Photography and Story by Brenton Gieser
If you spend time in the Tenderloin, you’ve seen Gorilla. He’s ubiquitous. Seemingly on every street corner in the neighborhood, drinking beer, smoking, hustling.
We became friends not long after I first met him between on Taylor Street, between Turk and Golden Gate. He told me the story of how he lost his leg, how he got his name, how he gets his drugs, and how he has been surviving on the streets for two decades. The thing about Gorilla is that he’s a storyteller. The more compelled you are, the more interesting his stories get. When you run into him on the street, you may get a new story, or you may get a new version of an old story. You never quite know.
One of the last times he shared a series of stories with me was for this very recording you are listening to right now. Once the recording ended and the camera was put away, we said our goodbyes and Gorilla began to roll away. Right before the between us distance would render his voice inaudible, he hollered, “The one thing you gotta remember about me, is that I’m a master manipulator”. I’m still not entirely sure why he said that. Maybe it was guilt for giving me half-truths, a friendly warning sign, or maybe it was part of the story, a skill acquired or even persona he adopted that necessary to survive on the streets of the Tenderloin for over two decades.