Following up with Dillard

Sat 30 April 2011 by Ajay Shekhawat

( Read the previous post for the first part of the story )

One week later, I decided to follow up with Dillard and see how he was doing. I will admit it: deep down inside my heart I dreaded doing this. What if I had been wrong about him? My biggest fear was finding him accordion-less, with a lame story of how it got "stolen" or damaged.

It was a gorgeous day in San Francisco, and after my morning yoga, I decided to go over to Sutter and Stockton in the early afternoon, to see if he was playing there.

I took the MUNI down to Powell St station, and walked up from there. As I walk up to the corner, I hear nothing but silence. No sign of Dillard anywhere.

The feeling of dread became stronger. I could have walked away; but I needed an answer. Was he OK? So I decided to go over to his hotel, Marilyn Inn, which is just a block away.

I rang the bell, and the owner of the SRO was at the desk. I asked him if he knew Dillard.

"Oh, you are the guy who got him the accordion?", he asked. Yes, I replied. Does he still have it, I asked.

"Yes, he does. He goes out every day with it, and comes back in the evening."

I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. A sense of relief surged over me.

Is he here, I asked. "Yes", he says. "Room 32, all the way at the top".

My euphoria got the better of me, and I decided to walk up to Dillard's room. Now, this SRO is pretty gross inside. But it's a roof for many, and who am I to complain?

I knocked on his door.

"Who is it?" a gruff voice answered. Uh oh, maybe there's somebody else in there.

"Your friend", I shouted back.

I heard the chain being undone, and the door opened.

There stood Dillard, in a towel, blinking in the bright light. He was surprised to see me. He claimed he was about to jump in the shower, to head down to the corner.

How are you doing, I asked. "I'm doing much better", he replied. "How is Stefan?", he wanted to know. "And how is Anna?" (that would be Stefan's wife). I told him they were fine.

Do you still have the accordion, my friend?

"Yes I do!" and he pointed me to the case."I will have it with me for the rest of my life!", he said. I love his enthusiasm.

I told him I'd come to see him play at the corner, but not finding him there, I came over to see if he was OK. He told me that he'd be down at the corner in an hour or so.

I was elated that he still had the accordion, and that he had made rent and still had the room. These may be small things for us, but for someone who's been on the streets for 17 years, it's probably a huge achievement.

Downstairs, I spoke to the manager/owner again. He said he has known Dillard for 20 years; and that this is the first time he's had a roof over his head in a long time.

I spent the next hour or two walking around in the Union Square area, taking random pictures, killing time.

Then, I slowly walked over to Sutter and Stockton, to see if Dillard was there. I reached the corner, and no sign of Dillard, again.

Oh well, I thought. Maybe he stopped by to grab a bite to eat. At least I know he's OK.

Then, across the street, who do I see? Dillard, ambling over with his accordion. Here's the video I took of him coming over, and getting settled.

In the video, you can see the "golden guy" (a performer who performs as a gold-covered statue) walk by and put some change in Dillard's case. I bought him a chocolate-chip cookie and put a few more quarters in his case, so it would look nice. Hopefully some of the tourists also chipped in.

As I left, he was playing his music, doing what he loves, and enjoying the crowds... and I'm very happy that he's doing OK.