It’s 4:45 in the Morning

7 Feb

Thus the day began with the neighbor in number 21 turning on his radio as if a concert had been demanded by the whole building.  I do not know this person.  This was my first morning waking up at the Westman Hotel on Mission Street between 16th and 17th Streets.

As all good things come to an end, my stay in the Sunset district house in probate ended on Saturday morning.  The estate had been settled and work men were already preparing the walls for painting.  I spent the weekend looking for a hotel where I could pay for the coming week.  The No Vacancy signs were out in full force.  Before my final resting stop, I visited a variety of hotel lobbies that typically were cluttered and run down.  At a hotel on 16th Street between Valencia and Mission Streets, two garbage cans heaping with refuse greeted me as I was helped through the street-level door by a resident, a young woman who looked as if she had not eaten in a long time.  The hunger in her eyes, though, spoke of drugs or sex.  At the top of the stairs a clerk quoted a price of $200 for the week.

The Westman is protected by two iron gates, one street level and the next second-floor level across from the manager’s unit.  The building is run by a South Asian couple.  The husband first stared at me as if I were not to be trusted.  They let me inspect the room, but not without resistance.  Once paid, they became cordial.  As I waited to finish the business transaction, a couple leaving paid their good-byes to the manager’s wife.  The woman leaving noticed the cash in my hand and advised me not to display money in the hotel, a clear warning that I take seriously.

I went to find number 20 one flight up.  As I reached the top of the landing I witnessed a young woman in number 18 bent over strewn clothing on the floor, her door fully open, muttering some dissatisfaction.  She noticed me and complained that one would think they could clean the place for the fifty dollars she had paid them.  She moved towards me as if she had picked up a new scent.  She looked like a drug user, so I moved away for fear of becoming the money conduit for further recreation.  She continued to say hello to me, though, whenever I passed by.  When she hears steps outside her room, she opens her door with a Lennie shout-out: “Lennie, is that you?” “Lennie, are you there?” “Lennie, come here.”  Lennie must either have the money or the drugs.

Number 20 is a quiet affair: one chair, one stool, one dresser, one closet, one wash stand with mirror, and a bed.  On the dresser is a television.  The hotel advertises cable TV.  A towel, roll of toilet paper, and bar of Del Webb’s TownHouse soap are issued upon payment.  There are bathrooms on each floor, but the only shower I have found is one floor down.  The walls and other surfaces of unit 20 look as though every army in modern history has camped here.  There are small peepholes through walls between units, peeling paint, and cockroach stains.  Small, personal graffiti is everywhere, my favorite inscription written above a chair next to the door of the room.

I planned to wake at 5:30 so that I could prepare for travel to a temporary job site in Sierra Point, on the bay in South San Francisco.  I am part of a contracting crew doing document control for a pharmaceutical company.  Because of this morning’s blaring noise I left early.  A free shuttle from Balboa Park BART station takes me to the job.  The ride is short but picturesque.  It is a time when I can meditate.

The work place itself offers space for lovely day dreaming as the glass pane windows along the back facade face the bay directly.  The employee cafeteria is spacious.  The company provides ample free food daily, including three kinds of fresh fruit, organic energy bars, organic yogurt, organic juices, and various healthy snacks and bottled drinks.  Free Peet’s coffee is brewed early in the morning.

I have never experienced this kind of serenity on the job.  It is not something I would even look for otherwise.  But I seek it out in the morning before the work day begins and thereafter during breaks.

In the dingy reality of a hotel room and its environs I believe there must also be beauty.  It will be found with love, courage, and the aid of balance.

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One Response to “It’s 4:45 in the Morning”

  1. Eric O February 15, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    David.
    It was good to run into you again at T-5 Coffee Shop the other morning. Sorry I did not remember your name at first. I’ve read some of your blog and have found it very interesting. I’m sure homelessness is a challenge buy you approach it with dignity and informative observation. While I imagine it to be a hard road to travel, I think it might be harder not to have a voice or an outlet to express yourself and share your experence.
    Thanks for sharing it with me.
    Eric

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