For the readers who have been following along from the beginning of my entries, you may recall the experiences I mentioned of when I was a little girl living in Honolulu. I was about 8 years-old and my parents were separated at the time. My days were spent rollerblading the streets of Waikiki and talking to people I didn’t know. I befriended a few individuals who were living on the streets, specifically one man who sat in front of the old Fun Factory by Lewers Street.
I met that man today. Over 20 years later. His name is “Hobo Bob.”
Early this morning, I was catching up with my dad and decided to swing by Ala Moana Beach Park before heading to a doctor’s appointment. Something was pulling me in that direction and as I drove up to the Waikiki Yacht Club entrance, I saw a couple sitting on the corner under their tent. They were a sign. I pulled over and parked my car along the street and slowly walked over to them.
I smiled… made eye contact… waved… and there he was, smiling back at me with his piercing blue eyes. God, he looked so familiar. He introduced himself as “Hobo Bob,” and asked for a cigarette. I apologized and said I didn’t smoke… because it was too expensive. Okay, so that’s a half-truth. I don’t smoke because I don’t like cigarettes. But he didn’t have to know that.
I took a few more steps towards him and shared that I have something else he might like. I lowered my backpack onto a dry patch of grass next to him and his partner, Theresa. Small talk. People oftentimes wonder how I manage to interact with complete strangers. I really just let them initiate by either saying hello or looking into my eyes. I’d like to think I have a pretty good sense of people if I can see their eyes. His were good. They felt familiar and comfortable. I could feel that he was good. So were hers.
I showed them one of the bracelets and explained what they were for, and one thing led to another and I told him the story about my dad who had been living on the streets for a couple of years. His eyes lit up and he said he knew who I was talking about. He seemed intrigued, surprised, and somewhat in disbelief that I was his daughter. Just to confirm that we were talking about the same person, I pulled out my phone to show him photographs of my dad. Yes. Yes. Yes. That was him.
Hobo Bob had interacted with my dad a few times. He always tried to give him some food, asked if he needed help… anything. The midday sun was shining so bright on Hobo Bob’s face. I could see the tears forming in his eyes and he got all quiet. Then he looked up at me and said, “It is a pleasure to meet the daughter of that man… thank you.” Another circle came together today.
We spent a lot of time talking about my dad, and I wanted to learn more about Hobo Bob’s story. It turns out he had been in and out of homelessness for nearly 30 years. He is a Vietnam veteran and is well-known in the homeless community. Shortly after learning how “connected” we were through my dad and our mutual experiences, I mentioned that I had walked these streets as a little girl and passed out change and McDonald’s cheeseburgers to one man in particular who would always sit near the Waikiki Fun Factor and in front of McDonald’s across from the Red Lobster in Waikiki. He had a beard.
It couldn’t be… could it?
Hobo Bob started going through his past… I could see he was struggling to sift through all the memories and faces he had seen. Thousands, hundreds of thousands, over a million faces… certainly we couldn’t remember any one specific encounter. I tossed out obscure details from my memory of that time in my life. Rollerblading. Firecrackers. Policemen in the area. The laser tag game room. Then he said something.
“Do you remember those parrots?”
Y-E-S! I remember those parrots! Those beautiful phoenix-like creatures that I could never afford to hold. There was a woman who owned a whole family of those parrots, and I remember seeing them right next to my friend who lived on the streets.
There was no other person during that time with a beard like his. And Theresa confirmed it. “He has always kept this beard.” What are the odds that I would come across the man who I reached out to over 20 years ago, and learn that he had also tried to help my dad? I can’t make this stuff up even if I tried. Somedays, I wake up and have to laugh at the incredible sense of my humor that my maker/creator has for me. I am so grateful for the never-ending synchronicity… and the constant reminder that this is what I was meant to do.
Almost two hours had passed by and I knew I had to leave to make my doctor’s appointment, so I quickly made sure to capture their portrait using the Impossible Film, and had them share one word to describe their experiences on the streets. Dicodami (“Dichotomy”). Tremendes (“Tremendous”).
As we were getting ready for me to leave, Hobo Bob asked for us to take a quick photograph together. Our first selfie. He said, “Now you can show this photograph to any homeless person you walk up to.. you show them.. they know Hobo Bob and you will be protected. They can’t mess with you now.”
I thanked him and gave him a hug. I told him I would be back… he can count on me coming back. As I drove off and looked over at them sitting just as they were when I arrived, I marveled at how beautiful life could be. These heart-to-heart moments… if there is one thing that has not changed since the first and last time I saw Hobo Bob, it’s the feeling of this raw human connection that has no end. It’s like the bridge to the divine, when every worldly “thing” strips away and we see each other’s beautiful soul. I live for this. I love for this. And I would die to protect this.
The journey continues… I’ll be back for you Hobo Bob and Theresa.