A Greenwich Steps Adventure

Here’s a little tale out of my misspent youth.  In 1980 i met Armistead Maupin at a party in the Castro, and we hit it off so well that he invited me over to his apartment on Telegraph Hill the following afternoon, where we consummated our friendship.  Afterwards, he took me out to the Greenwich Steps to visit the hermit.

Yes, in those days San Francisco had a resident hermit who’d built himself a little shack in the overgrowth off the Greenwich Steps, where he’d lived for several years.  More recently, he’d achieved some notoriety over his stalling tactics to keep the developer of the Levi Strauss complex from evicting him and razing his shack, ostensibly so the cliff above the proposed complex could be stabilized, but mainly because they didn’t want squatters on their land above the upscale development.  He’d managed to get some support for his cause from folks like Armi, and he knew he needed to stay on their good side.  So when Armi bushwhacked his way over close to the shack and shouted to ask whether he’d be willing to meet a friend, he agreed.  I tramped on over and, playing the gracious host, he invited us in for tea.

It was a miserable hovel, more of a lean to than a real shack, but it kept the rain off, and had a little camp stove for cooking.  On the other hand, there were clearly no bathing facilities, as he was filthy, and i didn’t even want to think about toilet issues.  The whole thing was only about 5’x8′, so we sat on the edge of his stinking pallet and chatted while waiting for an encrusted pan of water to boil.  When it was boiling, he picked three cups off the ground, and then, in a spasm of fastidiousness, inspected them.  They failed.

But he was ready for this contingency and, grabbing a rag black with dirt off the edge of the stove, vigorously wiped out all three cups. Then tossing in the tea bags with a grimy paw, he poured the water with a flourish and handed us our cups, the perfect host.

I could not bring myself to look into my cup and, to take the first sip, summoned a level of courage i didn’t know i had.

The rest of it went down easier.

And as you know, i lived.  Hell, to my astonishment i didn’t even get sick.

clean upMeanwhile, speaking of public hygiene issues

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