Thoughts on the death of Trent James Hayward aka Harpo Corleone

Tiny - Posted on 26 February 2011

Kaye Griffin

June 10, 2000

When I heard Trent died it seemed both unreal and inevitable. I look at his picture and he looks so alive, so energetic so vital. So young.

Yet his death also feels like peace, rest at last. I remember my years and years of endless homelessness, homelessness with its wall-to-wall nonstop brutal reality with no time out. I just wanted off, to rest, for it to be over, to die. Heroin was not in my toolbox, but I have met many people who told me they were going to get some and OD because they just couldn't take it any more. It's a pretty easy way to die. Maybe that's what Trent was doing. Or maybe it was just a mistake.

He was having a hard time with his success, of getting the gig writing a column for the online Bay Guardian. Many street people can't handle "success", Food not Bombs has had a lot of people who can't. Perhaps because it is associated with such ugly behavior by those who have our society's definition of success. The flip side of failure and punishment, success and the right to fuck people over. The fear of losing it. Trent's drinking seemed to escalate after he got the job. I had rarely seen him drunk much before, once at a housing meeting he came really out of it. Periodic scabs on his face from some long night. He mostly seemed ok when he came to the ROV writing group this past year. He worked hard and he was a bit crazy, like the rest of us.

He was supposed to start writing a column about the world from his view as a homeless person. I think about that: having a job, writing: but did he have to stay homeless to keep it? What if he got housing with his salary, would the SFBG still find his edgy, sharp writing exciting? Then, what I remember that was so painful for me in my years of homelessness, was how could people with housing work with me politically, claim to believe that homelessness was politically wrong, claim to be my friends, and yet neither offer a time indoors nor help me find housing. Only those with the least shared it. It made me very crazy, and cynical.

And the double life of having to look meek and scruffley to get what I needed to survive, and to look neat and confident and together to get what I needed to get out of the trap. The situational insanity of poverty. Perhaps some of these things were going on with Trent.

At the same time other things happened. His good friend Tom Gomez left town a week before, apparently ran off with some people who wash feet; and his friend Max lost his housing which was a place Trent had been able sometimes stay indoors. Losses in a fragile support system can be the tipping point.

We may never know what was really going on for Trent, but we do know it's not all right for people to live like this in the midst of the great, obscene wealth of San Francisco, of the USA. So maybe it was murder.

Trent was always a pleasure to be around, his vitality gave me a lift, perhaps some hope. I am sad he is gone, but I still suspect he may be relieved to not have to work so hard and endure so much pain anymore.

I am touched by the outpouring of responses to his passing. I am charmed and saddened by the range of people's reactions, functional and dysfunctional. Death, our great companion and taboo.

I thank you great spirit that we had Trent in our lives while he was here. His family told people he died because he had a bad heart, but we know he had a good heart. Goodbye, Trent.

Sorry Kaye. Dont know you, and after reading this im convinced you did not know Trent as much as you claim. I grew up with Trent in Nashua NH. He was like a brother to me.Smartest person i have ever known. And my best friend for many years growing up. Trent was not a worrier, Trent was a doer. Im sure he would not agree that dying is a relief to him. I HATE reading all this shit put out by people who obviously never really knew him and never really mattered to him. if you knew Trent's heart at all, you would have known how sacred Trent's family was to him. I watched him run home because his Mom was sick, i watched him rip off his shirt and wrap it around his sister's bloody foot and carry her running down the street. I watched him come to MY rescue many times. To imply that his family told you he had a bad heart is bullshit. pure bullshit. Dont speak for his family, and dont speak for him. Im at least thankful he does not have to read all this crap.

I too grew up in Nashua NH with Trent, primarily during the early to mid 1980's. You were privilaged to know Trent at a time in his life few had insight to and I'm glad you are lucky enough to share the beautiful memories you have of Trent. But, please don't deny the part of his being that wasa deeply flawed to do so is to deny his humanity. Trent's death did not shock me, he had many sides to him and sadly one of those incarnations was one of self destruction-his personal choices were self destructive and caused extrodinary pain for others, including his child. There are so mant tragic elements to Trent's death 12 years ago-the world never got to know the intellegent, introspective talented writer that Trent was-that is a tragedy-a girl lost her father, perhaps the saddesttragedy of all. Trent's death at such a young age wasn't inevitable, it shouldn't have happened, but our choices in life can lead us to our grave. This doesn't mean Trent was never loving or protective, sensitive or or capable of tender interactions. Acknowledging all of his humanity, including his struggles simply makes him more real.


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