Sunday, December 28, 2014

Reflections from My Window

Regular readers know I live with a truly amazing view out my windows on the San Francisco Bay. Previous photographic evidence may be found and fondly remembered here, here, here, here, and, of course, here.

But there is also a neighborhood below my view. Just in the last week I have had several quixotic experiences through my personal looking glass. First came the new municipal lighting. Berkeley changed out all the old sodium street lights with LED canisters. The savings in electricity apparently was well worth retrofitting the entire city. Good for the earth but a side benefit is that all of the LED illumination is direct downward to the street. Up here on the eight floor it is suddenly dark at night. No, not out in the forest dark, but much less bright than before.

I came home christmas day to find a colony, not a flock, of seagulls wheeling around outside my window. Being close to the Bay, it's not uncommon to see gulls in the sky but this was at least twenty birds. They were all engaged in some swirling flight pattern over the adjacent buildings. Since I live in the tallest structure in the neighborhood, the aerial display was both above and below my floor. The contra flight went on for fifteen or twenty minutes before a loud cacophony of squawks and cries heralded a disbanding. The colony flew off in all directions.

Brief internet research turned up no explanation for the behavior.

Directly below my windows, eight floors down are two parking spaces, designated for contractors and/or maintenance staff. Early last week a thirty foot dumpster was delivered to that space. One of the units in the building is being emptied of old furnishings prior to being completely remodeled. The bin is half full of old furniture and detritus of someone's life. This next week deconstruction refuse will fill it to the brim.

But work slowed over the holiday week, which means that the discarded stuff would be picked over by any number of scavengers, urban miners and street people. A few days ago, I heard a loud conversation and looked down to see that one such scrounger had been surprised to find an obviously homeless man nested in one end of the dumpster. He had built quite a cozy space with discarded chair cushions for his bed and the chairs as windbreaks. He had a meal from KFC and then settled in for a long day nap.

A hour or so later, I was down in the garage and dropped him a twenty with wishes for his new year being more stable. He thanked me, our brief interaction finished.

Two nights later, I was reading and heard a shout and a thump. Now my building is all concrete, I hear nearly nothing from neighbors above or below. So hearing the noise was unusual. The sound was metallic, heavy metal even. I thought of the dumpster but at night the area is pitch black. From eight floors up I could see nothing. I watched and waited but still not a sound, until I started to slid the window shut -- then there was a low moan.

Shoes, jacket, keys and a flashlight, I went down. Different guy. Disoriented, couldn't tell if it was his normal state -- off his meds or perhaps the side effect of the lump on his forehead. Either way, I offered to drive him over the the ER. He declined. I asked him if he could stand up. He did and fell back into the trash. "Maybe I should go to the clinic," he said.

Don't know where the clinic is but there's a hospital ER three blocks away. I got us there and got him inside. He gave terse, rambling answers to the nurse at the desk. The second in charge gave me a sign to step aside and deliver my side of the story.

They took him right in, it could have been the six inch knob on his forehead or not, but they were going to find out. As soon as he disappeared into the treatment area, the security guard asked me to move my car out of the entrance lane.

"Go home," the nurse told me, "we'll keep him for observation until morning. You've done your holiday good deed. Go back to your book."

How did she know I was reading?

-pictures from Pinterest

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