Lake Merritt

Whenever I think of Lake Merritt I think of this guy I used to know back in the ’90s who’s body was dredged up from the Lake.

They used to call him “the Ray Charles guy” because of his uncanny resemblance to Ray Charles, with his black shades and jutting jaw.  Or “the Sorry guy” because of his endlessly-repeated catch-phrase, “Sorry, don’t forget, sorry” (which was his sardonic response to his panhandling experiences where people told him “Sorry” a 100 times a day).

The Sorry guy basically thought human life was shit.  And that everybody who was in it, including him, was shit.  He usually didn’t get angry or worked up about this.  He thought life was such shit, it wasn’t even worth getting excited over.  He mostly sat alone on a park bench all day, sort of silently smoldering with disgust.  He was a total loner.  I don’t think I ever saw him hanging out with another person.   I suspect he found the whole concept of “friendship” to be absurd, if not repulsive.

I remember this typical Sorry scene.  One afternoon this charity group was giving out free bag lunches to the homeless.  Sorry expressed his contempt for their offering by making a big show of opening up his sandwich and tossing it on the ground.  Then he dumped his bag of potato chips on the ground, took a bite out of his apple and tossed that on the ground, wadded up his paperbag and tossed that on the ground.  Sat there on the bench, smirking, surrounded by garbage.  Some people are beyond helping.

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Sorry was one of those guys on the street scene who you actually see disintegrating right before your eyes.  Sorry liked to smoke crack.  And he’d regularly have these drug-induced strokes.  You wouldn’t see Sorry for a couple of weeks.  And then he’d show up and it would be like:  “Well, it looks like Sorry got a couple of more limbs paralyzed.”

The word on the streets was that he had burned somebody on a drug deal, and that’s how he ended up in the drink.  Which seemed plausible.

When I think of Sorry I’m struck by the wide range of human experiences.  Everyone comes up with their own unique take on what this life is all about.  Which is our right as human beings. . . .  Like so many street people, when he disappeared he was almost instantly forgotten.   But for some weird reason I keep remembering them.


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