Four years later - Still searching for Christmas in the rain
When I wrote this in 2006 I wondered if things might change through the years. I honestly thought that people might begin to respect their fellow man come Holiday time and not berate each other. Four years later to the exact day nothing has changed including the weather, but the pictures I took are current.
Tuesday, Day 1
It is pouring rain, and I have bundled up all my shipping packages in garbage bags for the daily 22 block trek to the Post Office. The USPS is selling teddy bears, totes and note cards but there are no Christmas trees. I take the 88 bus and trudge the 7 blocks to the Salvation Army through Chinatown in Oakland. There was neither a garland nor a seasonal greeting sign anywhere. All I saw was an over abundance of Peking Ducks hanging in the windows. I spot no trees or lights, just a lone red ribbon on a coffee shop door. Not even the Marriott Hotel has holiday lights anywhere.
Downtown Berkeley fares no better. There are simply just "Peace and Joy" banners on the light poles. St Mary’s Church on San Pablo Avenue has over 100 crosses out on their front lawn today. I try and count them as I wait for the light. Each one represents someone who died a violent death in Oakland this year. These people were not killed by terrorists or cowboys from Nevada. They were murdered over drugs and now families of the dead will mourn their loss this Christmas.
Wednesday Day 2
It’s off to San Francisco today to look for more things to sell. I trudge up the street to the Post Office once again and by block two I am running down the sidewalk with the cart as I have a loose pit bull running after me. Not a good way to start the day. I arrive in the city to find only a few silver garlands in the window of Goodwill and Thrift Town and that's it.
I spot three Seasons Greetings in the windows of few stores. It's still raining and raining hard. I go to the Goodwill on Mission Street and Alan the manager looks pretty upset. He tells me he has had to box all his Christmas trees he had to sell as he can’t display them. He then tells me the employee Christmas party is tomorrow night and they had to take the tree down there too as someone complained and it’s now called the “Holiday Party".
Thursday Day 3
It’s back to the city today as I am having one heck of a time finding stuff to sell. It’s pouring and I am still wearing the rubber coated quilted snow jacket my boys grew out of. The cart is still filled with garbage bags to keep everything dry.
I take the subway back to the same places I went to yesterday in the Mission district. I decide to take the 33 bus up to the Castro district to a music shop there. Haven't been there in ages and figure it can’t hurt. Still no sign of Christmas and the rain is coming down like cats and dogs. Where have they hidden the Christmas I once knew?
As I approach the four corners where the rainbow flags fly I start to smile. Castro Street has Christmas trees and decorations everywhere. Windows are beautiful and even the Pottery Barn has a tree in the window.
It feels incredible and the cookie shops have their doors open. I can honestly say I smell gingerbread baking. Walking slowly I savour each window. People are smiling and I suddenly feel the Christmas season of years gone by. I glance over my shoulder and look at Twin Peaks which is covered in fog but I can see sparkling lights all the way up the street.
Am I dreaming?
I arrive at the record store and find out it doesn't open up for another 15 minutes so I try to stand in a doorway to stay out of the rain. My hair is soaking, I look like heck and I have a cart. There is a complete vision for you. A man goes by me, hands me a dollar and tells me to stay dry.
He thinks I'm homeless. Great!
I take the streetcar back down to Hyde Street which is packed and it takes me 5 minutes and a lot of hollering to get off. People just don't want to move and are generally not happy. The Grinch has most certainly taken over this streetcar.
I have decided to "climb" Hyde Street today. It takes me about 25 minutes to walk to the top and it’s packed with homeless people up and down the street. Since my broken toe is better I don't have to wrap it with bubble wrap anymore. I think I can do this today!
I get to the top and go to the Cathedral Thrift shop. By this time I am sweating like there is no tomorrow and my hair is soaking wet. I just look like hell and I swear I stink. The lady looks at me as I purchase two items and tells me she will only charge me a dollar each, pats my hand and tells me to be careful out there. She obviously thinks I'm homeless too.
I now have to walk back down all those 10 blocks and make sure I don't fall as it is so steep. So far I have only seen one tiny lone festive tree in a massage parlour window. When I hit Geary Street I hear gunshots. By the time I get down to Turk street the police have yellowed taped the whole street off. The African American man who screamed "Merry Christmas Red" when I walked by him on the way up now lies dead in the middle of the street.
When I was young everyone celebrated the holidays and no one felt slighted. Menorahs, Christmas trees you name it were everywhere and no one was shouting for them to be taken down. No one got upset at Chinese New Year or told the Ukrainians to put their perogies away. Everyone got along and it was wonderful.
So what happened?
Did I miss something?
Where has the love gone?
Was it stolen by the partridge in the pear tree? Did the Grinch hide it?
It’s not the icon of the Christmas tree or the decorations really that I seek; it’s the love, the warmth and the fellowship. It has been missing for years and has robbed me of any holiday spirit.
I saunter towards the subway and hand the dollar I had received to a very wet homeless man. He smiles and says,
"Merry Christmas Mam!"
I start to leave and he shouts,
"By the way if you have time we are all going to be sitting in front of Carl's Jr tonight."
I sighed and realized he thought I was homeless too, but he still wanted me to share Christmas Eve.
He did not have a tree, nor did he have decorations but he still had love in his heart to share.
I scratched my head and wondered about these Holiday complainers that make a stink about this or that. Maybe it really isn't the decorations, trees, or signs that really bother them.
Maybe they just do not have any love in their hearts.
Has anyone ever thought of that?
Text and Images by Linda Seccaspina 2010
Images were shot between rain storms except the very last one.
Dedicated to Kat (Kirsten) Easley