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Making Friends and Influencing People

January 23, 2011

On the beach in Ventura
My mom thinks I’m pretty, too.

The guy was talking to himself in the dollar aisle at the drug store.

“Hey, Leo,” I said. “I saw your picture in the paper. You’re a hero.”

“Aw man,” he said. Aw, that wasn’t anything. I just wanted to make sure nobody wasn’t in there. I mean, it could have been me. I didn’t hesitate.”

“You did good, Leo.”

I could tell he was pleased that I had seen his picture in the newspaper. I wondered if he knew who I was, especially since he has some vision problems.

“Hey,” he said, suddenly, earnestly, as if he was reading my mind. “I do remember you. I want to apologize for that last time.”

That surprised me. Leo and I had met on the street almost a year before and had a conversation that lasted about half an hour. He had been drunk and had said some fairly cynical and mean things, as well as spilling a lot of his pain and frustration. It was a random encounter that began with him asking me for 18 cents and ended with a hug. Overall, it was a sweet conversation. I couldn’t believe, given his confused mental state and his level of alcohol consumption, that he remembered after all this time.

“I didn’t mean any of that,” he said. “I have a lot of anger.”

“We’re ok, man. No harm, no foul.”

He threw his arms out and gave me a big hug. There’s something sincere and raw and soulful about Leo. He is short, with long grey and black hair and he smells like a campfire. He’s a mess of emotions and chemicals and questions.

“Hey, you’re a pretty lady,” he said.

“That’s what my mom says, too,” I replied.

“Then why don’t you believe it?” he asked.

I loved his fairly transparent attempt to work his way into my emotions through pop psychology, but I refused to go there.

“We’re all beautiful,” I said. “All of us.”

“Yeah, we are,” he said. “Can I borrow five bucks?”

“You’re amazing, Leo,” I said. “You DO remember that whole conversation.”

“Yep. You told me to ask for more than 18 cents last time.”

He was absolutely right. I had told him he had to think bigger. Oprah convinces people to live their dreams. Meanwhile, my sphere of influence extends to getting one homeless guy to raise his prices.

“How about it?” he said, cocking his head to one side. “Did I mention that you’re a pretty lady?”

He got the $5. I got another hug and he played me a song on his harmonica. Best entertainment value in town.

  1. January 23, 2011 21:41

    This post brought tears to my eyes. A lot does lately to be fair, but you are beautiful and pretty in every way. Your mom is smart.


    • January 24, 2011 21:29

      Aw, thanks. I have been bawling my head off too, lately. I am blaming hormones in my case.

  2. January 23, 2011 21:57

    I love Leo. He’s one smart cookie.

  3. January 24, 2011 19:13

    I love you. Because you give Leo cash and hugs. We all need a little cash and hugs in this world.

    • January 24, 2011 21:26

      I thought about the old “Don’t give them money because they will just buy alcohol argument,” but Leo is pretty persuasive.

  4. January 24, 2011 21:08

    yay for you, and leo. 🙂

  5. January 25, 2011 14:47

    Nicely done. As for the alcohol thing, I think when you give someone money, you give them control over it. That’s the biggest gift. If it would bother you for him to spend it on something you don’t want him to spend it on, then don’t give him any money. That’s my philosophy.

    And gosh, I drink wine. Who am I to begrudge someone else a drink if they want one?

    • January 25, 2011 21:35

      “That’s the biggest gift.” Thank you.

  6. January 30, 2011 15:33

    What a great story. You know what I like even more than you giving him money and hugs? You gave him your time. You stood there and talked to him for quite a while, instead of doing everything you could to get away quickly.

    • February 1, 2011 05:49

      Thanks, Jason. We all need to be seen and heard, and it just happened that the first time I met him, I felt like I had time to do that.

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