• Hey, Is That A UFO Or What?

    by Erika Fiske

    seaside— I was in a hurry, driving down Del Monte Avenue toward Monterey, when I saw it coming toward me. It looked like a grounded hot air balloon, or maybe a UFO. And it was moving fast, but not nearly as fast as traffic.

    I had to find out what “It” was.

    As I passed, I finally saw him, walking quickly, leaning into the huge mass, pushing a shopping cart covered with large plastic garbage bags attached to the sides, front and top— 16 bags in all. It was almost a comical sight.
    Once I turned around, I sped back to where he was, pulled ahead and stood by my car, awaiting his arrival. “Excuse me, could I talk with you a moment?” I asked, as the mass of bags approached.

    “Sure,” he responded, looking around his load. After moving my car to a side road, I asked him, “What is this?”
    This, he said, was many, many cans and plastic containers. David was on his way to the recycling center near Costco, where he expected to get about $40—money for his kids and their mother (his partner).

    “I takes me 2 ½ to 3 days to collect these,” he said. “I cover 3 to 3 ½ miles a day.”

    David doesn’t have to worry about diet or exercise programs, since going homeless nine months ago. He’s thin and more than six feet tall. Over the months, he’s lost 25 pounds traveling by foot the streets of Seaside, Monterey and Pacific Grove in search of his recycling treasures.

    “I get up at about five in the morning,” he said, noting that he lives in a tent somewhere around here. Many people have come to know him, as he searches through dumpsters and trash cans, and now stop to give him bags of cans or plastic bottles.

    Despite all his problems, David is cheerful. “I’ve got a lot of faith,” he said. “I can’t let things bring me down, especially with a family to care for. I have faith that things will work out for us.”

    David’s troubles began nine months ago when he lost his job, and then his home. “I worked for Sheldon Construction in construction clean up,” he said. While David now lives in a tent, his family stays with his partner’s mother.
    Born in New York, David moved to California 25 years ago to get away from the bad crowd he used to hang out with–young men who were always in trouble. He lived in Castroville, Marina and then Seaside.

    Besides his work with construction, David has done some painting and carpentry. He believes something will come along soon. “The kind of work doesn’t matter, as long as the pay is decent,” he said.

    You won’t hear David complaining about what’s happened to America, as the wealth has transferred to the top fraction of a percent, while the masses lose jobs and homes.

    “The Bible said money is the root of all evil,” he said. “I can’t judge the rich. I’ll let the Lord judge them.”
    Besides, David’s too busy to worry about them. Living in a tent isn’t easy. “It’s hard to get up in the morning and brush your teeth and shower,” he admitted. The shower is at the Salvation Army.

    David also has a bicycle he bought for $20, but the bike won’t hold enough bags when he’s collecting cans–thus the shopping cart.

    So why doesn’t he stay with the rest of the family? David is a proud man. “It’s too embarrassing,” he said. “She (his partner) doesn’t even know I’m doing this, collecting cans.”

    And there’s little chance the family will spot him at this work, since he’s almost swallowed up by the mass of bags. David and his collection don’t even fit on the sidewalk, which is why he travels down the street, pushing as fast as he can.

    “Do people get angry with you?” I asked, thinking of those drivers who can never get anywhere fast enough.
    David smiled and shook his head. “They’ll blow their horns and yell at me,” he said. But David pushes on, keeping his eyes on his ultimate goal—a good job and a home for him and his family.

    “I better go before the line gets long at the recycle center,” he said, turning his bulging mass toward the road, leaning into it and picking up speed as a passing motorist looks on in disbelief.

    posted to Cedar Street Times on April 27, 2012

    Topics: Homeless Chronicles

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