We are devastated to learn about the loss of Eric E-Tee, a longtime Street Sheet vendor beloved by many. Eric, known to many as E-Tee, lived here in San Francisco since he was 27 years old. E-Tee sold the Street Sheet since 1989, when it was only one sheet of paper. He usually sold the paper outside of Peet’s Coffee on the corner of Van Ness and Turk, wearing his distinctive gray fedora.
When he first arrived in the city, he had high hopes to work for the Cement Mason Union doing work laying brick and concrete. However, in order to work for that Union, he needed to pay union dues, or the cost of membership needed to fund the activities and services that unions typically engage in. At the time, union dues were $500, which was an amount beyond E-Tee’s means. Nonetheless, he had a family to feed, so he did his best to find labor work for under the table pay, and he did. Everyday, he worked hard, but the under the table work had its drawbacks: E-Tee’s employers weren’t willing to pay union rates, which left him needing to supplement his income in order to feed and clothe his family.
That was what initially drove him to sell the Street Sheet. When interviewed for a profile in 2016, E-Tee told us that he cared a lot about the issues that the paper brings to light and wanted people to be made aware of them. “People read it and say, this is not in the regular newspaper.”
E-Tee was known for his sense of humor, and was constantly making up stories, cracking jokes, and sometimes jovially pitching marriage proposals. He is survived by many children and will always be remembered by those of us here at Street Sheet, and buy his loyal customers who bought the paper from him.
by Nellie Wong
© 2015 Nellie Wong
Sells the Street Sheet from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm
In front of Books Inc on Van Ness Ave
Born in Algeria 77 years ago
Algerian father, Black American mother,
But didn’t want to be
Brought Eric at seven years to the United States.
Lived in New York, Kansas and Texas
Before arriving in San Francisco in 1989.
Helped his stepfather delivering produce
Worked as a laborer laying concrete.
But jobs difficult and had no money
to join the union.
In Sacramento, one 26,
Who come to visit him on Van Ness
Had two daughters now
As he sits, Street Sheets fanned on his lap.
Empty containers and plastic bags surround
His concrete home on the sidewalk.
His daughters give him a few dollars, when they can.
Two different women,
One saying, “There’s good vegetables inside,”
Laying down a bag marked
With “Max’s Opera Cafe”
Next to his wheelchair.
The other woman coming out
Of her car, slips a $5 bill into Eric’s hand,
His arthritic fingers peeling dry skin, saying, “Haven’t seen you
For a while. Darlin’”, dashes up the street and disappears.
Eric keeps peeling skin off his left forefinger.
“This is where I got knifed. A guy
Tried to rob me,” pointing
To his gallon jar
With five pennies and a nickel inside.
Luckily he held up his hands
In front of his chest.
Otherwise he would have been sliced
On the neck or through his heart.
“The cops caught him, didn’t get my money,” his mouth moving
Showing no teeth.
Three years ago, got cut
On the forehead.
Lift his watch cap, revealing a one-inch scar.
Sells 20 Street Sheets a day,
If he’s lucky. Needs $26.00 for a room for the night.
Otherwise, goes to the shelter.
If no bed, he can sit up
Get a shower early in the morning.
Gets lots of pennies. A man
Brings him a roll, unpeels it, and pours 500 pennies into his jar.
“Why don’t you just give him a $5.00 bill?” his wife asks.
“‘Cause I want to give him something
His mom taught him to read and write. never went to school.
Likes to read stories and poetry.
Been selling Street Sheet for 10 years now.
The cops no longer
Harass him ‘cause he doesn’t do drugs
Doesn’t do alcohol.
Besides, the sidewalk’s public space.
“I’m Muslim. Muslims don’t do harm.”
The people in the condos at Opera Plaza, some drop
Coins into his jar.
A lady at the corner panhandles,
Doesn’t compete with Eric.
But passers-by tell her,
“Why don’t you go back
To where you came from? Don’t need
His kind here”, pointing
“Yeah, and where’s that?” she retorts.
Some give her a quarter, a dollar bill.
But only pennies to Eric.
“ ‘Cause she’s white,” he says without a grimace.
Likes it when his six-year-old granddaughter visits
His home across from a shuttered McDonald’s,
Where another man sits
On the pavement,
As if guarding the abandoned building,
A sanctuary for passing his day in silence.
Eric saves his pennies.
“This is for college!” as he thrusts
A jar full of coins
At his granddaughter.
The girl hunkers down
On the sidewalk next to him, and says
“Thank you, Grandpoo!”
“She calls me ‘Grandpoo’.
I call her ‘Majestic!’”