I just read an article in the San Jose Mercury News about a homeless man, Robert Bruce Facer, who lived out of his kayak. He died last week in Monterey at 65, from acute heart problems. The article was a polite and thoughtful review of his life. He clearly lived life as he choose.
I saw him once, at the entrance to Elkhorn Slough, from a distance. I took this image at the time, knowing nothing about him until I read the story today. I now regret not seeking him out, even if just to say hello. When I saw him I had recently completed a crossing of Monterey bay by kayak, and wondered to myself how he could move from port to port, as open ocean kayaking is at best dangerous, and to the unprepared or unyoung suicidal.
The Merc story said he grew up middle class and went to college, but chose a different path in the 1960’s. After living rough in Alaska he eventually made his way down the Pacific coast, walking and paddling when he could. Last year he moved from Moss Landing to Monterey, where the kind citizens, in keeping with their traditions, allowed him safe refuge.
I’m left to ponder how he would have been treated in other cultures- Europe, the East Coast, or the South. A friend once told me the true measure of a person’s worth is not how he treats his peers, but how he treats the janitor. That is something we seem to have lost in our endless rush to embrace unbridled greed.
In general harbors are forgiving places, many of us drawn to the sea are at the outer ends of the bell curve. He might have chosen that environment or got there by natural selection. Steinbeck and Ricketts would have been proud of their home treating him with the dignity they did.
I’m sorry not to have made his acquaintance. I’ve a mindset to be warm and respectful to homeless people, as a friend once repeated to me after giving a dollar to one; “There but for the grace of God go I”, a lesson he learned from parents raised in the depression.
It may be I have seen him on the street in Monterey, once near McDonald’s I talked to a man that fit his general description. He was traveling rough, but was articulate and polite. We should all wonder how other cultures would have treated him. Was not arresting him enough? When you see a homeless person wonder what stories they could tell, and realize they are someone’s son, brother, aunt or uncle.