Welcome to 6th Street


For some reason tonight I’m thinking about this friend of mine, Fearless Frank, that i used to hang out with back in 1976 back when I was a 19 year old homeless bum in San Francisco.

One afternoon me and Fearless Frank were hanging out on 6th St. — the traditional Skid Row in every sense of the word. We were waiting to get a free meal at the Gospel Soup Kitchen on 6th St. If you sat through an hour-long sermon haranguing you for being a God-less sinner who would burn in hell if you didn’t believe in Jesus — they would give you a bowl of soup and a sandwich of unknown meat and a bunch of day- old pastries.

So me and old Fearless Frank are waiting outside on the sidewalk with the other bums for the soup kitchen to open. On 6th St. Skid Row. Which was a unique couple of blocks in its own way. Next door to the Soup Kitchen was a Glory Hole where people could meet new friends. And there were multiple porn stores where you could buy porn mags or masturbate to porn movies in 25-cent peep booths in deep shame. And there were a bunch of liquor stores and delis and flophouses. And even a couple of seedy bars and a discotheque where you could dance and score drugs. Plus several back alleys that you walked down at your own peril. WELCOME TO 6TH STREET.

So me and Fearless Frank are hanging out on the sidewalk waiting for the soup kitchen to open. And Frank notices this hubcap that was lying on the sidewalk. God knows what it was doing there. But this is Skid Row so you never know what kind of junk will be lying on the sidewalk.
So Frank just sort of gently kicks the hubcap from the sidewalk into the gutter. He meant no harm. Just clearing the pathway of the sidewalk.
Unfortunately this black guy, who just happened to be walking by, took great offense at this. He shouted at Frank: “WHY DID YOU JUST KICK THIS HUB CAP AT ME???”

Frank tried to explain that he meant no harm. But the guy could not be placated. “YOU MOTHERFUCKER YOU COULD HAVE HIT ME WITH THE MOTHERFUCKING HUB CAP!!!”

So now Fearless Frank is sort of cowering in fear. The guy picks up the hub cap and waves it right in Frank’s face. “YOU MOTHERFUCKER!!”

I’m just sort of standing beside Frank, not sure how to react. The one thing I remember, oddly, was that the guy was wearing a totally orange suit. Orange jacket, orange pants, orange wide-brimmed hat. And he was sweating profusely. As he waved the hub cap menacingly in front of Frank’s face.

Frank is backed up against a brick wall. And Frank is one of the nerdiest, wimpiest guys you could imagine. The classic campy queen. So you know he’s not going to fight back. He’s at the guy’s mercy.

Suddenly the guy takes the hub cap and smashes it against the brick wall. Inches away from Frank’s face. Then he throws the hub cap into the street. And stomps off in an angry, cursing rage. “MOTHERFUCKER!!!”

Me and Frank stood there. And looked at the indentation on the brick wall. That could have been an indentation on Frank’s face. And both sort of went:


And then we went into the soup kitchen and got some soup and sandwich and sermonizing.

Another day on Skid Row.



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