Just As I Thought

by jkatejohnston

26 January 2014

Dear Max,

In San Francisco. Yesterday we went to the California Academy of Sciences, which Enzo loved even though he was sick. Today, he’s still a little sick, and we’re going to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Museum, hoping for a two-headed snake or similar. Enzo asked if they have any nine-legged crocs. We said we’ll see.

The hotel room is like a small old-time apartment, sunny, with windows that open wide, a small kitchen and a nice-sized bathroom. “I could totally live here by myself,” said Teresa. “Bed over here, art stuff over there. I wouldn’t even need this big a kitchen.”

“We’re having exactly the same fantasy,” I said.

I was picturing myself waking up every morning. Coffee by the open window. Ocean air on my face. Winter sun. Getting a shitload of work done on my book. Walk-eat-read-walk-eat-read, through these wonderful streets. Write by hand in the afternoon. Alone.

I would be miserable after about three days, but there would still be some delectation in the misery.


Last night Enzo peeked out the window of the hotel room. “Just as I thought.” He twitched the curtain closed. “Aliens.”

This morning Teresa said, “We should start doing more stuff outside of Sacramento.”

“Yeah, we could go any direction,” I said.

“No way! I will not go North.”

“Why not?”



I’m working a kid into my book, using Enzo material, which may be a bad idea in about ten different ways. It’s becoming more and more like something I might read, and less and less likely to make us rich. In the book he’s living in the homeless camp down by the American River. His mom is a witness who doesn’t want to get found, so she’s in the wind, and the homeless village is raising him up. In the book, none of the homeless people are addicts, schizophrenics or sex-offenders. They’re more like Bear Grylls meets Martha Stewart, so it’s all working out so beautifully. The kid is living this Huck Finn-like existence, fishing to his heart’s content, missing school, eating at Loaves & Fishes, and foraging. The me-character wants to call CPS and get him into foster care. The Jill-character wants to leave him be. She’s an investigator so she promises to find the mom if the me-character will just not call CPS for a few more days.

I was talking to my lawyer pals about all this. Kelly has represented a lot of homeless people. She was on the board of Loaves and Fishes of a while. When she worked at the Public Defender’s Officer she secretly had a homeless woman living in her house, just for a few days waiting for a bed in a shelter.

I think she’s crazy, but it made me a little ashamed of how very, very little I know about how homeless people actually live. And what a bad idea it probably is for me to write about them.