Monday, August 10, 2009

Palm Trees and Beggars

Kept an appointment with the VA this morning. The port in my chest was irrigated, a little blood taken for analysis. Three quarters of an hour with my oncologist Dr. Go. He says everything looks good. The white blood count is a little low, but is slowly building. I told him about the tiredness. No specific reason for it. Age, chemo, obesity, age. He asked if I snore. I told him I do, though not as much as my wife. He ignored the crack and suggested he make an appointment for me to see the “pulmonary/sleep” clinic. I may have sleep apnea. I said I didn’t think so. He said if I do, and I take care of it, in 30 days I’ll be a new man. If it will make a new man of me, I’ll take a run at it.

By 11am I was driving south from La Jolla, half-asleep. Stopped in Chula Vista at Starbucks and ordered a regular coffee with three shots of espresso. It was tasteless, but it did its work. Picked up my wife at our American mail drop in San Ysidro, did some banking, went to Henry’s Market where I bought another sleeping aid, one without melatonin which I think I have a negative reaction to, then we stopped at a Chinese buffet-style restaurant. It was a nicer place than we expected, the food better than we expected.

I was sitting facing the front windows which looked out across a few parking spaces, across the street and another parking lot to a little strip mall. There were palm trees in each of the parking lots on either side of the street, their green fronds moving softly and without let in the soft breeze beneath the pale blue sky. While the trunks of the trees were deeply rooted, strong and stable, their fronds never ceased their easy movements with an intricacy that was far beyond my ability to follow in any detail. It was a simple, complex scene of great beauty.

On our side of the street, beneath one of the beautiful palms, there was a filthy beggar with a shopping cart full of trash, probably his possessions. He looked like some kind of Hispanic guy who had been in the oven too long. It was as if, with my eyes raised, I could see the beauty of how the earth is, while if I lowered them I could see the filth that men bring to the earth. The beggar held up a sign to any car that passed in the lot that read: “HELP.” Some drivers did help with a few coins.

While I watched him with a rather casual curiosity, I found that this filthy man had a smile that was beautiful beyond any expectation I would have had. It was more than beautiful, it was a beautifully joyful smile. It didn’t matter if you donated to him or not, if you only passed him standing there in his rags you were given the beauty of his big, wonderful, toothy smile. Sometimes he laughed his thank-you and that laugh added to the charm of his face. While I watched him through the window from our table inside the resturant I felt myself enchanted, enchanted somehow in the same way as a few moments before I had been enchanted by the beautiful complexity of the green palms moving in the early afternoon air.


Eric Blair said...

You're a poet, Mr Smith, with n an eye for beauty. As a result of reading this latest installment of your blog, I
believe I'm closer to understanding what Dostoevsky meant when he said (in his novel, the Idiot, through his mouthpiece, Prince Myshkin), "Beauty will save the world."

Milpitas said...

You sound like you are in love with this specimen of street trash. Snap out of it, Bradley! Maybe he has a continuous smile on his face because he was released from an insane asylum and is happy to be on the outside?