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Staying Healthy
A Home for Fools
Crowbar, Nov 10, 2005

����������� The streets of the Tenderloin are a rough walk. Every few feet, hollowed eyed people want to sell you their medication, their sisters, or their garbage in hopes of getting higher, getting laid, or just plain forgetting about life in the skid row of San Francisco. But for every junkie, drunk, and hooker who calls these streets their home, there are others, society�s so-called normals, who somehow must work, live and feel alive under the heavy weight of a dying neighborhood.

����������� It is a Monday night, the streets outside are wet from fresh rain, while an ambulance rushes off to try to save another overdose or take a drunk off to detox. We sit inside under soft light and softer chairs and howl away in chorus at the intrusion to our private space. We are fools, this is the Fool�s Court, and tonight we forget about the streets, the pain and the drama, and enjoy the fellowship.

����������� Tonight is a special night, it is the release of Living in the Land of the Dead, Volume Two, a yearly anthology of prose and poetry written and inspired by life in the Tenderloin. In this room, located above The Foolish Fools Copy Shop on Hyde Street, is a collection of bodies, young and old, homeless and homeful; a melting pot of all that is the Tenderloin. Some sit on folding chairs, some sit on couches, some hold cups of wine, some sip on strong coffee. On a long table, a potluck enfolds offering delights from chicken to tortellini, to vegetarian rice and sumptuously warm pies with whipped cream. Some nibble on chips while others load their plates as if this is the first time they have eaten today, and it is. There is no charge to get in, only a suggestion for donations where a handful of change is enough to give to feel welcome.

����������� Feeling welcome is the highlight of the evening. I am here for the first time, having stumbled across a flyer advertising the event. I have brought nothing, no money or food, no story to read, no tale to tell, but nobody notices, nobody looks twice at me, as I eat their tortellini and warm sourdough bread, again, and again. A strong sense of belonging, of being part of something special, blankets the room and envelopes me under dim light and playful laughter.

����������� Tonight, writer after writer get up and read their pieces, some for the first time, some veterans of the poetry scene, but none are made to feel inadequate about what they read. To me, they are all anonymous, I don�t know anything about them until I hear their words and suddenly through their words they become my best friends. Tonight, I am glad not to be on the streets, glad to have the music, food, and fellowship of the fools who call out to this area.

����������� I know immediately that not everyone in the room lives in the TL, but I can tell that this place has touched their lives at one point or another. While I am here, I learn that The Faithful Fools Ministry started in 1998, whose mission statement expresses a societal necessity, ��to be present with and to address the existence of poverty in the midst of material wealth��. Their biggest activities are day-long street retreats where housed people participate visiting the haunts of homeless people and learn what it�s like to stand in line for hours waiting for food despite extreme weather conditions, disabilities or health difficulties, hoping for an edible serving of a low protein, high-carb meal. Visiting participants see what it�s like to be denied the use of a restroom, experience how it feels to be discriminated against and sleep on sidewalks trying to get a touch, a mere taste, an empathy of what it is like to have nothing.

Whether by first class or Amtrack, Mercedes Benz or Greyhound, coming from as close as the Bay Area or as far as Idaho, Boston and Chicago, these people will leave the comfort of their homes just to experience "the thrill" of living with no hope.

At least tonight, the diversity of society is a little closer. Some are former streetwalkers, some work in the area, and some have come here to tell what it�s like, �living in the land of the dead�. I know that I have walked into something magical tonight and I don�t want to leave, and I know I will be back for this place has so much to offer. While through meditation, poetry readings, movie nights, street outreach ministries, open studio, or just plain fellowship, the Faithful Fools Street Ministry has piqued my interest and curiosity to find out more and to be part of this quaint environment. Not since finding Roaddawgz have I felt a sense of peace and belonging that is offered at here at Fool�s Court.

The Tenderloin is a strange place. It is a place of bleak despair, of dirty streets and lost people, of violence and drug addiction. But underneath the grime and the despair of the streets, there is a world of hope, fellowship, and caring hidden behind every door.

Don�t be afraid, just go up and knock. Some fool just might let you in.

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