On the beach, I find a penny in the sand and pick it up. When I put it in my wallet, I find a couple of dollar bills. Wow, I do have cash on me. If the homeless guy is still there when I go back, I will give him the money. Sure enough, he is still there, sitting there on his plastic crate. I pull out the dollar bills and some quarters and give it to him. "I'm glad you are still here, I do have a few bucks, after all." He takes the money "Thanks hun. Where you from?" I tell him I'm from Turkey. "What's your name, hun? He likes my name and tells me his name is Jim. "I've never been to Turkey, but I've been all over the United States" he mentions Florida and a few southern states. "Sounds like an interesting story, can I buy you a cup of coffee?" I ask. He wants the coffee but he doesn't want to leave his stuff. So, I get a couple of coffees and a pumpkin coffee cake and go back to hang out with Jim to hear his story.
By the time I get back, another guy has joined him. I hand the coffee and cake to Jim, who is still sitting on his crate. "Thanks hun, you are very kind." The other guy's name is Jerry. He slept in a car last night. He says it's nice to sleep in a car when it's cold. He points down the street and says the car is parked around the corner and something about a lady friend who is still intoxicated this morning. "She is still sleeping it off in the car." As Jerry starts to walk away, Jim asks: "Hun, do you mind if I give the coffee and cake to Jerry? Somebody gave me a plate of food earlier, I'm really full just now." He calls Jerry back and hands him the coffee and cake. As Jerry walks away with the coffee, Jim says: "My story is a very long one." I'm sitting somewhat uncomfortably on a bike rack facing him, sipping my coffee and listening to Jim's story. I've asked him to give me the short version. "Just the highlights please."
He tells me he is from Kentucky. He likes California and has been here for a few years. He has a son and a sister in Kentucky. His sister texted him "Happy Thanksgiving" this morning. He pulls a small flip cell phone out of his pocket and says: "I talk on the phone with them every now and then." He got lonely and missed his family last year and went back to see his son in Kentucky. He was drinking beers with his son, who later called the police and had him arrested. He spent 102 days in Jail. Once he got out, he immediately returned to California, to the beach where people are friendly and kind.
We talk about where homeless people sleep and how they get by. I tell Jim that I once saw a guy at the beach holding a sign that said "Why lie, I really want a beer." Jim and I laugh. Jim says: "I don't do signs." He explains that holding up a sign is cowardly. I can tell by his facial expression, that he despises people who hold up signs. He prefers to ask people directly. He feels it's more honest that way. He says he gets by. People give him a few bucks, and they give him food. He finds places to sleep and to clean up. He knows all the other homeless guys. "Sometimes we drink beers and party. Make no mistake, it's not a bad life. It's a free and easy life. The main thing is to stay away from the cops. Better not to get their attention. For the most part, they leave us alone."
Jim once had a home, a job, a profession. He used to be a roofer and had his own business. Somehow, he lost it all. He seems content though. In a few years, he'll be able to apply for social security. Until then, he enjoys life on the beach, sitting on his crate, playing the guitar, watching people go by. He feels, he has much to be grateful for.