A recent Thursday at 1:26 p.m.:
On his way back from nowhere in particular, Pete Doolittle stops to investigate a shopping bag full of castoffs on the sidewalk near his apartment in the Lower Haight. A cigarette dangles from his mouth as his eyes and fingers sort out the good from bad. He works with the focus of a brain surgeon or a master chef. He finds two BART tickets with 80 cents on them, three pairs of matching blue sunglasses and a floppy hat you might imagine Oliver Twist would wear. But the real prize is a key chain that conceals a tiny screwdriver. His face lights up as he realizes what it is. It is small, but a definite find for Doolittle. After checking a nearby trash can for anything he may have missed, he is on his way. "I call it treasure," he says. "It borders on obsession. You can find things that you could never go out and shop for." Doolittle hopes to never have a 9-to-5 job. To ensure this, he tattooed the words "Game Over" on his fingers, hoping it would deter employers from hiring him. He is proud to say he makes a living turning found objects into art. His biggest sellers now are Victorian windows he paints with stylized cartoon characters. While that may be his bread and butter, it's the thrill of the hunt that keeps him excited. He knows a pair of slightly used Prada shoes or pictures of Tiny Tim in casket (both actual finds) could be around the next corner, free for the taking. "People act like it's some sort of magic or gift," he says. "But you just gotta stop and take time to look at things."
To see a multimedia production of this piece, go to sfgate.com/ cityexposed. If you have ideas for the City Exposed, e-mail Mike Kepka at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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