San Diego Stories by Salvatore Filippone

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August 10, 2002


We called him Zeus, because he had short dreadlocks that wrapped around his head, in a way that resembled the leaved crown of a Greek God. It was on an afternoon drive home from grade school when I first spotted him, walking along Pacific Highway, a dirty canvas bag slung over his shoulder. He was talking to himself, his other hand punctuating his words with the skyward jabs of a preacher. I was in the back of a station wagon with other neighborhood kids, staring as we drove by, when someone in the car shouted, “Look, it’s Zeus!” The car erupted with laughter. In the rear window, Zeus became smaller as we turned of the highway towards home. He was still delivering his sermon to the world.

Our drive-bys became a routine. Like clockwork, around the time we were homebound after school, there he was, sometimes further ahead, sometimes behind. As soon as the car made the turn onto Pacific Highway, we began looking. It was our random entertainment. Where was he going? Did he work? Where did he sleep? For a while, we spotted him almost everyday, then less and less until finally, he disappeared.

Since that time, I have seen Zeus sporadically, a sighting every few years or so. Until we passed each other on the street the other day while I was walking my dog, I’d practically forgotten. I didn’t recognize him at first. The beard was gone. He was cleaned up. It took a second or two, but the dreadlocks gave him away. He was wearing a pair of clean overalls with a blue shirt. I realized, too, that he was a giant. The name we gave him was a good fit in that respect, if nothing else.

It was good to see him. According to an old acquaintance, he was living in a type of rehabilitation residence a few blocks way from me for the past few years, a kind of halfway house. It’s strange, but the city has this thing about it reintroducing people every few years. In San Diego, you can live a few blocks away from somebody you know and not see them for months or years, but the odds are good that someday your paths will cross again. That’s the small town quality of this city.

From time to time, I drive through the old neighborhood on my way downtown. I look around, wondering if that crown of dreadlocks will appear, because briefly, if only for a second or two, I’ll be that little kid in the back of the station wagon one more time.

See you around, Zeus.

Salvatore Filippone

Posted by sfilippone at 10:02 PM | Comments (7)