Harpo sits in his bright little restaurant and tells how he dreams of turning the end of Ventura Place into a mecca of health. First, there’s his restaurant, where he’s served up healthy foods for the past ten years, just a few steps from the shadow of Belmont Park and the sands of Mission Beach. Then there’s the beach and the activity it draws – surfers, bicyclists, swimmers. When Harpo thinks about those good, healthy things all together in one spot, he says that’s one reason he’s ignoring his eviction notice and refusing to move.
He also points to the letters which he’s saving in the bucket on his counter, letters which have begun to pour in since word about the eviction spread. They tell of Harpo’s good fellowship and the sense of community which he’s helped to build, and they plead for a reprieve. Today, the dream, the letters, and one other thing are just about all that sustains him. “We also have a prayer left and we’re counting on that,” he says serenely.
When he looks back on the trouble, Harpo says he’s not sure how the whole thing started. It seemed to begin with the blizzards which struck the East, bringing more young people than usual to California and the little restaurant didn’t kick anyone out and the marshal brought the 3-day eviction notice on January 24. Since then, Harpo’s simply refused to go, and he claims his landlady and her lawyers are “waiting for me to surrender.”
Even though he might make some money at a better location, Harpo says he’ll never give in. A trim, tanned man with a full, dark beard, Harpo says he suspects there’s another source to his trouble. Up to about a year ago, he would stand behind his counter and tell “sex stories,” fitting in fairly well with the rest of the brightly lit businesses in the block. But then he “returned to the God of my childhood<” a conversion which he makes obvious today. A large cross towers above his storefront, pictures of Jesus cover the inside walls, and Harpo not uncommonly rushes out into the street to conduct prayer groups. The activity doesn’t fit and Harpo wonders if it hasn’t drawn resentment. “I’m not encouraging boozing and prostitution and that’s what we have in the neighborhood,” he mutters.
For the most part, he harbors no bitterness about the situation, and he says he won’t say anything unkind about his landlady, with whom he’s hoping to meet. “I feel God wants me to be here and God’s going to touch her… You see, I believe that this is God’s food chapel and Christ is bigger than any of these problems.”