Thursday, January 01, 2015

Or, if You Insist, The Magnificent Onion and Fruit Organization

My father, who never comments on my blog because he (wisely) declines to have a Google account, but now and then responds to a post via email, wrote me this:

“Did you perhaps intend to write: ‘The Magnificent Onion and Fruit Organization’?”

So might one think, but when I used Duck Duck Go (which does not track its users or their searches) to discover what people would find if they did a search for “mofo,” the final word of the previous post, I came upon “The Magnificent and Onion Fruit Organization.” I had never heard of the Magnificent Onion and Fruit Organization to begin with; garbled, it was irresistible.

At December’s chaplaincy class, we had a wonderful, funny guest speaker. He demonstrated how someone he knows explains the concept of boundaries: Holding his hands a few inches from his chest with his palms toward himself, he explains, “Robert.” Turning his palms outward: “Not Robert.” After class, five of us had dinner at Bangkok Bay, in Redwood City.

In mid-December, there was still no sign of B. or D. at the soup kitchen. A week later, after an incredible amount of rain, I noticed that sun was streaming through a round window near the big stove, and the next time I stepped outside, there was D., giving weight to my theory that he’s the kind of person you only see when the sun is shining. It was a pleasure and relief to see him. He told me about a person he knows who, like him, lives in an RV, but with 12 dogs. His wife, reasonably, lives in a different RV.

That evening, I went to the Civic Center Plaza for the Annual Interfaith Memorial Service for Our Homeless Dead, co-sponsored by the San Francisco Night Ministry and the San Francisco Interfaith Council. Speakers included Rev. Lyle Beckman, Senator Jay Leno, and Jana Drakka, of the San Francisco Zen Center, who does street ministry.

She runs a meditation group at Glide Memorial Church, which serves the homeless. Carlos used to go to the group now and then, and I went with him a handful of times. Jana is Scottish, funny and very down to earth. She came to Carlos’s memorial and gave me a small green Quan Yin figure, which she said reminded her of Carlos’s nurturing qualities. She led us in a loving-kindness meditation at the memorial at the Civic Center.

All the folks who live at Thomas House were there, and they said it was twice as large as in past years. We held candles and listened to the speakers and sang. I was evidently the only person who had to consult the lyrics for “Amazing Grace.” These were people who knew five verses by heart (or all five verses, as the case may be). I didn’t see any apparent homeless people. This was mainly a crowd of those who serve or care about the homeless, maybe 125 such people.

The names of the dead were read at intervals. On the printed list, it said, for instance, “John Doe #6, John Doe #7,” but when the names were read aloud, the speaker said, “John Doe. John Doe.” That was a nice touch. Bad enough to die with your name unknown and no one at your side. Worse to be recalled as “John Doe #6.”

That Saturday I went to Laguna Honda for the second time. I’ve wanted to work at a hospital for a long time, and getting to walk around one with a clipboard in my hand and a badge hanging around my neck might be as close as I’m going to come. I’m thrilled to be there.

Bob has assigned me to the rehab unit (physical rehab, not drug) and particularly wants me to visit residents who have just arrived at the hospital. “Resident” is the term preferred to “patient,” and is appropriate for the 80 percent of the population who will live there always; it might not make as much sense for people in rehab, most of whom will be discharged. I met E., who has necrotizing fasciitis, which he said had eaten through his butt nearly to the point that a bone is visible. He has blazing blue eyes and is a drug addict and fast-talking charmer. We had a lengthy, entertaining chat.

I saw a guy in a wheelchair in the hallway who I’ve seen every time I’ve been there and said, “Hi, David.”

He answered, “Why do you keep calling me ‘David’?”

“Isn’t that your name?”


“Are you sure?! Wait a minute—are you one of those guys who changes his name every two weeks?”

He convinced me his name is F. and always has been. When I saw him again five minutes later, I said, “Nice to see you,” and he agreed, “Always!”

I visited A. again, shot in the back by an unseen assailant and paralyzed from the waist down. He had been issued a wheelchair and was in the dining room, visiting with other residents. His hair and beard had been neatly trimmed—he looked great—and he said he is taking a computer class! Another resident called for a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) to help him open a small carton of milk, and A. wheeled over, opened the carton, and said, smiling, “I can still do stuff with my hands.”
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