I had an apartment on ground level of Leavenworth Street, with a window about 8 feet up from the sidewalk. Patrick usually parked his cart across the street, and would sing old doo-wop tunes with his amazing deep voice and his thick Mississippi accent. He had a wisdom about life that people were attracted to, and thus, people of the TL flocked to him, and respected him. He would come to my window, turn his cart over to stand on, and we would talk for hours. He was a wonderful conversationalist and had so much incredible insight on the harsh realities of the neighborhood, the city, and life. He would walk me home from school at night, and bring me treasures he’d found on the street, and he was never invasive or threatening in any way. Sometimes he’d disappear for short stints and come back to alert me he’d been in jail, but he always came back, and we always found each other again.
Relocating back to San Francisco after 10 years, I made it a personal goal of mine to find my friend again. If not to continue our amazing conversations and friendship, then just to know that he was still alive. Maybe time and drugs and living homeless for ten years would have taken their toll on him, but I just wanted to know he was OK. I posted to a few Reddit groups in an attempt to get a starting point; most replies said hey hadn’t seen him in 3-5 years, but that was still a start. I was determined to find my friend, if he was in fact still around, so I kept a photo of him on my camera roll, bought a pack of cigarettes, and started offering homeless people I saw on the street a cigarette if they would take a moment of their time (that have plenty, really, and are usually always willing to help) to tell me if they’d seen Patrick.
Yesterday, with some handy detective work and the amazing help of my old friend Graham (who spent a stint living in the closet of that same apartment), we got closer and closer with every block, until finally, one man looked up at me from his rickety wheelchair, pointed to his left and said, “that’s him, right there.” I approached Patrick, worried he might have forgotten me, or worse yet forgotten his mind, but his eyes lit right up as he approached me, saying my name in disbelief. He had remembered as much about me as I had about him, and couldn’t believe I had come back to look for him; looking me up and down to admire the fact that I was now a young adult and no longer a young girl frolicking around the Tenderloin irresponsibly. He slipped on some slippers that were probably about 3 sizes too small for him, and we headed to a nearby pub to have a beer and catch up. His mind was still as sharp as an axe and he was still as handsome as ever. He still had the same deep wisdom and comfort in his voice, and he still had all the compassion in the world for someone who had lived the way he had been living for all these years.
I am so grateful to have found my friend, and that he is still here, still the same old King Of The Tenderloin. I’ll be visiting him often with a beer for each of us, and talking for hours in the TL. And I’m gonna bring him some size 13 shoes, too.