One Man Against A Rising Tide
Larry “Bucket Man” Hunt is a famous fixture of San Francisco and a good friend of mine. He has been a street performer on Market Street for as long as I can remember and usually can be found hanging around the corner of 4th and Market in front of the Old Navy slinging mighty drum beats. He’s been in two films (The Pursuit of Happyness and Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House of God), commercials for Intel, done a TEDx talk, and is even sponsored by a German bucket company.
And, yet, he is living life on the streets.
He has made his living as a street performer for going on 20 years, but lately I haven’t seen much of him performing. The city has suffocated his livelihood and source of income. This infernal city, that no longer appreciates the very culture that makes it a meaningful destination, has determined Larry to be a public nuisance and has used its bureaucratic arm to force him into producing unneeded performance permits or risk having his livelihood stripped away from him. It only took a handful of unappreciative businesses to complain and force this situation on him. These businesses that have cropped up all over the city without any allegiances to the local community have begun to dictate the landscape of the city. Money that these businesses bring in has influenced the politicians of this city and given rise to a culture that seeks to disassociate itself from anything that doesn’t resemble ‘refined’ art or as the techno elite calls it, ‘great design’. Shame on you, San Francisco, for allowing a lack of balanced growth and muting of our artistic culture. A great artist, among other great artists, is now struggling even more due to the city’s myopic strong arm tactics, war on the poor, and misunderstanding of what a grassroots art culture really is about.
The city has even tried to confiscate his drums and buckets. The last time they did this, they lost some key pieces of his drum set and, instead of paying him for the loss, they are making him jump through hoops to officially ‘sue’ the city for reimbursement. This process will take weeks and in the meantime he is making due with what remains of his drum set.
I ask the powers that be: Is it not enough that Larry sleeps in an alley behind a garbage bin? Must you pummel him and others like him further until they have nothing left but shattered hopes and dreams?
So much for the city of love.
A few weeks back, I met with Larry to take him to an event centered around homeless outreach. He was to play and speak at the event. I rented a nice car to pick him up and gave him first class treatment. As we neared the event space out in the Sunset district, I mentioned that we were near Ocean Beach. He was ecstatic! In the twenty or so years he had been in the city, he had never seen the ocean due to his struggles and daily need to hustle as a street musician in order to make a living. 20+ years of never seeing an ocean vista that is only 7 miles away!
We parked the car and stood across the street from the ocean side. A sand dune obscured our vision of the wave crested waters, but it would only be mere moments before the wet expanse revealed its majesty to us. I could feel the vibrancy of Larry’s excitement. It was infectious and, though I had seen this view hundreds of times in my life, I couldn’t help but feel like a child in the moment before experiencing a new wonder for the first time. Such was the effect the giddiness of Larry had on me and when the oceanic horizon finally peeked over the crest of the dune, we stood in awed silence together. Larry in stupefied wonder. I in respectful repose for this was his moment in time and it was not for me to interrupt.
We stood there admiring the glistening of the sun bounce off the ocean waves. As I watched the scene unfold and this beautiful tide touch Larry’s soul, I couldn’t help but think of the crushing tide of city bureaucracy that he would have to go back and face. The heart of the concrete jungle that is merciless and become without heart or soul. And I could feel my eyes begin to slightly fill with that sadness that refuses to show itself in the face of such a glorious moment, yet was still there if one was to look hard enough. When Larry finally turned his face to me, it was with the face of one who had seen the unforgettable, those moments that forever sear themselves on our minds. Only two words came forth from him, “Thank you.”
I swallowed any lingering sadness before my eyes betrayed me, placed my hand on his shoulder, and simply smiled. Today the tide and swell of joy and happiness was all that mattered for my friend. We would battle that other rising tide together another day.
– Tidal Rabbit