When I got up this
morning I felt better than I had in quite a while. Between Bell's
Palsy and a cold that I picked up last Friday, I have not been
at my best lately. The weather didn't feel especially cold,
which also made me happy. Even so, I still didn't call to check
the temperature, for fear that too low a report would give me
an excuse to bail out of my walk. At 6 oclock I headed
out the door. The pale light of the sun in the east indicated
that spring was on the way, and that also perked me up.
I followed my usual
path to the Plaza and then headed north to the Federal Building
oval, which I circled in a clockwise direction. I pushed on
to the old St. Vincent Hospital, where thoughts of a cup of
coffee and a tasty treat quickened my pace toward the French
Pastry Shop, a few blocks away. I hadn't been there for a while,
and was eager to return.
Walking by St. Francis Cathedral, about a half a block from
the restaurant, I ran into some longtime friends who were on
their way to Mass. We chatted for a minute, and then we each
headed on to our destinations. This couple attends church every
day, which takes about an hour and a half, yet still they have
time to manage a couple of small businesses.
Sitting on the sidewalk
across the street from the pastry shop was a street person.
Middle-aged, he was wearing a leather cowboy hat with a long
feather in the hatband. A big Bowie knife hung on his belt,
and the cowboy boots he was wearing had seen better days. From
the look in his eyes, I was sure he had had his share of alcohol,
and then some, in the last few hours, more likely than not cheap
wine. I felt sorry for him. I remembered that in years past,
if I had had a little too much to drink the night before, just
the thought of any kind of alcohol would make me sick the next
Maybe I felt guilty
about indulging myself in the French Pastry Shop while this
poor fellow sat outside in the cold. Maybe I felt that I hadnt
been to church in too long a time. Whatever the reason, something
made me walk over to the homeless man and ask if he wanted a
cup of coffee. He said that would be great, and hed like
four or five spoons of sugar in it. I asked about cream, and
he said to skip it. I figured his body was craving the sugar
he usually got from wine.
Inside the restaurant I ordered a peach pastry (my favorite)
and two cups of coffee, one of them to go. The waitress asked
if she should wait until I finished my coffee at the table before
bringing the to-go cup. I said no, bring both at the same time.
When she returned, I took the to-go cup out to the homeless
fellow. "Here you are, buddy," I said. Thanks,
he replied, taking the cup. This will hit the spot."
His eyes, although
red, still sparkled. He looked happy and reasonably healthy.
All the walking he did had probably dissipated most of the alcohol
he consumed the night before. "How about a sweet roll?
I asked. "No thanks, he said. When you get
to be my age, a fellow gotta watch his weight, you know!"
"Yeah, youre right, I said. Well, take
it easy. We parted.
I went back into
the restaurant, sat down, drank my coffee and looked out the
window at the homeless man, sipping his cup and watching the
world go by. I wondered if maybe he wasn't happier then most
of us. Maybe he had been a former CEO of some large company
like Enron, and things had gone badand now that he was
penniless, he had discovered that having no responsibilities
wasn't such a bad alternative.
My thoughts were
probably more dramatic than what really happened to the man,
but I decided to hold onto those thoughts anyway. In a way I
kind of admired the guy. He wasnt complaining about his
circumstances, and he even had enough backbone to pass on the
sweet roll, for the sake of watching his weight. Well, I needed
to do that, tooand if he could, I could. I had the waitress
wrap up the peach pastry, and then took it home with me, to
be consumed at another time.
Have a great day!