Los Angeles, CA
I found an unpublished draft in the bowels of the Tao. It's something I wrote a year or so ago when Nicky and I lived in San Francisco at Halli's pad a.k.a. The Ice Palace. I don't know why I never finished that particular piece, but it went unfinished for a reason. Last year I retreated deep into a shell and felt utterly shameful about the volume of stuff revealed over the previous 7+ years. Looking back into time, I'm grateful for the respite because it allowed me time to think. I needed away from the grind because I was burned out in so many ways and in so many areas of my life. I needed a vacation from myself. I hit the orange "publish" button much less but it came at a price because I don't have many San Francisco-themed posts. I barely wrote about the city because I was doing a lot of subversive shit trying to get involved with overthrowing the corporate-run government and got super paranoid that the Man and his stormtroopers were going to show up at the house one day, knock down the door, fire a flash grenade, and whisk me away for being the mastermind behind the Tao of Fear.
"But General Ackbar, it's not an actual conspiracy site! It's a comedy site ghosting as a conspiracy site. There's a difference. A huge difference. We don't even believe Hillary Clinton is a reptile. Sure, she's a cold-blooded dyke that wouldn't think twice about ordering either of us to be suicided, but that doesn't mean she's an actual lizard queen and slithers around on her belly and eats live mice!"
Yeah, I was delving into too much anti-government rhetoric to post every day. And I haven't even broached the subject of drugs. It was not pretty in San Francisco. I was either on both ends of the spectrum... horribly dope-sick from detoxing after getting hooked on painkillers after the car accident... or getting completely obliterated as possible after staying up for several days straight raging proper, playing cards for 24+ hour sessions, and wandering the hills of San Francisco or riding around on the Muni completely crocked out of my mind.
Man, I was a fool for not writing more. I should say... I was writing a lot, but not feeling good enough to save the drafts or publish any of that on the web. I wish I saved some of those drafts.
Now that I'm in a safe zone and in a much better space (ah... Southern California sunshine), it might be time to open the door... just a little peak... into my mind from a year ago...
* * *
San Francisco. There was a Starbucks... actually two within walking distance, but they had to compete with a dozen other coffee joints and cafes. Starbucks didn't have a stranglehold... yet. In other cities and town, they ran off mom and pop operations and got down and dirty with corporate foes. I'm not a Starbucks fan and rather support local business, but I never went inside the one on Divis because of the people always hung out in front of the store. They were the annoying clipboard people. They worked for Greenpeace or some other hippie organization and wanted me to sign a petition or give them money or both. They guilt-tripped you into whatever was the cause of the day. Tragedy du jour. A wook-like creature realized the absurdity of the job and gave up trying to extract money from people who didn't have money to give. The wook sat down on a bench and took a nap while pencils fell out of his pocket.
The coffee joint I spent the most time in my neighborhood was frequented by snooty rich folk from Pacific Heights. The residents treated the kids and hipsters behind the counter like total shit. It's bad enough they have to make drinks for superficial douche-clowns and cunt-rags yapping into their cellphones while they placed an order, which was always a super-complicated specialty that would confuse NASA scientists, let alone 20-somethings smoking hash in the alley on their breaks, or faded to the tits on Xanax.
One of the workers (imagine if Troy Aikman had a gay brother with a bad handle bar mustache) liked serving me because... 1) my order was simple "Big-assed iced tea!", and 2) I actually tipped. After a month or so, Troy the boy toy eventually realized if he charged me for a medium cup (instead of a large), I'd drop the difference into the tip jar in addition to a tip. It was a nice scam but sometimes the cafe was so busy that someone else took my order, and they were not hip to the scheme.
I often reeked like weed whenever I stumbled into that cafe. Wake and bake is the breakfast of champions and I could never walk into the cafe total sober because of all the annoying Williams and Sonoma yuppie-fucks bragging about their existence and don't get me started on those post-mod-poseurs still wearing skinny jeans and sleeve tattoos. White-bread parents pulled their kids away and shielded them whenever my profusely-sweating ass lumbered by. The emaciated Lulu Lemon $300 yoga pants crowd scoffed at my disheveled look... On the Road meta-beat meets early Seattle grunge. If I wore a bandana on my head and I could pull off the rugged, perpetually pissed-off tortured genius look that David Foster Wallace made popular with his author's photo on the back of his books. But I usually wore a Jets wool hat to fit in with hipsters going for an ironic style.
It was never a boring day at the cafe. Always... no matter what time I went... a self-absorbed yuppie fuck-stick tries to cut the line. They know better than to try to cross me because I'll call them out. He couldn't be bothered waiting an extra five minutes to get his fix. It pissed off the ones in line not glued to their smartphones. San Francisco never had a shortage in self-righteousness, so I'm gad there was always at least one other angry punk rocker ready to stand up to the Man.
Most of the time, I found comfort waiting in line. Because lines were a breeze these days with my CrackBerry. It gave me something to look at instead of going on mega-tilt and wanting to punch a hipster in the neck for wearing a purple Atari t-shirt underneath a Sgt. Pepper's jacket. Twitter is perfect for those moments... hit and run entertainment... empty calories.
The youngest cafe workers called me sir. Very uncomfortable. Maybe it's a few extra white hairs popping out of my facial hair? I'm creeping close to the age in which I could be their father's age... but "sir" is not really a slight, but a form of respect. I'm a "sir" to her, yet a freak to the self-absorbed neo-hippie-cum-capitalist soccer moms bragging about how they're the cool moms and let never let their kids have gluten or sugar but let their kids go culturally slumming every once in a while by letting them watch TV
I got carded at Trader Joes every time I pick up wine or whiskey or beer for poker night. I embarrassed one young lady and said I was old enough to be her father... and I'm not talking about knocking up a high school chick when I was 15. When she glanced at the DOB... her face flushed very red. I was only enough by a few years, but I should have been the embarrassed one.
Walked almost five miles the other day. I was recovering from a Xannie haze after knocking myself out to sleep. I was too "foggy and groggy" to get any coherent writing done, so I figured I'd hop on the Muni and ride the bus as close to the ocean as I could get then walk over to the beach and let the cool breezes of the Pacific sober my ass up before I hopped on the bus home.
I lingered too long in the park listening to a Dead bootleg and re-reading short stories from David Foster Wallace's Oblivion. I lost time. Time lost me. It got dark. Fast. No more light to read. Then the spooky fog rolled in and made it look like I was about to get attacked by flesh-eating zombies in a B-slasher film.
I cranked up the iPod. If the Zombies were coming... I didn't want to hear them.
I wandered the streets near Sea Cliff and looked down hill into nothing but dense fog, save for the ominous glow of street lights and dark industrial wires from the phone company, PS&G, and the Muni crisscrossing the streets. Rumbling. I felt the rumbling beneath my feat. I felt the dampness of the fog on my face. The edges of my finger tips began to feel numb. The coldness swooped in fast. I lit up a joint and couldn't take a drag or two before it went out. I tried again and the attempt was futile. Mother Nature had spoken. I limped up a hill. Garcia's bittersweet voice was the extra gear I needed to inch closer and closer to the top.
I made it to Geary Blvd. but took so long that it was the beginning of rush hour so I passed on riding the bus. Nothing is worst than being tuck in traffic with all the psychos and miscreants on the Muni. I wondered how much juice I had left on my iPod and decided I only needed enough to get me twenty or more blocks through Richmond and eventually Inner Richmond.
I passed by hundreds of small and large Asian restaurants, I stopped counting. Some of these weren't even on Google's or Yelp's or Urban Spoon's radar. Those are the unknown, unnamed joints you want to really eat. Burmese, Thai, Chinese takeout, Schezuan, Hunan, Cantonese, Malaysian, Korean BBQ, and of course more suhsi you could shake a stick at.
By the time I reached my neighborhood, I was sweaty and achy and almost out of juice. The fog had invaded the streets of Lower Pacific Height at least a half hour before I arrived. It beat me home.
Drunk hipster and homeless guy smoking in front of the Fish Bowl. The homeless guy picked up old butts and fired those up two at a time. What the fuck? They asked me for a light when they ran out of matches.
I have that look... of a smoker... so everyone hits me up for an extra cigarette or a light. The incident brought back random memories. I had a friend who said that he never bought a pack of cigarettes in his life but smoked up to a pack a day. He constantly bummed smokes off of people. He'd offer people a buck for two or three smokes, and generally they offered him one for free. Sometimes he got two or more freebies. It was easy for lonely people who didn't mind sharing an extra smoke if it meant they got four minutes of idle chit chat to keep them occupied for a few minutes. He didn't mind the meaningless banter... it was a small price to pay for a free hit of tobacco.
It was easier in bars to bum smokes when people were drunk and not paying attention. The drunker they got, the worse their memory got and he'd hit them up for more.
Our friends hates him for being a cigarette bum. "You never have smokes! When's the last time you bought a pack you cheap bastard?"
It wasn't like he was broke or something. His family had money and he had a job that paid well enough that he could afford to buy his own cigarettes whatever it cost back in Seattle in the late 90s.
I didn't smoke so his grubbing never bothered me. I just thought it was ingenious that he was a conversation prostitute and would swap a few minutes of conversation with lonely people in exchange for a cigarette.
Anyway... I don't smoke these days and it's too fucking expensive anyway. But with costs skyrocketing due to ruthless tobacco companies gouging its client base and sin taxes being levied, a pack is worth significantly more and smokers on a budget are not as willing to share their smokes.
I lost touch with my friend who was the smoking mooch, but I wonder if he finally quit, or still preys on lonely people starved for conversation?
Here's an amazing time-lapsed video of San Francisco....
Here's a few rare posts I wrote during my stint living in San Francisco:
Almost Routine - Settling in during the first month
Risky Bizness - A lesbian flirted with me
Divisidero Dog Fight - Who are the people in your neighborhood?
Dope Sick DMV - I finally became a California citizen and spent a day at the DMV