SCRAPPING, SPEEDING, SURVIVING.
Bob is the guy people in his down-and-out West Oakland neighborhood come to for old tires and barely running cars; for tools, for televisions, for parts, and anything he might have bought off the street. They also come because he is generous with his food and drugs and because he's smart (he's Jewish) and gives them good advice.
Erica, who will show up here soon, fell in love with Bob because he came to her rescue after her boyfriend of seven years went out for the proverbial pack of cigarettes. She was about to be homeless when Bob came down "like an angel from the sky" and paid for her to stay in a hotel for six months. "He's a real gentleman," she says. "He didn't ask for anything. And he's different from all the guys around here; he didn't grow up poor like the rest of us. He knows good food. He reads. He knows everything there is to know about scrap metal recycling. My only problem is that he's not home enough."
Bob liked Erica first for her beauty and then for her practical intelligence and finally for the way she still has fun with her two teenage kids. Erica devoted herself to being a mother when her daughter (now 16) was born a serious premie. She spent a lot of time in the hospital and loved being a caretaker.
Finding Erica meant Bob had to provide for her so he stepped up his auto recycling business. He rented a house and started taking showers and he and Erica began trying to have their own kid. Then tragedy struck. Erica got a brain tumor that turned out to be stage 4 melanoma. The prognosis is not good. Her mother, a recovering heroin addict, came up from San Diego and banned Bob from coming to the hospital to visit her. But Bob, always a rebel, snuck into her room after hours and made her feel truly loved.
Then tragedy struck again: Bob was picked up by the police. He says he wasn't living in the house where they found the guns and drugs but he went to jail for 90 days, nevertheless. He's out now and Erica's chemo is finished and to the surprise of all of her doctors she's feeling good. Right now (Feb. 2015) she and Bob and the kids are back in one room in a cheap hotel. "It's not what I want," she says, "but it is what it is".
Note on the a guy in the gallery photos smoking crack: He claimed to average just "three sleep periods" a month.