On October 31, 2009, I took my son to breakfast at McDonald’s on Vanowen and Balboa. It was empty, quiet and the playground was open for him.
As a regular breakfast consumer of McDonald’s I get used to people panhandling. If I eat deeper into Van Nuys, most people bypass me, thinking I don’t know Spanish, so they walk on.
I give change, or, on occasion, they just want my coffee cup before it’s thrown away.
On this particular day, a Sunday, I saw a guy walk in; he looked like the mountain man from The Oak Ridge Boys: a little roughed up, but not dirty. Boots seemed clean. He didn’t seem to order; he placed his travel roll in a booth, and kind of walking around.
At that point my son had finished his food, and wanted to play outside. So, we went to play.
After about a half an hour my son was done, and wanted to head home. Right as I was starting to stand-up, the bearded Mountain Man came walking into the play area. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a dollar, but before I could hand it over, the Man spoke:
“I want you to have these,” he said and proceed to give me two coupons for a free cup of coffee, one coupon for a free breakfast sandwich, and a gift card that he said “might only have forty cents on it, but use it to buy your little one an ice cream.”
I told him I couldn’t accept it, that he should keep it. Use it for tomorrow’s breakfast.
“You keep it,” he said. “I’m fine.”
I pocketed my dollar, his coupons, and the gift card. Before I could look up, he was making his way out the driveway, pulling his travel roll.
“Let me drive you somewhere,” I call out to him.
“No,” he said and reiterated that he was fine then pointed to the bus stop
“There are things I want to see,” he said.
Turned left out of the driveway, and looked at him waiting for the bus, puzzled.
He stood looking up at the sky smiling.
– Last One To Die, 2011