NEWPORT BEACH – Brian “Bino” McMann climbs into his sleeping bag next to a Dumpster behind the Spaghetti Bender restaurant on West Coast Highway.
It’s just after midnight as Friday turns into Christmas Eve.
His bedtime companion is Cookie, a terrier/Chihuahua mix. she looks like the tiny mutt from “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.”
Soon, after a long day of begging for money from their rusty beach cruiser that pulled a creaky baby jogger stuffed with aluminum cans and other items, McMann and Cookie are asleep.
Twelve hours earlier, at the start of their coastal journey in Dana Point, McMann’s mouth went dry.
“I’m not going to lie,” he said. “I’m scared to death.”
After all, he’s not used to living on the street. McMann, 50, is a married, well-paid homeowner in Huntington Beach who owns two rental properties (soon to be three).
In a desire to give back and to raise awareness about homelessness, McMann came up with a plan:
Live on the streets for 24 hours.
“I have 10 times more than what I need,” McCann says.
He hopes to collect up to $100 from strangers, multiply that amount by 10, and then donate $1,000 to a real homeless person or family.
“Anybody can write a check,” McMann says. “I want to see where my money is going.”
McMann, unshaven for a few days, and wearing shorts and a 16-year-old T-shirt, starts seriously questioning his idea – just as he’s about to head off.
He feels like a phony – which, technically, he is.
But, he says, it’s all about the bigger picture of helping others. He believes that any anxiety he may be feeling, or any discomfort he may experience along the way, will be worth it.
“I just want to raise awareness,” he says. “I don’t want to be a hero.”
McMann decides his shorts are too clean. So he sits on a patch of grass and grinds around, working up a good stain.
“I felt odd putting on deodorant this morning,” he says. “That was kind of counterproductive.”
McMann decides to ditch his $210 pair of sunglasses.
The senior estimator for a paving company in Costa Mesa knows he’s fortunate.
“I got angry the other day when the water from my faucet didn’t get hot fast enough,” McMann says. “I mean, that’s insane!
“I sleep with four pillows, and my wife and I have a spare comforter. How comforting: to have a spare comforter!”
Part of McMann’s goal also is to raise awareness about mental illness.
When he was 18, McMann’s father committed suicide. for years, his father had suffered from depression.
McMann’s mother, Marilyn Gnagy, of Huntington Beach, sees him off.
“Mom, it could be worse,” he tells her. “This could be real.”
Gnagy shakes her head.
“Nothing surprises me what he does,” she says. “It’s admirable what he’s doing. but I can’t help but be concerned for his safety.”
McMann leaves with $7 in case he strikes out, along with his driver’s license.
His mother leaves, taking his wallet with her.
“Well, there goes all my money,” says McMann, referring to $1,300 in cash for some last-minute Christmas shopping.
Cars zoom by as McMann holds up a sign at his first intersection in Dana Point. One sign reads, “Not Gonna Lie…I want a beer (and Dog Food).”
“I think people can spot a fraud,” he says.
He relocates to a median at Crown Valley Parkway, and soon receives his first donation: $2, from a 45-year-old man.
Things pick up in Laguna Beach when McMann sits on a corner and belts out “Feliz Navidad” as he plays his guitar.
“You’re not allowed to sing,” he tells McMann.
Cookie is a huge draw. a woman brings her food from a gourmet dog food store.
Another woman gives McMann pizza. He spots a homeless teen and shares it with him.
“Oh my God, thanks,” the teen tells McMann. “I haven’t eaten all day.”
McMann makes his way toward Newport Beach.
Stationed outside a Balboa Island restaurant, he collects about $45 before settling down for the night behind the Spaghetti Bender – the site of McMann’s engagement. He and Trina McMann have been married 11 years.
At this point, McMann has raised $82.
He sleeps nearly six hours and then swings by his mother’s house in Huntington Beach for coffee. He then arrives at his final destination: the Bella Terra shopping center at Beach Boulevard and the 405 Freeway.
A young security guard promptly kicks him off the property, so McMann moves to the sidewalk near an exit.
There, McMann hits the jackpot.
A woman empties the change in her ashtray.
A motorist gives him a $5 bill, someone gives him $3 and – minutes before noon – a man gives McMann $20.
“I think a lot of the people felt that they had not given enough for Christmas,” McMann says. “And many said, ‘It’s for the dog.’”
Before calling it a day, McCann gives his bag full of aluminum cans (value: about $30) to a woman fishing for them in trash cans.
On Christmas Day, McMann still was deciding what to do with the $1,000. He may give it to one family or divide it among three.
“I’m open to suggestions,” he says.
McMann also is considering handing out some of the money to motorists in $1 increments.
“What ‘homeless’ person gives away money?”
He says he doesn’t want to encourage panhandling.
“I think that’s a short-term solution.”
McMann feels his adventure truly went to a good cause – even if he had to fake living on the streets.
“I really saw the bigger picture – the benefit to all – the longer I was out there,” McCann says.
“The question is,” he adds, “will I be back next year?”
“How can I not be?”
Contact the writer: 714-704-3764 or email@example.com
<a href="http://www.ocregister.com/news/mcmann-333028-says-beach.htmltag:news.google.com,2005:cluster=http://www.ocregister.com/news/mcmann-333028-says-beach.htmlMon, 26 Dec 2011 01:24:54 GMT”>Man fakes being homeless to help others