It was right on the N-Judah streetcar route, so the nearby corner attracted a lot of interesting humans. One of them took to sitting on our front steps every day for extended periods, muttering to himself and occasionally shouting rude things to passersby. (He turned out to be the mayor [no, not true].) We tried to be nice to him, to keep him on our good side, but he was basically a smelly homeless man who was using our house as a panhandling station.

Imagine our amazement when we discovered that when he got up from the steps, he left a moist brown stain behind. His sky blue sweatpants were soiled with Hershey’s Syrup… or something.

I was the manager of the office group, so it fell to me to tell him he couldn’t sit there anymore. I went out to ask him to leave one day, and he got angry. Expletives abounded. I was a little afraid of what he might do, but suddenly he stopped his tirade and asked me, “What’s your name?”

If it pacifies him, I thought, what difference does it make if he knows my name? I’d take the chance. “Kevin,” I said. “What’s your name?”

“George,” he said. “George Brennan.”

A cold lightning bolt went down my spine. I recovered enough, quickly enough, that I didn’t tell him my name was Brennan too. Instead, I said, “Well, George, I’m really sorry, but you can’t sit here anymore. It’s an insurance thing.”

“Bullshit,” he said, but he walked away, leaving his usual damp stain. (It was kind of in the shape of a heart.) I went in to get a bucket of Mr. Clean water and the mop we’d dedicated to this single task, but that was the last we’d see of George Brennan.

Fact or fiction?

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15 comments on “Fact or fiction?

  1. sknicholls
    June 23, 2014

    I don’t know, but it makes for a good story either way. You just never know. I gave cornbread to a homeless man who turned out to be the former President of a prestigious university.

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 23, 2014

      Sounds like material for a novel!

      • sknicholls
        June 23, 2014

        He was written about in the local paper. Lost his home to foreclosure. Wife divorced him. Lost his job that was supposed to be tenured. Had a nervous breakdown/meltdown and was hospitalized. Hospital turned him out onto the street and he had nowhere to go, so he headed south for the weather.

  2. 1WriteWay
    June 23, 2014

    So much for your long-lost uncle being a wealthy man.

    I used to live at 1271 9th Ave., between Irving and Lincoln Way. One time we came home to find a homeless man passed out on our stoop. We called the cops and watched as they helped the guy up. They actually seemed gentle with him so we didn’t feel bad about calling. What really annoyed us was the dog poop we had to skip over when leaving our building. At least, I think it was dog poop.

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 23, 2014

      Wow, I can’t believe you were that close! One of my favorite Mexican restaurants was in your block: Peppers.

      I just looked at your building on Google maps. You wouldn’t think homeless guys would especially gravitate to it. Lucky you, though, so close to the park!

      I also looked at my old office/house at 415 Judah. Man, they’ve let it deteriorate quite a bit — not even a coat of paint in more than 20 years.

      Sometimes it’s best not to look back…

      • 1WriteWay
        June 24, 2014

        The last time we were in SF (2012), we checked out our old building. The original 1960s wallpaper in the lobby is still there 🙂
        Our corner (9th & Irving) was a Mecca for street people and petitioners (the ones who get paid per signature). I worked at UCSF and had to navigate that corner every day. The harassment I got from the street people (in particular, one group that was always selling puppies) and the petitioner made me close to homicidal. I know those experiences were a large part of why we left SF. Just wish we hadn’t left CA altogether 😉

      • Kevin Brennan
        June 24, 2014

        I think things had improved by the time I was there. 9th and Irving were fairly yupped out, with a Starbucks and a crepe restaurant (though you surely remember PJ’s — now defunct).

        Downtown and around City Hall it’s still pretty bad, though Market St. is getting high-end development all the way to Castro, we hear.

      • 1WriteWay
        June 24, 2014

        I do remember PJ’s. We were talking the other day about how we only ate there once, yet when we saw it was gone, we were sad. When we lived in SF (Sept ’86 through May ’90), there were a few used bookstores within two or three blocks of our apartment. On Friday nights, we would have pizza and beer at Via Roma, then browse the bookstores. I miss those times. I’m glad we missed the Starbucks, to be honest. There was also the Seagull restaurant where every Wednesday night, we stopped for “two soups and two beers” (you can probably sense a theme with the beer). It was a small Chinese restaurant that served huge bowls of soup. When we came back for a visit four years later, the dowager of the restaurant greeted us with,”Where have you been?” She said she remembered us because we always ordered “two soups, two beers.” I got tears in my eyes 😉 Oh, well, those days are gone. Via Roma is now an upscale Italian restaurant (although the pizza is pretty damn good) and the Seagull is no more. It’s fun to visit 9th and Irving, but I probably wouldn’t want to live there anymore.

  3. John W. Howell
    June 23, 2014

    I used to take the ferry from Vallejo to SF since I worked in the old post office building. I know why the homeless feel invisible. Sadly after a while they are almost like the scenery and one fails to see them anymore.

    • John W. Howell
      June 23, 2014

      Oh I almost forgot…fact

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 23, 2014

      I was accosted by a tour company employee in Fisherman’s Wharf a couple of weeks ago, who told me horrendous tales of homeless behavior in the BART stations along Market St. If true, no wonder people are averting their eyes… Sad situation, many years old now.

  4. ericjbaker
    June 23, 2014

    I’m going to go with “fiction” because it seems too plausible.

  5. francisguenette
    June 23, 2014

    My first reaction is to say fact right up to the part about the same last name – but truth is often stranger than fiction so it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that was the true part.

    • Kevin Brennan
      June 23, 2014

      Ain’t that the weird thing about fiction? It has to seem real, but not too real… 😉

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This entry was posted on June 23, 2014 by in Writing and tagged , , .
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