I found that my view didn’t represent the city. I was warned that the streets were filled with homeless, crazy people and the smell of urine. I have found homelessness endemic in many cities I visit especially in the large cities the AAEP holds their annual meetings.
There is a small manufacturer of backpacks uniquely made for photography equipment (Peak Design) that was located 1.5 miles from my hotel here. I looked it up on the iPhone map and plotted my walking route down Mission St, right on 9th and left on Hayes to the store. Along the way no one made eye contact as people walked with the sole purpose of getting past the down trodden people lining Mission St. Faceless people wrapped up completely in blankets sleeping on concrete in the 50 degree weather at noon. Tents hid other sleepers. Dozens sat in wheel chairs along the street. More sat with friends or alone with backs against the buildings. I often smelled urine. Two separate occurrences of men seriously screaming profanity to invisible people caused me to give a wide birth and not engage them with my eyes. My hands remained deep in my coat pockets mostly to hide my watch from someone wanting to take it. Eyes remained down or on distant things. My feet moved rapidly coursing around people high on drink and drugs weaving sideways into my path.
Shady people stood in doorways. One young man dressed in a black suit, black shirt, black tie, black shoes with a white face and blond hair guarded a doorway leading to a dark hall lit with blue light. Small stores had big men as bouncers sitting at their doors. Larger businesses had electronic doors or guards stationed inside.
I made it to my destination out of breath and purchased my things. The tax was high. I could have saved money ordering online with no tax and free shipping. The tax wasn’t helping the street people I saw anyway.
While I asked about getting a taxi or an Uber, the staff basically told me that they had become refractory to the plague of their streets. Admitting it was sad, they had no plan or desire to change things. They did advise a different route back but warned me to avoid an even worse area where drugs ruled the neighborhood.
I returned on Market Street which was a bit more upscale and was parallel to Mission Street by one block. The desolate ones there had something the people on the other street didn’t have as much. They had dogs. Lots of dogs and there was a love between the homeless and the dogs obvious to me.
I can work on any horse 5 times my size and quick as lightening and not be afraid because I know them so well. To say I was on double high alert on my walk was an understatement. Looking behind me would show my fear. I walked quickly and realized a woman with leopard tights was walking alongside of me as if we were a couple. After a while I realized she was grouping to add protection through size as we walked. It was subconscious. But with only one more block to go I relaxed not because I was almost back to safety but for something that surprised me. It was the love by the homeless for their dogs and the dogs lack of judgement for their humans. That was my lesson and was my release from fear. My hope is that there is a compassionate veterinarian helping these dogs. I know they will always be in my thoughts.