Straight No Chaser: My Broken Heart

By Desi Cortez
Updated: April 17, 2009

DENVER – I just spent a week in San Francisco, and I can guarantee you I left my heart there. I didn’t leave my heart on the Golden Gate Bridge, or in Sausalito nor John Muir Redwoods. But I did leave my humanity and all my compassion, empathy, sympathy and pity in downtown Frisco, the Tenderloin district.

My four-star hotel was but a punt away from a fourth world. A place where I wondered Mike Vick might end-up in, if some people have their way. I do believe I left my stomach, some of it’ content’s on the upper portion of the double-decker Bay Bridge, or a few of the fabled roller-coaster streets, hey, they’re like downhill slops at Vail.

Parking at our Parc 55 hotel – 35 bucks, a day. Far-too much, so I took my tight-ass down the block, into the Dead Zone – for 15 dollars less. Now, that decision . . . taking that path – made all the difference in the world.

Or, at least this vacation. I was planning on escaping from my reality, and I did, I had a great time, but I could not escape from reality, the reality outside my world which houses my world.

I ended up taking a six-day un-named course, observing pain and misery, broken people with broken lives and dreams. And just to slap me in the face, Wilma and I broke camp on day three, and along with our dear friends, the Rubbles, we caught the 99 to Yosemite/King Canyon National Parks . . .

There too, I saw how another half of society lives, intact families, blended families, couples, tourist, all with disposable income. . . . I couldn’t help but compare n’ contrast life’s little in-equalities, the stalk differences between the haves’, as in everything, and the have-not-a-damn-thing folks.

We ventured around the two parks for two days, debated everything from Bigfoot, killer earthquakes and if any form of “manipulation” could ever be deemed a leadership quality? Don’t ask why, we all forgot the “why” part – the argument went so far and wide.

We stood in the mist of majestic waterfalls, I marveled at Honi’s observation – how complex creatures we are – the human skin absorbs, but does not leak . . . No, we weren’t hanging out with Mary Jane, just Mother Earth.

I spent Easter morning walking on paths Buffalo Soldiers, this nations first actual Park Rangers laid out with precision almost a century ago, pondering how lucky I was to have had a couple of men in my life who were cut from some of the same cloth as the 49ers head Coach, Mr. Intensity himself, Mike Singletary, who I envisioned as a one of those rough n’ tough as buffalo hide Sargent, who left no man behind. The kind of man who puts a foot up your ass when you need it, and gives you a bear hug when you deserve it.

The kind of tough luv which I bet the folks I left behind on the streets of San Francisco didn’t get. By dinner time on Easter, I found myself back in the Bay, at Yoshis’ Jazz Club in Oak-town, the town Huey P and Bobby Seale started the revolution in, listening to Donny Hathaway’s little girl Layla, and it all just left me realizing how lucky my behind was.

Later that night, after the band of Buppies I was traveling with had ice cream in Piedmont, at Fentons, we walked around Lake Merritt, I saw a mom and her son, living in a Chevy Malibu, I thought of Keyshawn Johnson, who for a time, was homeless with his mom in the streets of LA.

Did people, who saw the young Key with his mom, living out of their car . . . even imagine that kid would one day be in the NFL Hall of Fame? I’ve advocated here, Keyshawn is exactly what Russell needs. Two years removed, he could bring pride n’ poise back to the Raiders.

During my stay in the Bay, my heart went out to the women I saw, living on the street. I was looking at the pictures in a airline magazine I’d taken from the flight for later bathroom reading material which had a story about Serena and Venus.

I recalled how their dad loved them and willed them to into sports history, and how lucky/blessed there were to have a in-life coach, their dad, who invested in them.

But that investment either did not take place, or did not pan-out . . . at least not for the browned-eyed women I saw stumbling down the street who stopped, performed outside our picture window at the Steak House, begging for what had to be money for her next fix.

She was somebody’s baby-girl, how could she have been loved from day one. . . . I thought surely she could’ve used a life coach like Singletary.

But, thru it all, I most identified with the scores of Black men stranded on the street, who looked like me, my father, my son, my brother, my cousin. I speculated what happened, when and how did the wheels fall off, I thought if only they’d had a strong family, a strong father-figure in their lives, perhaps they wouldn’t find themselves down and out in the bay.

I concluded how pivotal a strong parent/coach was in a person’s life, what a man like Singletary, the role he might be able to play in a young persons life, because clearly what I’d guess – a number of the living dead of the streets are missing . . . is the tools to attain and maintain stability.

I saw a older Black gentleman, who appeared in his late 50′s early 60′s, and he looked as if he could have played football at a higher level, he made me recall how periodically you hear the story of an ex-gladiator who ended up on skid-row . . . and for all I knew – this cat could have been All Big 8, All pro in 1974, and some how, here he finds himself, if he’s not to intoxicated with both firewater and frustration – to even know who he is.

Life goes on, long after the thrill of living is gone

You’re so right Mr. Melloncamp, long gone.

I wondered if Mike Vick, denied the opportunity to practice his craft, broken, branded and beat, might end up on the corner, and was that a fair exchange – a dozen dog’s life, for a man’s life . . .

I thought, who’d say “yeah, that’s fair and balanced,” then I realized FOX News watchers would enthusiastically join the PETA people from planet Pluto in demanding Vick pay with his life.

Thank God Singletary stood up and said he’d give Mike Vick a chance in Frisco, it’s too bad the Monster Of the Midway wasn’t around to guild, if not give a lot of the folks I steped over and around a second chance.

You know, I still can’t determine who’s responsible for a life that ends up in the gutter. I do believe there’s most likely enough blame, enough neglect to go around, from the woman-in-the-mirror, to her parents, preachers, teachers and coaches who evidently didn’t try hard enough.

Even the great one Sir Walter of Peyton understood, and freely admitted – he knew brothers walking the street, on the corner, who were far better then he, but they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or just unable to put it all together at the right time and place . . . he knew, down there, down and counted out, but for the grace of god . . . there goes I.

For once, I got it.