“People call me Pat in the Hat, like Cat in the Hat. Except the guys on the corner. They call me Gabacho Loco. ‘Crazy white boy.’”
And that’s just the beginning of the nicknames, said Pat (in the Hat), a fixture of Mission Street between 20th and 21st streets who, most days, can be found sitting on his front steps in his namesake stingy brim fedora, often smoking a cigar and reading a newspaper or in conversation.
“I had a therapist one time. I used to do a group thing. One time he gave everybody a piece of paper and a pen. He says, ‘I want you to write down all your street names.’ And I looked at him and I said, ‘I’m going to need three more sheets of paper, because I’ve got more names on the street than I can count.”
He picked up some nicknames from riding Italian motorcycles; others, like “Brother Patrick,” came from living on the street in West Berkeley, near a church.
“I’ve been in and out of the Mission really forever, but certainly since the ’80s,” said Pat. “I came up from San Diego on a Moto Guzzi big bike, my best friend on the back. The label of the first 45rpm record I ever bought is tattooed, rather badly, on my shoulder. He’s got the same tattoo.”
Pat is now working on getting a large tattoo on his back of Saint Francis of Assisi surrounded by animals. He also has “nothing to lose” tattooed on his arm.
“It’s not as good as the Saint Francis,” he said. “But it gets the point across. I ain’t got nothing to lose, because I lost it already.”
For someone with nothing to lose, Pat has a whole lot of friends: Someone comes to say hello before going into La Quinta Restaurant, next door; Pat gives him a cane for his grandmother.
“He’s just one of the neighbors,” said Pat. “He came and said ‘hello’ to me and introduced me to his grandma.”
He buys a strawberry shortcake ice cream bar from a passing vendor, calling him his “best friend.” He tells an unhoused person his sandals are “slick.”
“I started sitting out here the same day I moved in,” he said.
When he’s not on his steps, he’s upstairs playing records on an amplifier he bought from a street vendor right outside his place.
“I hooked up a turntable to a guitar amplifier. That amp is so powerful, you can hear it half a block in either direction,” he said.
“I’m out here playing The Platters up on the roof,” he said. “I’ll do, like, half a day of Aretha Franklin. Or all day of Marvin Gaye. All this old soul, mostly, and then blues and this and that, jazz. A whole lot of jazz. But I studied Russian for four years when I was in high school. So then I’ll decide, all of a sudden, I’m just going to do Slavic music. So I’ll throw out some weird shit.”
“I still got records up there that I bought or stole in high school. But I share,” he said, of his penchant for playing his records so that other people can hear. “I get compliments from the construction guys, because I go full on.”