Tag: San Francisco

Places I’ve Lived in San Francisco

behind the phoneThis isn’t a place I’ve lived.  It used to be Adeline’s Bakery on Van Ness and Geary.  For years I would get cheap coffee and pastries while waiting for Golden Gate Transit buses or on my way to one job or another.  It was a place full of old people and cranky people and often homeless people.  All the other people came in to get things and would leave.  Now it’s shut down and walled up.  I’m not even sure you can make phone calls from this trashed public phone.  I think it’s missing the phone.

sutter street apartment

This was where Philip and I lived for the first two years we were married.  1350 Sutter Street, a half a block up from Van Ness.  Not a quiet location.  We started with a tiny apartment with a huge bathroom and a kitchen that was barely functional with a fridge that was literally from the 1960’s with a permanent frost problem.  Then we moved to a bigger (much nicer) apartment with a wonderful kitchen that had apple green walls and the tiniest bathroom I’ve ever had.  We loved it!  It had built in book cases in the living room and this amazing built in vanity with desk that I used as my writing nook.  We paid $850 a month for this place.

our old apartment

We had the pretty windows on the top floor with the weird balconettes you couldn’t step onto but that collected really strange crap – garbage and  bird shit and city grime that formed part of our magnificent view.

sutter street kitchen window

I loved my kitchen so much.  This second kitchen was small by suburban standards but a nice size by small apartment standards.  It had a built in china hutch, a modern newish fridge, room for a dining table, and a pretty window ledge that I killed many an African violet on.  The African violets looked stunning in my green kitchen but I couldn’t figure their needs out.  I was very busy writing poetry at the time and rather hoped that plants in window sills could just be watered when thought of and flourish.

522 Hyde

I have shared pictures of this building before.  Several years ago, I’m pretty sure.  This is the only place I ever lived all by myself.  I was very proud to finally be completely on my own as I’d always dreamed of – single girl living city life in glamorously grimy building.  This building and my life there is what inspired the first novel I wrote that is forever stuck in rewrite mode.  I paid $520 a month for this one bedroom apartment that came complete with a major cockroach population, a brick wall view out of one window (very city-chic), bums in the entryway of the building, a main entrance door with constantly broken entry code, a creepy landlady who took a real fancy to me and frequently tried to lure me into her stuffy scary apartment, and as if that wasn’t enough for anyone wanting a real urban adventure, the building trashcans were in a basement meant to be used by serial killers with a barely locking flimsy back door to the alley.

city life

To top the whole luxury package off – my bedroom window looked out on whore alley.  When the moon was high and I opened my windows to let in the night air and gaze out on the moonlight – I could count on being serenaded by a blow-job in progress or by some happy heroin addicts shooting up together, their needles shining in the moonlight like diamonds.

flies and crazy stink

This is Ada Court.  This is the tiny street I had to stroll up to get a look at my old bedroom windows and see the old favorite spot of whores and addicts that gave me my daily entertainment.  This street was full of flies.  An unnatural number of flies.  And stink.  Like unwashed bodies, dog shit, and old concentrated urine smells but with the number of flies you would expect near a decaying corpse.  Which made me think how happy I was to not know the real source of the flies that might be hidden in any one of the basement grates and windows lining this little court.  The graffiti is quite pretty though.

I took this tour of places I’ve lived in the city on Friday.  I went in to meet my friend Alice (of Futuregirl.com) who I’ve known on line for 7 years but never met.  We had lunch at Darn Good Food and I had a great time waiting for her arrival watching herds of suits roving the streets looking for sustenance.

There was a scary homeless man with long white hair in a knitted cap whose bottom lip was a huge misshapen mass of bumps and twists – like it had once been put through a meat grinder and then reattached to his face.  The poor dude was not in a good way and once having passed me on the street he fell down.  I wasn’t sure what I should do, if anything, he seemed like he might have been drunk but what if he was simply really sick?  There were a pair of officers of some kind in a car right near him that did nothing.  I wanted to ask him if he needed assistance but I’m ashamed to say I was really scared of him.  Two men walked by and I heard one of them say to the other “I was tempted to kick him in the ass!” which made me very angry.  If my son ever cherishes the urge to kick a homeless person when they’re down (or at all, under any circumstances) I will know I have either failed as a mother or I gave birth to a bad seed.  Fuckers!

On my walk to meet Alice I also saw a man with three penises.  At least he looked like he had three penises because his pants were so tight that the things he had in both his front pockets made it appear like he had three penises.

After meeting Alice for lunch I walked back down to Market Street and kept walking until I found a Muni stop where I could catch a Hayes Valley ride.  When I caught the Muni I sat down next to a very tiny shriveled old man who shrieked when my leg grazed his coat.  So I stood for a good portion of the way listening to two men talking about really dumb people they know who committed a crime they got caught for that they wouldn’t have got caught for if they weren’t such dumbasses.

My one pair of comfortable shoes needs the elastic fixed so I chose to wear my ghilly brogues which used to be really comfortable.  My feet are bigger now and so by the time I made it to my friend Kate’s house in Hayes Valley my pinky toes were reduced to stubs of flaming pain.  I’ve been friends with Kate since I was 17 and she was 35.  She’s like family.  We haven’t seen each other for quite a few years.  First she moved to Texas and then I moved to Oregon.  It was great to finally meet up again.  I also got to hang out with her son who has the same birthday as me and who I frequently chatter with on Facebook, and her husband who is such a kind and cool person and who, it should be noted, inspired Philip and I to explore brewing our own alcohol after he shared with us an amazing bottle of strawberry wine with us that he fermented himself.

Kate says I can come stay in their guest room any time I want.  That’s like having a pied à terre in San Francisco!

This weekend I got the first chapter of the second Cricket and Grey book written!  5,000 words!  It’s total crap, of course, as all first drafts are, but I finally broke through whatever barrier was holding me back (trying to start the second book in third person was the main barrier, I switched to first which is how I started the first book too) and can now start the second chapter.  It feels great to get back on track with that.

Jane Doe is still hanging out in my head all the time and I still don’t know how to fix it.  I’m just going to keep hanging onto it until it comes out.

Now I have to go make chutney and get more produce and I just have way too much stuff to do for a Monday.  I have to start photographing my shop items and I have to write my tutorial posts (majorly avoiding it – bad Angelina!!) and so much else.  I want to make ginger  beer and I have the ginger but haven’t done it.  The beautiful thing is that I can fit a lot of this stuff into my days now whereas I could not do it before.

So I better get on it!

Hope you all have a great Monday!

Notes on the Bus to San Francisco

taking notes

Notes from my bus trip into San Francisco from Santa Rosa on 10/12/12

Dummest thing ever:  dude lighting a bong while driving down 101.

Seen:  small farm near the freeway whose fence was topped by at least 6 buzzards.

First thing I’m wishing I hadn’t forgotten to bring: Ricolas.

Wondering if I have any errant chin hairs for other passengers to stare at.  Wondering if I should have left one for them?  Lots of oliander here.  Not sure I saw any the whole time I was in Oregon.

Rhonert Park is a worse pit than I remember it being.

So glad I don’t live in Cotati.

Just realizing that since moving back I haven’t left Sonoma County once-until today.  Going down 101 is reminding me of years riding down this Hwy.  My sense of “home” extends all the way from Santa Rosa down to S.F.

dirty bus window

Eucalyptus!  Olives!  Brown hills!  (Eh – I love the green of Oregon – but still – the brown of CA is familiar and in its own way beautiful)

Happy I don’t live in Petaluma even though I loved it back then.

Newest passenger who just sat in front of me smells like bubble gum.

Masses of roses near the tracks at the old Petaluma train depot – gorgeous!

I don’t love the smell of bubble gum.

I want to go to Rareseeds!

This bus takes a tortuously long time to get through Pet.

Just saw a plush banana the size of an 8 yr old child on the ground near the bus stop cafe.  Surprising.

Looking forward to putting my feet in the freezing cold Pacific ocean.

Glad I don’t live in Novato.

Sour looking lady just got on the bus.

bus on the bridge

After all these years I still don’t wish I had a penis.

Bubble gum smell is really bothering me.

Listening to Dylan going down 101.

Need fresh air.  I can tell because I keep taking really deep breaths.  I think I must be annoying other passengers because I keep letting it out loudly.

I just remembered the first time I visited SF with my mom after the last time I moved back from Oregon.

San Rafael.  Glad I don’t live here.  (Though I’ve always loved it)  Too bad bubble gum lady isn’t getting off.

I was 15 1/2 the first time I fell for San Francisco.

The San Rafael bus depot is a strong reminder that not all of Marin County is wealthy or white or precious or label-conscious or thin or pretty.

Corte Madera.  Glad I don’t live here anymore but it still makes me happy to see it pass by.

Someone nearby has already laid into the alcohol.  Can smell it.

Mill Valley!  Tiburon!  Strawberry!  Marin City!  (Still can’t and never will get used to the shopping mall replacing the flea market.)

It’s so expensive to cross the bridge now!  $6.00 – no wonder the bus fare has gone up.  It just occurred to me that the bus may be exempt from tolls.  Whatever.

Oh God.  The homeless.

I’m in tight-pants central!

(And that concludes the precisely transcribed notes of my bus ride)

A Walking Tour of Down Town San Francisco: Angelina Style

Yesterday I took a bus into San Francisco to meet an old friend I haven’t seen for over 15 years who came in for a quick visit.  Philip dropped me off in Petaluma.  I got a coffee and a “croissant” at Starbucks to get some change.  I am not a fan of Starbucks in general but I have been happy to have one available from time to time when better cafes could not be found or not be found in a hurry as was the case yesterday morning.  I think I need a separate small post on how to eat a Starbuck’s croissant.  Let’s just say that it was a punishment but I really needed something in my stomach to go with the banana – because I wouldn’t be catching a bite to eat again until 12:45pm.

Petaluma was gorgeous with fog just beginning to lift off the river.  It was nippy and nice and I was almost a little bit cold.  I didn’t bring a sweater because I knew San Francisco was going to be warm.

That’s right.  San Francisco, the city everyone complains about being foggy and cold all the time, has decided to perversely be warm and painfully sunny every time I visit.  Me – one of the few people who appreciates its natural weather tendencies – who embraces its chill air and overcast skies – it – look at that picture!  I could barely take the picture because the sun was so stupidly bright.

I got off the bus at Golden Gate Avenue near Van Ness.  Once you pass the government buildings this is firmly lower tenderloin territory and pretty rough.  This part of the tenderloin is also almost completely comprised of black men.  Mostly old.  I don’t feel uncomfortable walking through this neighborhood at all.  I mean – I certainly don’t wear a look of lost wonder or walk like a person in an idiotic naive cloud – but I’ve walked through that area since I was sixteen and I think it’s good to see all of the city’s neighborhoods so that you know what you’re saying when you say you love San Francisco.

The buildings in this picture are part of the wonderful city culture near Market street.  The Golden Gate Theater is at the end near Market.  The Warwick is right around the corner.  This area is really close to Union Square but couldn’t be more different in flavor or reality.

This tall building with the Gap on the ground floor used to be the Woolworth’s building.  I remember when it was Woolworth’s and had a coffee counter inside.  I remember drinking the horrible thin coffee next to the old ladies in their best pilled up coats and their blued hair.  That was the best part – sitting with the old ladies – some of whom still wore gloves.  This was back in 1987, in case you like having a time line.  I started going to school at FIDM which occupied a couple of floors above Woolworth’s.  I graduated from that location and then eventually they moved to a new building a few blocks away.  Woolworth’s closed and The Gap moved in.  There may have been a few other stores occupying that ground floor space before the Gap got there but I can’t remember and it doesn’t matter.

When I was 19 years old my dad took me out to dinner at Kuleto’s with his wife at the time.  I was feeling a little physically low – like I might be coming down with a cold – but I didn’t want to miss a chance to see my dad and be taken to dinner by him because that meant much better food than I normally got to eat.  This night was memorable for the profoundly soul satisfying bowl of polenta I had that had chopped fresh rosemary, butter, and Parmesan in it.  I think I ordered it on advice from my dad and I know when it came to the table I felt like I had just been delivered a bowl of porridge and wished I’d ordered a plate of lasagna instead.  Until I tasted it.  Until that day I had only been a subsistence cook.  I made the most simple food possible and had no actual kitchen skills.

I had to figure out how to recreate that amazing dish of polenta.  I couldn’t afford to go back to Kuleto’s on my own.  This, my friends, is the place responsible for switching on my passion for cooking.  In trying to recreate that dish at home I got to know my way around the kitchen and it was this same year that I learned to make cornish game hens to impress the object of my unrequited affection.  (The tall Italian who taught me to say “Stallone Pantone” so I could say “Stud Muffin” in Italian to amuse myself)

I have never eaten at Tad’s Steaks.  I usually don’t eat at places with meat as part of their name, for obvious reasons.  Never-the-less the glitzy stripper-style sign is as much a part of my life on Powell street as a young fashion student as the Woolworth’s building and Blondie’s pizza by the slice and if it ever disappeared I think Powell would lose the tawdry flavor that keeps it from being completely engulfed in the vapid rich-person’s glamor of Union Square.  The beauty is in the contrast.

The Union Square Christmas tree.  It’s pretty.  It’s pretty huge.  I want to call it a “holiday tree” just to annoy the Christians who are feeling threatened by the most ridiculous things.  If you think persecution means replacing messages of “Happy Christmas” with “Happy Holiday” I think maybe you need to talk to some people who were nailed to crosses or burnt on crosses or drowned in order to prove their innocence so that you can learn what the word “persecution” actually means.

Next up I will share the pics of my walk from Macy’s in Union Square to Valencia street where I met my friend for lunch.  Mostly I’ll be sharing pictures of Market Street.

Do you have a favorite spot or landmark in downtown San Francisco?

Take a Tour of Outer Richmond and Sea Cliff

27th and Geary.  I lived in this building a few floors up on the north side with my friend James who attended FIDM with me.  When I first moved in here I was still going to clubs and pretty  much acting like a carefree young fashion student but at some point I started to change.  My room mate did not.  I loved this location because of the cold and fog, the Holy Virgin Church next door, and a diner I really liked down the street whose name I can no longer remember.

Notable things that happened while living in this apartment:

This is where I lived when the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 struck.

I made a cornish game hen for an Italian with a big nose I had a huge crush on who did not have a crush on me.

Learned to make rosemary polenta.

Discovered what raw steak smells like when it’s been left in a hiding place in the kitchen by my room mate for well over a week.

This is the Russian Orthodox Church “Holy Virgin Church” that is next door to my old apartment building.  I always wanted to go inside but was too shy.  When I was there the other weekend I decided I was definitely going to go inside but I completely missed the visiting hours.  Next time…

It’s a truly gorgeous church.  And you should see the costumes the priests wear.

I love the datura and the row of pretty little houses.

Entering Seacliff.  You know it’s a fancy neighborhood because of the concrete pillars and the sign that say so.

Immediately you see less concrete and more lawn.  Lots and lots of lawn.  Very trim and precisely manicured.  The houses get bigger and prettier too.

The closer to the sea you get the more palatial the houses get.  I love the houses in this neighborhood but I have to say something about it – it’s eerily quiet and empty feeling.  You rarely see people walking around.  You could eat off the sidewalks they’re so clean but where’s the life of the neighborhood?  You get the feeling that the people here are too good to hang out in their own yards.  Too good for the outside world.

I did see one little boy throwing a ball around at no one in his front yard and it kind of creeped me out.  His parents were apparently close by inside the house but if I had been a pedophile I would have thought this child’s parents were offering him to me as a gift.  I realize that Sea Cliff is probably one of the safest neighborhoods in San Francisco – but I would not let my 4 year old play outside without me being outside with him.

I’d live in this house.  It has figs growing against the wall.  It has a pretty tiled roof and pretty windows.  This is the house I’d live in if I was a rich San Franciscan.

It’s a walled property.  I’d like to walk in that door every time I come home.

Clearly I’m in love with this house since I took more pictures of it than any other.  If only I could move this whole property to Santa Rosa – that would suit me perfectly.  I had enough of empty quiet neighborhoods in McMinnville – I like living in a neighborhood where people are constantly walking around outside with their dogs and their families.  I like living where there is noise and life.

Still, I’ll always love Sea Cliff just for the architecture and the clean sidewalks.

China Beach, San Francisco

China Beach is a modest place, a collection of good rocks, a short strip of beach and, apparently, rip currents that kill.  In spite of this saw a man walk down to the sand yesterday,  strip down to his bright red speedo and dive into the vicious (and bracingly cold) water while I meekly (but with great joy) waded in the most shallow two inches of sea and foam.  We hailed each other cheerfully.

I love that this warning sign is in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Russian.

This beach was an important transition point for me at nineteen when I was leaving a life of clubs and parties and fashion trade school to a more quiet life, a healthier one.  Coming to this beach helped me find a new center of gravity.  Plus I just loved climbing the rocks and giving my feet sand and salt spa treatments (description of treatment below).

I dressed up in long skirts and floaty layers and stiff hot pink organza shirts with long cuffs that tied and other things the wind could grab.  I would take my shoes off and wade into the sea every single time.  It’s frigid and the sand scrubs your skin like steel wool until all the edges come off and your feet emerge like new.  I wouldn’t put my shoes back on until I left the Sea Cliff neighborhood – the sidewalks giving my feet a final polish.

The Coast Guard building still seems to be empty.  The bathrooms are open now though and I don’t think they used to be.  If I had all the money in the world and wasn’t tsunami-phobic I would buy this building for my San Francisco pied-a-terre.

The retaining walls are taller than I remembered.  I wrote an important scene in Jane Doe in which she and Isaac are sitting on the wall talking into the dusk but I see now that it has to be re-written.

Which is not a problem since I already realized the entire scene has to be ditched and rewritten from scratch.  Now when I rewrite I’ll have these pictures to help me write it with accurate detail.  It’s still an important place in the book.

Unless I decide that I was completely wrong about that too.  Maybe the reason I can’t dive back into the story is because I have to let go of China Beach in the book?

Look who’s showing off its drag-queen-pink gorgeousness.

These anemones made me think of hippie tye dyes.  The kind I hate on people but enjoy in nature.

I like rocks a lot.  I like to climb them.  I like to put small ones in my pocket.  China Beach has lots of rocks.  It also sometimes collects drinkers at night.  You are warned.

My feet loved the spa treatment.  I could have waded in the waves all day long.  But I had to go meet my friend Emma in the inner Richmond.  It just means I have to come back again soon.

The birds.  (Not seagulls)  What are pigeons doing at the beach?  I took a two minute video of some charming sandpipers wave-chasing but I can’t seem to upload it anywhere – total upload fail and I’m really bummed about that because that little video belongs right here as part of my China Beach image collection.

That’s Marin County across the way.

I’m a fan of graffiti.  (When people make an effort with it.)  This bit is new to me and I don’t mind.

We end this tour of China Beach with an artist’s rendition of a blow job.  I can’t help but think this is a blow job gone wrong – but maybe those pursed lips and sperm spray are all just part of the fun?  Maybe that’s a “fun face”?

Observe the artist’s dedication to detail and anatomical correctness.  This is impressive considering the impermanent nature of the medium.  I feel lucky to have been at the right place at the right time to get to see this.  It’s like if Andy Goldsworthy became a gay sand painter.  By today this treasure will have washed away.

It was a great trip to a favorite spot.

What Remains

Earlier:

(in my nightmares)


Parasols of specific and distinct design, navy blue capelets, old men-friends not explicit and yet not inexplicit, missing hats, new entries into China town that lead to Macy’s, lost toddlers I can’t leave parentless and adopt, Chinese salami, and tipping the hat.

My unbelievably gorgeous Chinese American friend Cam who is shocked with pleasure at the gift of half a salami.

Now:

(or, rather, much farther in the past)

I’m not sure how this has happened but suddenly I’m listening to The Pet Shop Boys “It’s A Sin” and I am on my dad’s empty wood porch on Paradise Drive eating weird frozen pastries from his freezer because I’m house sitting and have no food of my own.  I’m sixteen.  There is coffee and hairspray.  There’s dancing alone in a posh house I’ll never live in or own.  Views of the bay.  It’s not my life.

“Private Dancer” also played endlessly with the smoking ashtray.

Endless loops of “Meet the Beatles” and strange clarity about my place in the world.

It’s all of a time.

Sixteen.

I remember Paris perfume and rides in Mercedes Benz’ through the night, watching the highway speed by and knowing my life was disconnected, knowing my life was going to derail, knowing that the smell of the perfume in the night floating across the leather seats was something that would fade to myth.  It wasn’t for me.  It wasn’t even my own memory to claim and hold.  I let it go, let it aspirate into the rain streaked tarmac.

Somehow I ended up in a light filled apartment on 27th and Geary.  Years later.  It was filled with late night pattern drafting, writing desperate poetry at five in the morning, barefoot runs to China Beach where I still haunt the rocks.  You want to know me?  Go.  Go to China Beach because I’m still climbing the rocks there in my skirts and petticoats, rubbing the care from my feet in the frigid surf against the coarse sand.  It’s where I live.  Always.  I’m still there.

I made a gorgeous cornish game hen I must have tasted, though I can’t remember such taste.  I made it for the original Stallone Pantone whose magnificent nose I put in the first unpublished novel “Jane Doe”.  The game hen was perfect, and even then I hated that I’d cooked a dead bird.  It might be okay for others to do it but I knew I had a secret contract with the other beasts of the earth never to eat them and I violated it to impress a hook-nosed dark-eyed impossibly tall Italian man who told me all old women in Italy are named Angelina.

There is no more complete way to tell a girl she’s circus-ready.

I wore a thin voile dress with a slip underneath it and threw the casement windows open to let in the sultry afternoon while Besse Smith told me how much laundry made her want to kill her man (the “Laundry Blues” inaccurately interpreted by me) and I mopped my forehead with a cooling gin and tonic I wasn’t legally old enough to drink.  I was barefoot and the hardwood floors absorbed my summer skin like a virgin oiling heroes.*

The city roared through the open casement windows.  A hundred years of thick white paint cried out to be writ, to be seen, and creaked and stuck and then gave itself up to the spell of heat.  Always a breeze drifting through the apartment whether lusty and peremptory or gentle with persuasion, the air always moved across the rooms like fresh thought.

The same place was smashed by the Loma Prieta earthquake.  Everything was tossed from the cupboards and crushed across the floor in glittering mess.  Kittens huddled underneath the bed, shivering in fear.  The Cala foods across the street emptied out like a Russian breadline.  People shoved old ladies out of the way.  Once the assholes got away the rest of us out-polited each other and cried because the old girls were so scared.  Those of us not blinded by fear would have given every last can of peaches to the grandmothers who, in turn, wept with appreciation and left blessings in their paths.

I didn’t sleep for a long time.

Back then I knew I was a poet.  Back then I knew that I was going to write and carve a path of words forward that the lost would find and follow.  Back then I knew, with no doubts or false modesty, that I was going to write things that would change the world, would change people in ways they had no idea they could change.  Back then I knew I was going to be something I’ve never become.

I wasn’t a drug addict.  My brief assignation with drugs ended on my nineteenth birthday in a great dangerous debacle of misplaced trust and unremitting unbelievable stupidity I have yet to square with myself.  It was on my nineteenth birthday when I accidentally snorted large quantities of cocaine and heroine.**   I went to a club underwater and was followed relentlessly by a bald bad man who took the same muni home that I did and to this day I have no idea how I finally lost him.  I made it home safe and never did anything besides drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes again.

27th and Geary.  A magical place.  The place I learned to make rosemary polenta.  The place I finally embraced the fact that I am female.  I am not a boy.  The place I finally came to terms with my girlhood by hanging out with three heterosexual men not interested in me.  A magical time in which I haunted the old San Francisco public library card catalogs for undiscovered mysteries.  I loved the stone, the marble, the steps, the magnificent endless isles of books, records, and study corners.

It’s beautiful, this culling of memory.  This brassy etching of time, this furtive collection of images and smells.  What about Steve’s Greek Pizza with the endless loop of bird twitter, the rotisserie shaved animals, the fake grapes crawling the corners?  What about the rent boys and Jack?  What about the bath shop with those lovely packets of scented salts I thought might change the world?

The Polk Gulch.  Panhandling for 40 ouncers which made me want to retch.

Somewhere on a piece of paper I have the words in French to “La Vie En Rose” and I used to sing it to myself out loud.  I used to dream in Piaf.

I’m Bukowski after the last call has been made.

I hope I’m a little prettier.

I hope my hands look like angels.

I hope my life reads less shabby than my dreams.

Let’s speak in quiet parentheticals.  Let’s speak in boxed pasta and cheap plum wine.  Let’s speak in sea water and cigarettes.   Let’s speak in pseudo virginity and how the gorgeous bridge between us  tears like nylon gauze.

Let’s wipe the tears to the floor and take control of this ship!

You, smelling of pine and the resin of sincerity; you wreck every cover and shake down every corner of complicity.

What remains is the smell of Opium and cigarettes at the Muni stop.  What remains is a hollowed out memory of sharp collars and gay room mates.  What remains is the broken glass.  What remains is the ghost of China Beach and the skirts that dragged up the wooden stairs and slapped the pink mansion, knowing the scent there, knowing the spirit there.

What remains is the barefoot girl with the five petticoats stealing reflections in your windows.  What remains is the ghost of your girl, the memory of your sailor skirt waiting on the rocks past midnight, past drugs, past everything.  Even light.

*Okay, I rarely do this but I just have to say that I have no idea what I meant by that.  It simply came out and I’m leaving it because I like it and am intrigued and want to say it a few more times but if I erase it I will forget it and feel I’ve lost something.

**No one “accidentally” snorts drugs (just like no one smokes pot but doesn’t inhale), the “accidental” part was not knowing what I was snorting.  I thought I was snorting speed.  Not particularly noble or safe of me, yet for all I was comfortable snorting some speed back then, I would never have intentionally snorted an eightball nor done heroin in any form.  I think a true eightball is smoked.  I’m not sure it’s called that if you snort it.

Not knowing what I was snorting was entirely my fault.  No it wasn’t, it was my room mate who provided the powder but failed to disclose where he got it until afterwords.

UPDATE: a good friend of mine pointed out that an eightball is a large amount of drugs.  This is true, it can refer to an amount, but way back when I told someone about what happened and about the experience and they called it an eightball.  The slang dictionary gives three different definitions for it and they seem to hinge on how you write it:  eight ball, eight-ball, eightball.  Anyway, for your interest I submit my source:  Drug Slang Dictionary

The 2 am Club of Future Saints

It wasn’t beauty radiating in the 2am strobe lights where darkness lives a half life.  It wasn’t the youthful potential of generals and maidens lining up with mugshots, front and center, waiting for discovery of greatness.  It was the great trawling of hopeless souls into one net where drink, madness, and syringes punctured each other relentlessly.  It wasn’t beauty that drove souls to the last bus on 7th and Market where the homeless rub wooden beads obsessively before handing them to strangers for luck.

It wasn’t about beauty, and it wasn’t about hope either.  In a soup of crying and gutting skin there was so little hope that the hallways buzzed cold florescent and bore witness to more than one assault.  The grimy dark carpet resonated with a thousand Bukowskian nights gone wrong, gone sideways into one kind of prostitution or another.  It was witness to the shy building blocks of dreams come riding through impossible dust, across a desert of silence, from as far as the terrible Dakotas to the Barbary coast of ghosts.

No need to call home.  It wasn’t about who you left behind, it was about who you saw dying in the cold stone church corners, godless and shoeless near the curb.  No one asked who your mother was but everyone wanted to know where you found your stones of faith and where you bought your suicide knife, because we were all waiting for it.

No one asked who hit you.  No one asked who molested you.  No one asked who attacked you under your skin and tore your arteries to useless ribbons.  They all waited to see your blood under the bridge.  They all waited to see you bleed again because people like them, people like us, it’s what we do.  Wait long enough and it will come like a flood down scarred skin.  Under the bridge or in the derelict parking lot against broken windshields and excavated tires, this Jesus of your imagination is the one holding a knife to the fragile throats of tomorrow’s poets and artists.

It wasn’t beauty running in rivulets onto asphalt; oiling and coagulating simultaneously.  It wasn’t beauty ringing bells for the 2am club of future saints.  Beauty doesn’t sit on Polk Street begging money for forty ouncers of Olde English.  Beauty doesn’t cling to a Byron-esque dissipation without taking, first, pledges for complete ruin.

It wasn’t conventional beauty, it was something more magnificent and fragile.  It was about seeing underneath the skin of people.   It was about never letting go of the wooden homeless man’s gift of beads at 2am in San Francisco because he thought you needed them more than him: a man with nothing else on earth to give.  There is no memory of his skin, of his origin, of his mother, of his sexual predilections, there was only his ability to see right through skin to the heart and his ability to give away the only thing he had of value to a gutted poet who was old at seventeen and half dead already.

It wasn’t about beauty.  It was about something more powerful than beauty.

It was about love.