Above the Street

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I started selling pot at 7th and Market when I was jobless and behind on rent. The plan was to sell in the morning, take a break, fill out job applications, sell some more in the evening, and call it a night. My goal: make enough money to breathe and then fly straight.

It didn't work out that way.

On the streets, long term goals shrink to 24-hour shifts of survival. You're hustling to get a hotel room that night, then you're hustling to keep that hotel room until you go to jail.  You get out, and return to the streets and your long-term goals.

Sometimes, Carls Jr. was my bed at night. Once I was there at 4 am, dozing, waiting 'til BART opened. All these old guys were standing around, bragging how long they'd been on the streets.

"I been out here since the Fun Center," one guy said, when they had an arcade out on Market. Another said he'd been out here since Greyhound came down 7th Street.


They were laughing. I opened my eyes, and said, "Do you seriously think that is an accomplishment?" They laughed harder. They thought I was joking. I walked out in the morning, and looked around, and saw what the young guys would look like when they got older.

I thought, "This can't be me."  I went to a job fair. The first lady I talked to, about a security job, said "you can you start tomorrow." So I did.

I haven't sold drugs in 13 years. But I still go to 7th and Market. The street is my front yard. I talk to my neighbors about all sorts of things. Our latest topic: How we're not going to camp out and complain about the one percent, when almost all of the 99-percent is trying to be the one percent. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's the 99-percent turning me down for better jobs, although I blame nobody for my choices or mishaps.

Now, I'm walking above the street, but I'm still on it. The cops go by. They still stop and search me.  I'm judged and stereotyped. But they cannot interfere with me no more. They cannot handcuff me, no more.

With a Perspective, I'm Augustus Vargas.