A rare January in Northern California morning
colder than New York City.
I don’t take well to that kind of cold;
though I layered,
adding a knit hat and furry gloves.

And can I tell you about the sky?
It was cerulean blue, a rare slice of heaven
that took my breath.

The lake shimmered as if knowing,
it was on prominent display.
Ducks gleefully skimming the water
of this urban paradise.
City gardeners tending to flower beds.
Nannies prattling in Spanish wheeling their little charges.

Tired men warm in the sun,
napping on graffitied benches,
their backpacks serve as hard pillows.
Other poor souls shuffle by, body odor trailing,
earnestly mumbling to themselves, holding up their pants.
A woman carting a worn wheelie suitcase pauses for a smoke
asks passersby for money to get food.
Joggers push through, oblivious to everything
except keeping up their pace.

On the perimeter, ragged tents and tarps
provide makeshift shelter for the homeless.
Discarded clothing hangs from branches of once stately oak trees.
The clutter is endless⸺
desk chairs, blankets, duffel bags,
a package of hot dog buns,
empty wine bottles, single running shoes,
even a glittery high heel.

As I walk, Welcome to the Hotel California
streams in my earbuds,
The words seem oddly appropriate.
“This could be Heaven,
this could be Hell.”