He is homeless. While l have seen him throughout the “gayborhood,” his lanky frame zipping past and slaloming through the pedestrians often at a breakneck pace, he can generally be found loitering around his “space,” the public parking lot beside and behind the Castro Theater.
I never ignore Dane. It’s best not to ignore Dane. You may pay dearly for it at the end of his trenchant wit and pointed sarcasm.
He has never asked me for money. He almost always gives me a nod and occasionally speaks directly to me. I always respond. What he says on those rare occasions has always been quite surprisingly insightful, brilliant and downright hilarious. I have long seen a spark of genius behind his eyes and between the lines of his seemingly meaningless rants.
In fact, I know he is much more than just another mental, down-on-his-luck, never-make-eye-contact homeless panhandler. Dane is a hero. I was right there when he pulled a dying man from a burning car wreck that set Cliff’s Hardware and a string of motorcycles and automobiles aflame. While I was struck motionless and stunned, he sprang into action. It was an amazing act of bravery.
I was recently amazed by Dane in a different way. I was strolling by the parking lot and I caught the beginnings of one of his “rants” and was again struck motionless. However, this time it was with amazed fascination by the brilliant humor of what he was saying.
Dane was engaged in an elaborate discourse on the wonderful world of “fruit salad.”
“My friends, there are so many types of fruit salad,” Dane said. “There are just so many to choose from. Perhaps too many.” His eyes scanned the passersby. “All kinds of fruity fruit salad.”
The pedestrians did their best to hurry-by. While most glanced furtively towards the ranting homeless man, their eyes uniformly shot back to the ground or off into the distance as their steps hastened.
In an exaggerated dawdle, I lingered in front of the gelato shop and hearkened. I would not be disappointed. Like his rapid footfalls while keening through the Castro, words darted from Dane’s lips with deliberate speed and purpose.
I very soon realized that Dane was not merely espousing the delicious joys of fruit salad. To my delight, he was directly, satirically commenting on the “fruit salad” walking past.
A thin, obviously well-heeled, aging queen—dressed in penny loafers and a Ralph Lauren ensemble flourished with a lemon yellow sweater tied about the neck like a ridiculous mini-cape and tortoise shell sunglasses perched upon his pate above thinning, colored hair—flitted-by.
“You’ve got your Waldorf fruit salad!” Dane speared him directly. “Rich, pasty white and definitely fruity...and it has those little, broken nuts. While the celery makes it crunchy it’s also really stringy. Overly sweet and slimy it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.”
A few seconds later a chubby, camp and slightly trans-looking black man—dressed in a very bright, multi-colored pastel kaftan with a fluffy white Kangol cap on his head—strolled-by. Bangle jewelry chimed about his wrists and forearms and rhinestoned eyeglasses swayed on a pearled chain about his neck. He never stopped smiling, carrying a pink shopping bag in one hand and a silver-tipped cane in the other.
“Then you have your lumpy Ambrosia fruit salad,” Dane smirked, the bright eyes in his dirty face opening in genuine surprise at the perfectness of his next dish. “Extremely fruity with bananas, pineapple chunks, cherries and grapes—its so thick it has to be whipped-up with a big wooden stick! And it has all those squishy marshmallows in it and fuzzy coconut on top.”
Four giggling Asian boys—decked-out matching Prada sunglasses on their button noses, tight designer jeans and form-fitting, print t-shirts below nearly uniform jet-black, spiked coifs—bounced along.
“Then there’s carrot-raisin fruit salad.” Dane scattershot the warren hopping-by. “With spiky shredded carrots and little shriveled raisins and slivered almonds staring back at you. I don’t like it because it makes my mouth orange but on-the-other hand you can eat a lot and it won’t fill-you-up.”
Two leather-Levi men sauntered into view—their shaved heads gleaming and the creak and slap of their leather jackets and chaps drowned-out by the clapping of their jackboots on the sidewalk.
“Of course you have your ever-popular melon ball fruit salad,” rolled-out the next assessment like a truckload of cantaloupe over-turned on the interstate. “Thick, clustering orbs of fruitiness ready to be stabbed and gobbled-up. A lot of people like it when all those round, juicy melon balls are served in a big shiny watermelon husk.”
Almost on queue, a big, husky cub ambled through in Vans slip-ons and gave me a big nod and smile in greeting. His belly protruding over belted cargo shorts and sticking out of the bottom of a lime green t-shirt he had obviously out-grown, a bright trucker hat perched atop his crew cut.
“And we can’t forget the Jell-O mold fruit salad,” Dane snorted. “It quivers and jiggles! Its so much fun to poke but its hard to keep on your spoon because its so bouncy. You can see all the fruit floating inside but its actually hard to reach.”
A group of Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence in their bright Easter habits wandered by while Dane sang the praises of a “supreme mixed fruit salad,” which is “like a fruit cocktail on steroids.”
As some lesbians went past he explained the intricacies of "kiwi, strawberry and spinach salad with tangy goat cheese.”
Finally, his voice quieted, his rendition of “pineapple cole slaw” trailing-off as he closely regarded a Latino meter maid cruising into the parking lot.
Of course Waldorf, Ambrosia, the Carrot-Raisin Boys, Melon Balls, Jell-O Mold and the others had absolutely no idea what the crazy homeless man was really talking about.
After a rare still, solitary moment of probable brilliant introspection, Dane turned and sped-away into the big, colorful “fruit salad” that is the Castro.