The sun’s streaming in through the open window, outside it’s pretending to be summer. That is until the afternoon fog rolls in and then you’ll be thinking that you’re in Siberia. The tourists that are stuck out there on Fisherman’s Wharf today will be busy buying up “souvenir” sweatshirts in an effort to stave off the cold, wondering what happened to the California weather. All the winos on Sixth Street huddling in doorways know better than to venture out in just a t-shirt, once you get used to living here you hardly ever leave the house without a jacket.
Outside my apartment I can hear a million TV sets blaring, the Italians just won the World Cup. Downstairs someone screams, sort of in agony it sounds like, maybe just another shattered dream. Nextdoor there’s a woman crying, two years ago I had another neighbor that cried all night long like this one does. She disappeared one day, replaced by the old man who eventually died. I swear I’m beginning to think that apartment’s cursed.
Been inside all day: watching the game, writing emails, talking on the phone, listening to my neighbors scream and cry and yell and stomp their feet. Listening to the sirens go by, listening to the traffic on the street, staring at the computer screen, thinking about gettin something to eat. So I grab my jacket and head out, down Third Street, towards downtown as the sun shines and people walk around aimlessly as if they got nowhere to be. Crossing Harrison Street the dust from the bridge construction blows into my eyes and I cough. It’s the same cough that I’ve had for months now, like a smoker’s cough, deep down in my chest the bridge’s demolition dust lays. This neighborhood’s truly trying to kill me in more ways than one.
Two winos sit on the sidewalk sharing a bottle by the fountain on Folsom Street, two cops waltz slowly over, one with a radio in hand, the other adjusts his sunglasses before enquiring whether or not they’re celebrating Italy’s recent victory by having a drink. The two winos stare at him like he’s insane, getting up to move away, further down the block toward the bridge where it’s safer to drink in public.
Cutting through Yerba Buena Gardens I’m besieged by marauding groups of grey haired old ladies clutching folded lawn chairs and large cumbersome purses. A sign proclaiming a concert for seniors partially blocks my way as I take the side path circumventing the meadow and avoiding the rest of the people milling about in front of the makeshift stage. Standing on the sidewalk, peering into the crowds of old folks, like she’s looking for someone, stands this beautiful girl dressed in black. Her head shaved on one side, on the other a shock of black hair hangs down threatening to cover her face. She holds this back with one hand staring at the faces that pass by. “Lost something?” I ask her. She ignores me, waving to someone behind me, rewarding me with a bewildered glance tossed off in my direction before walking rather wobbly in stiletto high heels onto the grass.
The mothership Apple store on Stockton and Market looms up in front of me and because it’s Sunday and I’ve got shit all to do I go inside and play with the laptops. Funny, I just left my laptop not twenty minutes ago and now here I am inside again fingering the keyboards, logging onto gmail, caressing the fine lines that make up the MacBook Pros. Slipping next to me, a black clad salesman/laptop pimp whispers sweet nothings in my ear: free nano iPod, two hundred dollars off for students, discounts on software, free printer. I get a little shaky, I almost drool, so I slip out the door before I embarrass myself, before I throw down a credit card or pawn my future first born son.
There are so many people out on the street, shopping bags in hand, women with exposed navels everywhere I look. Even the hotdog stand’s got a line in front of it as the vendor slings brightly colored condiments and wraps the dogs up in white paper to go. A small kid tries to shove one into his mouth, gripping the bun too tight, the hotdog flies out just missing my leg. The kid stares at me like it was my fault and then down at his hotdog as it lays in a pool of ketchup on the sidewalk, the tears starting to well up in his eyes. However this moment is a little too touching and picturesque for me so instead of taking the time to explain to this little kid that life sucks and that’s why you lost your hotdog, I turn and walk down the block towards some overpriced clothing stores in search of what I don’t know. But I am only too sure that I will when I see it.
Ten minutes later, deep in the bowels of some “alternative” clothing conglomerate, I see the coolest pair of black jeans. Peg-legged, cut to fit, overpriced, with a button fly – I’m in there. Taking a pair to the fitting room I’m face to face with the clerk who after seeing the jeans that I’m carrying says, “Those pants are going to make your thighs look fabulous.” Standing in the fitting room, with the door closed, the pants on, staring in the mirror at my thighs. I’m really not too sure how I feel about him saying that to me, I’m really not too sure that I like the idea of someone visualizing my thighs in these jeans or even the ones that I had on when I came in. Although I gotta admit that these jeans do make my legs look like skinny little junkie legs, peg-legged, tight to the ankles. Sorta like the kind I wore years ago, another life, another time. Taking the pants to the counter I pay the salesgirl. She asks me what I’m doing later, I don’t know what to say. “Staring at my thighs,” I tell her and then clutching the bag that she gives me I walk out the door into the sunlight.
Laid out in front of me, Powell Street’s a solid mass of humanity, half the world seems to be lined up waiting to ride San Francisco’s famous cable cars. Standing, tickets in hand, at the front of the line is a group of tourists dressed in t-shirts and shorts, cameras slung around their necks. Fanny packs ride their hips, stomachs protrude over belt buckles, exposed white skin glows. This is how they get stuck over there on Fisherman’s Wharf. Ride the cable cars over the hill, the fog abruptly rolls in, the return cable car ride suddenly resembles the evacuation of Saigon: Tourists clamoring to get onto the cars as the temperature drops and the wind starts to howl. It’s no mystery why once you get there you see shop after shop of souvenir clothing stores that sell nothing but hooded sweatshirts and sweat pants that say San Francisco on them.
Crossing Market Street I avoid the insipid Scientologists by going back around in front of the hotdog stand. Almost like a case of road kill, the hotdog that the kid had tried to assault me with earlier in the day is now completely smashed into the sidewalk, its pink insides smushed flat, the bun nonexistent.
Somewhere behind me I can hear a guy asking for spare change; the radio at the shoeshine stand blasts out a familiar jazz beat. Holding my bag I make the crosswalk just as the light turns yellow, veering diagonally through the intersection, calculating the timing it’ll take to get between the two buses that are going in opposite directions, hoping that that cab sees me. Opening my eyes I step onto the curb, turn onto Fourth Street and walk past the hotel doorman who’s hailing cabs. I got the feeling that I should be getting home right now, there’s a lot I gotta do, there’s something that I need to write.