The Truth Board

A Blog by the Editors of
The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


           “Excuse me,” a voice sarcastically grumbled in our direction.

            I looked over to see Steve’s reaction, knowing well that this irritated man was not peeved with me, but rather the homeless man I was standing beside. Steve certainly caught this as he willingly moved out of the way. He then shrugged and gave me a look that asked, ‘what can you do?’

            This sense of displeasure is something Steve faces daily because of his appearance, something that he cannot really help so long as he lives on the streets. These disapproving glances and disparaging remarks are endless, as he encounters constant negative energy from most all strangers.

            The run-in with the bigoted man happened towards the end of my refreshingly honest interview with Inglewood native Steve, which I initiated in an effort to give the neglected a voice. I immediately knew I was in for something interesting when I offered to buy him a cup of coffee, and he thanked me for the gesture but told me he does not drink coffee, as it has negative health effects on the body.

            Many have no concern for the plight of the homeless, assuming that the majority are either on drugs, mentally ill, or just too lazy to look for a job. This negative stereotype is unfortunate for Steve, who maintains total abstinence from drugs and alcohol. He instead puts his efforts towards recycling bottles, where he can make anywhere from four to seven dollars per day. This, though, does not include the donations that some good Samaritans contribute.

            When he revealed that some strangers give him cash or bottles to add to his collection, he was quick to mention that he “never ask[s] for money” because “that’s not cool.”

While the earnings from his recycling business might seem too minuscule to some, Steve is very frugal with what little he can get. He saves his money, often enough to go to the local movie theater and see the latest Twilight movie, or to take a bus a couple hours away for a low-priced buffet. Even Steve needs to escape the Westchester community at times, which he has lived in for the last twelve years and openly admits is getting old. Nonetheless, his hopes are high, as he has dreams just like anyone else.

Most notably, his curiosity addiction has fueled him to build an understanding and intense interest of how the human body functions. He spends at least an hour a day in Ralphs poring over informative books and periodicals. He does not pick up something like People magazine, but instead throws himself into Herbal magazines that promote healing. Steve hopes to make his passion of herbal therapy into a career, and is currently on the right path to getting what he wants. His extensive knowledge about the human body goes beyond the common man; not even I could understand his detailed explanation of how herbalism can alleviate a person’s pain.

Along with information disclosing his dedication to being a research scientist, Steve changed the mood and gave me advice from the heart. He declared, “Be selective of who you associate with. Time and energy are two precious things that can’t be wasted.”

With this, I wondered how so many people could disdain the homeless. In response to encountering vagrants, Erika Moore, a junior at Humboldt State University said, “I become very cautious because I’ve always been taught if they don’t want money for drugs they probably have a mental illness.”

This did not at all appear to be the case for Steve. He truly seems to be a decent guy who, at a young age, was swindled out of an inheritance from his parents’ death. But this ignorance that Steve often stumbles upon does not faze him.

“Some people might be afraid, but I don’t care. Long hair has been around forever!” he exclaimed.

            His positive energy and ability to see the good was something I could barely understand. He maintains his composure, even with the police continually pulling him over and seeming disappointed when finding out he is not a criminal, or someone who has ever been in trouble with the law for that matter.

            Even when encountering tons of negativity from people he has never met, Steve’s goal is “helping people be the best they can be,” though he “hates to say that” because that’s the army’s catchphrase. He strongly believes that the world is a warehouse of talents, and every individual just needs to tap into this and unlock their specialty. These six-year-old prodigies seen on Youtube beautifully playing the piano are, in fact, not prodigies. They have just found their forte at a young age.

            He maintains that he really is “a good guy. A rough exterior, maybe, but a good guy.”

As the conversation came to an end and I made my way to my car, Steve stopped me and admitted, “Well, there’s one thing I haven’t been completely honest about.”

He hesitated for a second, and I cringed, wondering if he would confess he actually had an addiction, but that I caught him on a good day.

I soon realized that I was no better than a lot of prejudiced Americans.

He looked down at his feet, appearing to be ashamed for his untruthfulness.

“Steve”, he paused, “Steve is just my street name.” 

- Carmen Iben


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