Scene: clear, brisk San Francisco morning. Tenderloin. Strangely, everyone I pass on the sidewalk is smiling real smiles, not the usual drooling leers and crass remarks. There are still puddles on the sidewalk from last night’s storm, and much of the usual detritus has been washed away: cigarettes, broken glass, shit, garbage, needles. The sun is shining in such a way that bursts of color are popping off the normally drab buildings. Today, even the gang tags somehow look good. I come across a homeless man and woman stopped in the middle of the sidewalk. The woman is sitting in a rickety old electric wheelchair, bundled in layers and layers of blankets. Her eyes are rheumy and the wrinkles in her gnarled hands look like they contain decades of grime. Her shoes are in shreds, and I can see her raggedy toenails. Her companion is stoop-shouldered and wearing a filthy Members Only windbreaker, taking sporadic drags from a cigarette that I saw him find next to a trash can, and I literally hear his lungs rattle when he breathes. Both are watching a small brown bird sunning itself and splashing around in a puddle. Their attention is absolutely rapt, as if they are witnessing a moment of grace. And perhaps they are. This is certainly the first time I’ve seen a bird in the Tenderloin that is not some lice-infested pigeon, usually missing an eye or a toe. Life is tough in the ‘loin, even for birds. I stop and watch the bird with them, and just share this moment together in the sun. Then a drunk comes bobbing and weaving down the sidewalk, tromp, tromp, tromp, and barges through the middle of our trio, one of his huge floppy feet narrowly missing our little brown bird, who startles, then flies away.