When I returned to Sacramento [by bus] following my utterly failed suicide effort I immediately tried to check into an inexpensive hotel near where the bus disembarked, in a seedy area of downtown. At the check-in counter, I made the disturbing discovery that my cargo pants did not have my wallet in one of the buttoned or velcro-closed compartments or pockets.
My wallet; my cash [which included most of $150 my friend Terry had wired me when I was in San Fran]; my ID -- everything was missing, gone, gone, gone. Outside, I spotted a policeman, reported my stolen wallet, and asked him what he thought I should do. It was a little after 5pm; he suggested that, if I hurried, I could possibly sleep at the Salvation Army. He told me the way there -- though I knew it -- and after a brisk walk, I was hopeful. But the guy at the door there told me all the beds had been claimed many, many hours before.
"What should I do now?" I asked, hopefully. "I have no idea," he said, curtly.
But walking away from the building, a black man resting on a chair offered an idea: "You can go to the mission; you'd be right on time to claim a bed, there." He added, "See that road." He took me to a point where we could look west along North B Street. It was an undeveloped, uneven road. "Walk to the end of it, then veer right and you'll see it." "So, if I walk a mile or two, I'll be there?" I asked. "Right," he said, "You'll see a bunch of people lying on the street in front of it. That's Union Gospel Mission."
So, lugging my big black oversized duffobag -- or whatever it is -- I walked doubtfully, suspiciously along the black-tarred roadway.
I was suspicious since I saw no raggedy men walking my way. At the end of the road, though, there was an auspicious building, large and octagonal, surely a monument to God.
But as I closed in on it, I saw that the auspicious building belonged to the municipal water department and that next to it was a small water treatment plant. But veering to the right, I found my destination -- a hovel of a place where mostly-unkempt men, a few women and a dog or two were in the road. The people were laughing, cavorting, smoking, spitting and carrying on in front of the fenced mostly-dead-grass yard of a plain-white building, badly in need of paint, Union Gospel Mission.
I was told to go to the cage-window that men were already crowded around for the elbow-nudging tiff to win a bed on a cold night. As a "new guy" I should have been a sure-shot, top-priority bed winner, but I blew it due to my greenhorn ignorance and ended up not getting a bed. I did stay for what I could, though: a rousing gospel service and a fine meal.
Afterward, me and a couple other guys -- Brian and Ed -- were outside, left to figure out our own way to make it through the night. Brian suggested we go to Discovery Park, which was nearby. We could gather sticks and make a fire. Brian told us he had a tin of butane with him.
A short walk from the mission, on that new-moon black-as-tar night, there was this complex of different motels -- there for no apparent reason other than being next to an Interstate 5 exit. And beyond that, Discovery Park, which began as a dark wood out of which we crossed an American River tributary over a damned-impressive underused bridge taking us to a meadow, and beyond that, a campground.
There were a lot of small sticks on the ground, but there were also dead branches that gymnastic Ed climbed the trees to break off. Our efforts seemed to be paying off. There was a steel garbage barrel we could use to contain our warming fire. But without a hole in the barrel we had no air induction and our fire didn't catch so we ended up sleeping as we could in the cold air and on a big cement area to avoid being doused by the sprinkler system. Brian and Ed slept rather well in their sleeping bags. I didn't have one of those, and slept intermittently. I saw many of our visitors that night, which included a man who collected trash and others who passed by who didn't bother us, allowing us to sleep, as we could.
The morning came with a brilliant-blue sky and a brisk breeze. I left Brian and Ed, sleeping, and recrossed the bridge knowing not what I could make of the day.