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“I can’t live there anymore,” he said. “It’s run by two old Russian women and they’re tyrants, czars I guess you’d say. They won’t let you have a lady friend over, they take advantage of all the people over there who don’t really know what they’re doing, and they’re just in it for the money. I called the cops on them, and Social Services is going over to investigate.”

“So where are you going to live?” I asked.

“Not sure for now,” he answered. “But don’t worry about me. I can take care of myself.”

I made arrangements to pick up and store his stuff. After that is when the real lunacy began.

He started out staying in a Motel 6 with a friend he had met at the halfway house. With only $800 a month coming in, we both knew that he couldn’t live in a motel for long. He lent his friend one of his guitars for a while, and he did something that after a few incidents annoyed my wife and me — he brought his friend over to our house.

“I don’t want any strangers in my house,” my wife said, adamantly. “A lot of those people have problems with drugs.”

“Yeah, I know,” I said. I brought up the subject with Scott.

“A man’s gotta have friends,” he replied. “This guy’s all right — you’ll see.”

Well, after the guy disappeared with Scott’s guitar, we both saw. “I guess you were spot-on with him,” Scott admitted. “I’m surrounding myself with the wrong kind of people, and I guess I don’t always make the best decisions.”

By now, Scott had met with the Social Services people about the czarist regime and had moved out of the Motel 6. He went to stay with his dad for a couple of days. The problem was that his dad was just as bipolar as he and was furthermore in a lot of pain from some relatively ineffectual hernia surgery from 18 months earlier. After his dad had broken up with his mom, he had never called or gone to see her, not even when Scott was living with her or through her long downhill slide.

“My dad’s a hateful, bitter man who thinks I’m worth less than shit,” Scott explained.

I wasn’t too hopeful about what would happen between Scott and his dad this time around. It only lasted 36 hours. Scott was back on the streets without a nickel to his name. He called his brother, who owns an $800,000 house in Oceanside, and asked him if he could stay with him for a day or two. His brother said “yes” and then mentioned that he’d been diagnosed with cancer and he might need a stem-cell transplant. The doctor wanted to run some tests on Scott and see if he would be a compatible donor.

“Is this the same brother that wouldn’t lend you $50 the last time you asked him?”

“I only have one brother,” Scott said.

Well, Scott is as soft-hearted as he is soft-headed, and he agreed to go through the tests for his brother’s sake. In the meantime, he wanted to know if I wanted to buy any of his musical equipment. I really didn’t have any use for it but offered to try to sell it for him. Long story short, after about a month of eBaying it, I netted him about $800 for the keyboard and the amp. This money I parceled out to him over a period of a few weeks. I did this for two reasons: so he wouldn’t spend it all at once (a tendency he has, a sort of “Friday night rich” mentality); and eBay, when you first start out, doesn’t let you withdraw everything from your account right away — the limit is $500 a month.

Through his homeless shelter and mission contacts, Scott managed to pick up an old Ford Mustang and an RV. The Mustang ran OK, but it burned oil. The RV didn’t run at all, but it was virtually free: Scott got it for about $75. It was like an oversized van with a sleeper over the cab. He had to do a little work on it, and the inside was so filthy I was sure it was disease-ridden (I wouldn’t go in). Scott had visions of camping out for $15 a night somewhere or else parking it out in Vista on some side road in the hills. These ideas were pretty much pipe dreams, because he had nothing but trouble with it.

He was driving with one of his “friends” in Carlsbad one night. He didn’t wait at an intersection long enough, pulled his Mustang out into the street, and was smashed by someone coming faster than the speed limit but who had the right of way. The cops and the insurance adjuster agreed that Scott was at fault, and they paid off the other driver’s claim. The Mustang still ran, but the doors wouldn’t shut properly. Scott decided to park it on a side street for a few days and live and drive around in the RV.

He had gotten the RV running a bit with a new battery. It wouldn’t lock properly though, and he was worried about losing the few possessions he had left, especially his remaining guitar. I went over to the hardware store and got a new deadbolt, which I got to work on the door after an hour of intense wrestling. So now he felt pretty safe in it, and he drove it down to Carlsbad Beach State Park. He stayed there a few days, then drove down to Encinitas for something with another of his “friends.” Uh-oh. The RV stalled in the middle of the intersection of Encinitas Boulevard and Coast Highway. It had no reverse, so by the time Scott got it restarted, he couldn’t manage to get to a parking spot, as the vehicle weighed so much. I told him later that he should have kept begging till he got about ten guys to help him or at least called me so I could try to push it with my truck, but reason doesn’t figure into a lot of his decisions. He left it. It got towed away. It was impounded.

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Jay Allen Sanford May 23, 2008 @ 6:38 p.m.

Terrific story, and very evocative - I've known a couple of sadsack Scotts in my time. Some people are genuinely unhappy about being happy. Any time their life holds the glimmer of going well, they (subconsciously?) screw it up. The Scotts of this world are only happy when they're miserable - a decent, stable life is intolerable to them. Your friend Scott will be in my prayers - I hope someday he can stand on solid ground, without always looking for the next cliff to jump off of.


mjb2711 May 26, 2008 @ 8:55 p.m.

Steve -- I HAVE to tell you, your story brought TEARS to my eyes!! Scott is definitely someone I know here in San Diego. We see him everywhere. The homeless, faceless and abandoned people who populate our sidewalks, streets and roadsides. THEY WILL NOT go away. They have made a place for themselves WHEREVER they can find. And, apparently, they have FOUND SAN DIEGO!!! I regret to say that I have turned a deaf ear to many of them. They are mostly spoiled brats who never grew up and think that I am their PERSONAL ATM or BANK ACCOUNT!!! Need I say more. ("NO, I will NOT buy you a CUP OF COFFEE!!! GET A JOB!!!") But your close friend Scott - although you ARE his ONLY friend -- has a TRUE red blooded American friend that he will have for LIFE -- and beyond. Thanks for the best lead story I have EVER read in the Reader since I moved here from Michigan 10 years ago. I bow my head to your pointed pen.


Mary J Bartholomew Exec Prodcuer "Preserving the Amazon Rainforest"


bobwms May 27, 2008 @ 2:57 p.m.

My comments to Steve - please inform Scott's father, brother, sister-in-law, nephews and nieces that they are EXCELLENT judges of character when it comes to Scott. And Steve - if I were you, I would get one of those books on creating a new identity and read it - in detail. Then I would move and not leave a forwarding address, after getting a restraining order. I have a friend who has a son like Scott, and that is what he did in order to get away from him. Who knows when you will go from being the old friend to the guy who is personally responsible for ruining Scott's life? Steve - you are, however, the kind of friend that most of us wish we had. Excellent piece.


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