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PEOPLE DON'T SEE ME, Y'KNOW, AN' THEY SURE AS HELL DON'T SEE MY SHOPPIN' CART. I'M WHAT YOU MIGHT CALL AN INVISIBILITY. - J. Mulligan.

SAN FRANCISCO - Charles Parrish ... is an "Invisibility." As he pushes a shopping cart ... through the streets of downtown ... the 58-year-old transient, a stooped & almost toothless sliver of a man, wearing a beard, bifocals & a T-shirt decorated with an etching of the Golden gate Bridge, often is astounded by the inability of people to see him.

Tourist will bump into his cart ... Motorist will miss him by inches ... The downtown business-types ... will bustle by without a hint of eye contact. Once ... a security guard watched from a doorway as a man beat him up & made off with his cart.

"I kept yelling ... But she acted like she didn't see me or something. You hear people talk about the invisible homeless all the time. I guess there is something to that. It is sort of amazing."

Not that Parrish is complaining. After 5 years of wandering the city ... Parish has come to appreciate the advantages of low profile. He knows the alternative. ... no modern mayoral campaign is complete without a loud debate over ought what to be done about the homeless ...

Mayor Willie Brown ... called for a police crackdown on stolen shopping carts ...

This move ... produced ... backlash from homeless advocates ... Within a few days, Brown was telling reporters that he had never contemplated a shopping cart round-up ... This ... prompted a counter- backlash ...

"It all just scares the hell out of me" was ... Parrish's street-level analysis. ... A couple of cops ... had explained it ... this way: "It's the tourists. They think we scare away the tourist, & that if they take away our carts, maybe we won't be so obvious or something. I don't know."

... he was not unsympathetic to the argument that this cart - Bell Market, No. 805 ... did not belong to him. He "found it" ... he was familiar with the ... theory that tough love might drive some of his ranks into shelters: "I've heard all that. I just can't stay in a shelter. Isn't that dumb? But I just can't handle it. I get claustrophobic. All those crazy people."

Believe it or not, Parrish said, he's a graduate of UCLA: "Sociology, liberal arts." ...once had a family & a small construction business ... He could command $26 an hour as a heavy-equipment operator ...

Why was he on the streets? ... He spoke of disease & divorce, "but it's like that Jimmy Buffet song: Some people claim there's a woman to blame, but I know, it's my own damn fault.'"

And with that ... headed up Market Street ... hoping to stay invisible until another political season had passed.



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