I parked in the public lot behind Palm Canyon and walked out past Ruby's to the main drag. It was relatively cold (around 50 degrees) for a sunshiny morning in the desert, as it often is the week before Christmas. A few feet from the statue of Palm Springs's most beloved departed patriarch, St. Sonny Bono, an old guy in a wheelchair sat in the sun.
"Morning," he says to me. "Merry Christmas."
I stopped and waited for the "Can you help a guy out," but it never came.
Curious, I walked over closer to him. "How are you this morning," I asked.
"I'm doin' good," he says. And still, he didn't ask for anything. Although probably younger than me, he appeared old -- no teeth, and little hair. He had one wooden leg and one stump.
"Do you need anything?" If he wasn't going to panhandle, it was on me.
"Ya know, I could use a pretzel from Jamba Juice, so I can feed my birds," he says. "Let me give you some money for it."
"No," says I, "I got it."
Returning with the pretzel, I sat for a few minutes and listened to his story. Disabled and legless after being struck from behind by a drunk driver 23 years ago, he'd been living on the street ever since.
"Welfare doesn't want to pay enough for me to get an apartment," he said without a trace of self pity. He's independent, sober, self-respecting.
I went to get coffee and a scone at Starbucks. When I walked past him to return to the car a few minutes later he was inundated by pigeons flocking to feast on pretzel crumbs. No passers-by had any objections to him feeding those dirty birds.