By Jane Stahlheber
The answer to that question is a resounding Yes! But that’s beside the point.
My car broke down recently. Again (sigh). But thanks to public transportation, I laughed like a hyena and thanked God as I unhooked the battery, checked the air in the tire with a slow leak, and wondered when I would ever learn the lesson of balance. You see, God wants me to understand that just because I have a working vehicle doesn’t mean I should stop taking the bus. Most of the time, in fact.
So here I am, blessed with another opportunity to reconnect with my community, gaze with awe at the flora and fauna of Laguna Beach and its environs without worrying that I’ll cause an accident, and catch up on the latest homeless news. Did you know that bus stops and bus rides are conduits for the Homeless News Network? We don’t need no stinking cell phones! I digress.
A couple of days ago, while riding OCTA’s Route 1 bus heading south, I learned another of my comrades has been lost to the domestic war zone he resided in for years too numerous to count. He was known as Scooch. His name was Scott. He had a daughter and carried her picture around in a Ziploc baggie to protect it. She looked beautiful in the photo, and he loved and missed her very much. I was told that Scott allegedly threw the winning pass for USC in a Rosebowl game years ago, or something like that. I never checked to see if the story was fable or fact. I was also told that Scott was found frozen in a park, but that was his choice, and it was his right to make that choice. He knew the ropes of being homeless better than most.
I think we lost Scooch during the same cold snap a few weeks ago when we lost Ben in Heisler Park. I watched him one sunset when he told a friend he just had to put his toes in the sand at Main Beach, but I didn’t have a chance to get to know Ben. One of my friends who stays at the ASL carries his picture around in one of her bag lady totes.
But the news isn’t all bad. Steve (aka Bad Back), who was assisted by Friendship Shelter last year in filling out an application for Section 8, is finally getting a home he thinks will be stable for 17 months, and thereby a real chance to try and figure things out for himself. Always cheerful, Steve, who used to call himself a hobo, just exuded hope and happiness and heartfelt gratitude. It all started when his “place” burned down followed by months in the hospital and toes fused together and confinement to a wheelchair. I’ve known Steve for years. If I recall correctly, he is a veteran with an ex-wife. We had campsites next to each other in 2009 for a couple of weeks in San Clemente. I took him to Wal-Mart, he bought me a camp chair, and we shared a camp fire once in awhile. He told me stories of sitting out storms on 1,000 Steps Beach in south Laguna and the wonders of the hobo tools he got at Wal-Mart.
Am I crazy for being grateful for a broken down car and a few stints at being homeless? Yes, but these too are God’s gifts to me. Just think of all the beautiful A-List people I would never meet.
California native Jane Stahlheber, 55, grew up in Victorville, and most recently lived in San Clemente before moving to Laguna Beach in 2009.