712 Hayes: The King of Hayes (S1 EP5)

712 Hayes: The King of Hayes (S1 EP5)

Mustafa Shaikh
7 min read

Episode 5 features the story of Joseph, the longtime resident of the building who was quite the character.

Note From Mustafa: We've now crossed 100 readers! (Shout out Julia Milzer for being No. 100.) You're not the only one reading this!

Without further adieu, Episode 5 ...

At one point, the home that I lived in was a single-family Victorian home. The days of single-family Victorian homes in San Francisco are largely gone, and eventually, the home was chopped up into four rentable apartments.

The ground floor was 710. Below 710 on the basement level: 708. One floor up was us, 712, and another floor up from that was 714.

710 was different from the other floors in that each bedroom in the apartment was rented out separately. Its floor plan mirrored ours, but its six bedrooms dealt with the landlord individually as opposed to having a master tenant.

For 22 straight years, there was one resident who held it down at 710 Hayes, Joseph.

When I moved in, I’d say Joseph was probably in his mid to late 40s. He lived with his long-time girlfriend, Krisztina, who was an immigrant from Hungary. They had met through an online dating website and at some point, Krisztina had moved into Joseph’s room.

From the time I moved into 712 Hayes, until the time I moved out, Joseph’s existence was more or less the same. Whether it was the morning, afternoon, or evening, he was usually posted up on the steps in front of our building.

This man always wore the same outfit. To be clear, I’m not saying that sometimes he wore the same clothes. Nah, this man literally wore the same slides, pants, and hat every single day. (It’s possible that the shirt was the same as well, but my memory is a little foggy there so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt.)

His teeth were stained from all the cigarettes he smoked throughout the day along with the watered whiskey he drank at night. Some nights the whiskey was less watered down and his words would be colliding into each other.

It was always a mission getting past Joseph and into the front door of 712 Hayes. If you didn’t move fast enough, he would trap you in some benign conversation that would drag on and on. Some of the more notable ones include:

  • He’d look back fondly on when he was on dating websites and how he’d clean up there. He encouraged me on numerous occasions to follow his lead.
  • Caitlin once found herself in a 30-minute conversation about Chicago hot dogs after Joseph found out she grew up in the Windy City.
  • He had a recurring vision of grandeur of becoming a world-famous musician. Joseph would proclaim that guides on the tour buses that would pass by our home would proclaim, “This is where 710 Hayes Records started!”
OK, in fairness to Joseph, Chicago-style hot dogs are out of control. Next week on "712 Hayes" ... 1200 words on the origin of Chicago-style hot dogs.

Wriggling out of those conversations was a skill honed over many years. You were always looking for an opportunity to escape the conversation, which was more difficult than it sounded. Every time you thought there was a lull, the man would keep going.

My favorite tactic involved my roommate Jeremy. If I was mid-conversation with Joseph and Jeremy just arrived home, I’d masterfully pass the conversation onto Jeremy and shoot for the front door. Out of all the roommates, Jeremy was by far the one who was willing to make the most time for Joseph’s conversations.  

One time, Jeremy even joined Joseph in the whiskey drinking and found himself in Joseph’s room late at night playing the guitar with him. He described Joseph’s room as filled to the brim with all these things he had collected over the years: mementos, guitars, and junk.

No matter who was currently living at 712 Hayes, every few months there would be a discussion about what Joseph did for work. He seemed to just hang around all day. Given his apartment had rent control, but still, how could he afford to live here without working? Even if his appearance seemed to suggest otherwise, he always spoke with supreme confidence as if he had no economic concerns in life.

My hypothesis was that he had won some settlement in a lawsuit and was living off of that. This was informed in part because he often mentioned the conversations he had with his lawyer about pursuing one lawsuit or another. The way he spoke about this lawyer was like he had the guy on retainer running after all the people who had wronged him.

For the last couple of years I lived there, he was in the midst of a drawn-out lawsuit against our landlord after a piece of the kitchen ceiling fell on him. He claimed he had back pain as a result of the incident. (It was unclear if this was back pain, or “back pain,” but hey, you get yours, Joseph.)

Then there was also the time he was threatening to sue me because I had allegedly maliciously thrown water on Krisztina during a Bay 2 Breakers party. As I had my first drink around 7:30 am, I can’t recall every action of mine at that party we hosted, but he was out of his mind to think that I purposefully attacked Krisztina in some capacity. And to be clear, he wasn’t saying I had splashed her with water multiple times, just once.

One night when he was pretty hammered, he tried to corner me about this. I eventually had him bring out Krisztina, and then I laid out how illogical this whole theory sounded. I then found out that Krisztina hadn’t even seen me splash water onto her, which befuddled me even more because at that point, they had convinced me that I had done this.

In short order, Joseph agreed to back down from his threat. It was clear that this threat of a lawsuit was really driven by him, while Krisztina simply wanted to make sure I was treating her with respect. (In hindsight, it’s crazy that he thought a splash of water was going to lead to a financial windfall for him.)

Joseph’s ho-hum life at 710 Hayes took a sharp detour in the summer of 2018. On what was a random night, upon entering our apartment, my roommate Hannah ran into Krisztina. Krisztina asked Hannah if she could talk to her. We have no idea why as they didn’t have a particularly close relationship, but Krisztina poured her heart out to Hannah that night on the front steps.

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