Why is it that when we do things differently the world around us tends to get upset or at the very least a bit put out? Is it that the rhythm of the universe feels that everything is perfect just as it is and why are we rocking the boat of normalcy with undue stress by daring to do things a little differently? Though of course as you all know, I’m guilty of denouncing change myself, even if it may be of an infinitesimally smaller concern than that of the cosmos. Like the new mechanical entrance apparatuses that adorn the front door of my apartment building, and let’s not forget the time when the locals decorated my car’s bumper with, well, bits of their personal refuse I guess you’d call it and I really wasn’t too pleased with that new addition either. So I guess inadvertently I just answered my own questions as I am obviously culpable of the same stagnated behaviors.
However in the name of change a recent new frontier for me is going to the gym to exercise on a regular basis and having to deal with the people there when I am already feeling quite out of place and not in what psychologists would refer to as “my comfort zone.” And while my distress isn’t just a sense of insecurity from having to rub shoulders amongst the financially solvent, who obviously have never had a dark day in their entire lifetimes and if they did it was suffering from a nasty hangnail or the Mercedes was in the shop and the loaner car was a slightly dented Volkswagen Jetta, it is from attempting something new. And everything and everyone is ostensibly viewed as a contradictory element while I try and decide if this is truly something that I want to do or just a whim of stupidity that will run its natural course and then fade away.
Consequently last Monday night after work I was determined to go to the gym and even though it had been an extremely hard day at the insane asylum, I begrudgingly walked over the two blocks to what I now refer to as – my gym. And while walking across the little park out front I happened to look up and in all the windows were sweaty agonized faces set atop bopping bodies that were trudging along on exercise bikes and treadmills and somewhere in the back of my mind the thought arose that there seemed to be a lot of people at my gym tonight! But still I went in and after showing my membership ID I asked for a towel and the attendant said “sorry we’re out!” Yet even faced with the queasy prospect of having to deal with gallons of un-mopped up perspiration I still went upstairs and as I had already suspected the god damn place was full, and I do mean full, of all these people working out and every one of them had on matching track suits and little gymnast gloves without the fingers and in a spastic fit of wanting to not feel out of place I turned and walked into the weight room to have a look around. And unbelievably it was worse than I had already suspected as every bench, every weight and every conceivable bit of floor space was being taken up by somebody or another lifting weights or standing in front of the full length mirrors watching themselves workout.
All in all it was a pretty horrific sight to behold, and swallowing hard I finally mustered up enough nerve to venture near the weight racks where the undulating mass of humanity grew denser as herds of stick-thin girls grabbed dumbbells in agile rapture and a smiling dude in horn-rimmed glasses pirouetted by in shorts that were so short that they were exposing copious amounts of boney white legs and I sort of thought that if these idiots could do it, especially dressed the way that most of them were, then so could I. Which unfortunately instead of giving me that camaraderie “we’re all in this together” feeling made me even more self-conscious, and I flinched as people were brushing against me and so quickly turned around and in the hopes of finding some uninhabited space I wandered over into the Nautilus room—where there were even more people. And right about then I got this sensation that I was being watched and as I fiddled with the earphones to my iPod I looked up into the eyes of this extremely muscle bound Amazonian woman as she was giving me what I felt was that “come-hither-little-boy-want-some-candy” kinda look and that was it for me. So like the manly man that I am I turned and ran screaming out of the building into the cold night feeling like an escapee from Devil’s Island who instead of choosing death was making that last bid for freedom!
Only now here I was self exiled to the streets where a few drops of rain were beginning to fall, and correct me if I’m wrong here, but wasn’t I paying a monthly membership fee so that I could exercise in My Gym? Obviously something wasn’t right and unfortunately I was getting the distinct impression that it was me! Ok, so I’m a little self-conscious; Ok, so I’m a lot self-conscious! Was that any reason for me to just go home and sit in my tiny one room apartment allowing my mind to be invaded by monetary calculations of adding and subtracting monthly gym dues as opposed to time actually spent there, minus the more than a few times that I’ve gone but turned around and left after a few minutes of trying to contain an agonizing sensation of exhibitionism, juxtaposed to the actual times where I’ve spent more than an hour working out. And then of course I’ve got to add in all the occasions that I’ve casually mentioned to friends and family that I now go to the gym, which is worth every penny just to see the expression on their faces.
Yet none the less, fees paid or not, I was outside on the sidewalk and I wanted to do something, anything, athletic like or at least some such cardiovascular inclined exercises. So feeling more than a little exasperated I started to walk aimlessly in the direction of the baseball stadium and about four blocks into this walking thing the rain started drizzling in earnest and I had to pull on my hood to keep my head dry. While at the next intersection the traffic light was about to change and instead of having to stand there exposed to the elements I sprinted across the street and yes, an actual thought was born: Why don’t I jog for a bit?
Ok, so maybe you saw that coming? But in all actuality I didn’t, as I’ve never even entertained the idea of jogging or even running for a bus. As running was something that you just didn’t do because as we all know there is just no way to look cool running; nevertheless, forsaking any reasonable sense of self-image that I had left I ran! I ran for ten solid blocks, I ran until my lungs felt like they were going to burst and as I turned the corner onto the Embarcadero I had to slow down a bit as all the air I was sucking in felt really cold and I was sweating profusely and it was wet and freezing outside and my first thought was – you’re gonna die! I mean talk about your recipe for pneumonia! Never ran before, dressed in light sweats for working out in the gym, but now soaking wet and wheezing like a black lung victim coming outta the coalmine in West Virginia for the last time!
Yet for some unknown reason I knew that I shouldn’t stop, well, I had to ease my stride a ways, but I didn’t hesitate and grab my chest and pray that I was gonna make it through this ordeal like I wanted to and because I knew that I was a long way from home I had to at least get within a few blocks radius before I collapsed on the street in a shivering heap. And why was I thinking like this? I’m not too sure? It’s just this overwhelming feeling that I had at the time which might have been some sort of explosion of thought from an overdose of oxygen to a brain that was getting ventilated for the first time in a very long time, or ever for that matter!
And with a new-found resolve I resumed my sprinting with a medium paced gait and navigating the haphazardly stray bits of nighttime traffic and the miscellaneous pedestrian that was impeding my way I returned to Third Street and started the journey home. And in no time at all I was within a block of the freeway and I could see a crowd of the regular street folk out in front of Jack’s Liquors as they were buying their supplies before seeking shelter from the night’s storm. And as I came running up all red faced and out of breath looking like a heart attack victim, half of them looked up in horror as the other half was busy scanning the street behind me looking for the reason that I was running. So in a cautionary attempt not to frighten them any further, I slowed down and walked up calm and unhurried amid a lot of questions and quizzical looks.
“Ya’ll rite man?”
“Who’s chasing ya?”
“Here, take a hit-o-this beer ya look like sheet!”
“Fool keep that up he gonna die!”
Fortunately I was too winded to say anything, and to tell you the truth I really didn’t know what to say anyway. It wasn’t like saying that I’m jogging was gonna make a whole hell of a lot a sense to these people as they pretty much held the same opinions that I’d had about the merits of running. So I just waved them off and headed to my apartment building at a slow trot hoping that the elevator was there awaiting me in the lobby with its doors opened invitingly wide.
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Tuesday, March 1st, 2005 at
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It used to be that when I was outside walking along and somebody was intently engaged in a conversation with themselves that I would try not to stare at them, but usually did anyway, and depending on the serious urgency in which they were involved, I would either smile to myself knowing that: a.) they were insane but harmless, or b.) completely out of their minds and convinced that they were receiving instructional radio waves from outer space. Only in the really severe cases, where a lot of violent gesturing was being exhibited and the dialog was of the “I’m gonna kill you” variety, did I then give them a wide berth and make sure that they had in fact really passed by instead of sneaking back around behind me for an unprovoked attack from the rear.
Of course these days one can’t just dismiss anyone as crazy when they are talking to themselves because nine out of ten times, if you look closely, there’s either a little black wire running down their jacket’s front from an earpiece that’s connected to their cell phone. Or they turn their head and they’ve got that full-on operator’s headset with the extended microphone sticking out like they’re up on stage lip-synching. And all modesty aside, it seems that just being on the telephone gives them an excuse to talk about any personal subject that they want. After all just because their out and about in public and we happened to be forced to share the very same space as they do doesn’t mean a damn thing to them other than another human being is taking up the air that they were meant to be breathing.
Yet my most recent and hopefully my last ride on public transit consisted of what you might call a duet of the old and the new. For as usual I was sitting all the way in the back of the bus with the regular group of misfits and degenerates, the younger of which were busying themselves writing hieroglyphics across every available flat surface with these giant black felt tip markers. While the gentleman seated directly across the aisle from me was slowly inebriating himself with a very large bottle of beer and indulging in a conversation with no one in particular. But still it was quite animated and even though he’d pause now and then for a drink of his beer he’d go right back to making his point of view known to whoever it was that he was talking to.
“They can’t do this to me god damn it! Not after 20 years of givin’ money away, they can’t just cut me off!”
And yes, I had looked to see if he indeed did have a cell phone or one of those headphone contraptions. But as I had already suspected he didn’t and seeing as we were way out in the outer Mission riding on the number 14 bus, where a lot of people tend to either talk to themselves or scream at people that they don’t even know, not a whole lot of people riding along with us paid him much mind, even when he was impulsively shouting out almost in pain over his perceived injustices.
“Only get 800 a month, it’s not a lot, but it’s all I mother fuckin’ got!”
Having sputtered out that last statement, he was immediately cut short because we were then all of us holding on for dear life as the bus driver swerved sharply to the right to gain the curb lane so that he could dislodge a few passengers at the next stop, and as we were all then busy coming up off of the floor or righting ourselves in our seats a woman came running up banging on the bus’s side in hopes that the driver wouldn’t do his usual routine and take off in her face, and as she got on she was rather busy talking on her cell phone and seeing as all the seats at the front of the bus were full she was compelled to walk down the aisle toward the rear and take a seat about halfway between the backdoor and the actual back of the bus where I and the mumbling beer drinker were seated amongst the young graffiti artists. And yeah, she was sort of dressed nice except she had one of those hairdos that must take a few days to construct as it was going around in more than a few directions and this one braid was either orbiting the rest of her head or it had somehow gotten lose and was trying to find its way home. But still it looked like she had a large antenna sticking haphazardly out, though if she did it wasn’t working properly because she was talking so loud on that damn phone of hers as if the person on the other end couldn’t hear her. And it was pretty obnoxious even if you weren’t listening to the conversation.
“No babe, I gotta go ta da doctor agin! If’n dey do’na drain um dey keep gittin’ lahja!”
However semi-intriguing as that last statement was it didn’t leave me really wanting to know anymore, but from her earnest intent I was thoroughly convinced that I was in for a lot more information than I had ever wanted to know about what this woman was gonna have drained and why!
“Nah, I gotz ’em onna ma azz and inna ma nay nay!”
This was already starting to sound really bad, yet the bus was only just crossing 25th Street and it was miles until I was gonna be able to get off on Third and walk the rest of my way home!
“Ma nay nay! Ya knows, ma cooz!”
Ok, so if it was me talking away like that, and believe me it wouldn’t be, because for some strange reason I get all self-conscious just saying “I love you” in public to my sister in New York City when she calls and I happen to be strolling down Market Street or busy buying CDs in the Haight and I actually decide to answer my cell phone. But here was a woman describing some sort of oozing protuberances on her private parts yet she couldn’t just say my “Love Canal” or spell out V-A-G-I-N-A, so that we could all just breathe easier and go on with our lives and be able to think of something other than her inner regions. Only she had to use cute yet obscure names for her reproductive organs so that even whoever she was talking to couldn’t quite comprehend what it was that she was yammering on about.
“Sump’in ta do wit har falcules ‘n press-per-a-shun!”
And it was at this point that I almost pulled the “let me off at the next stop” cable that was hanging somewhat attached to the side of the bus above the window. Yet the next statement that I heard wasn’t about coozes and just the idea of the impending mix that was on its way kept me glued to my seat because this was going to a rather strange combination of one sided conversations if it continued.
“Fucked me real good in the ass!”
“Nah baby, if’n I do’na go I might x-plode down air!”
“Waited until I was fifty five and then they reamed me good they did!”
“Ah babe, I can still hav sex!”
“No Vaseline either the bastards!”
“Nah, I do’na thank it’s a munich-a-ble.”
Its moments like these that I’m only too glad that I actually do own an automobile, no matter how decrepit it is, and I don’t have to rely on public transportation to navigate my way around the city streets. Though there was a fleeting moment of thinking that I’d better take this woman and wrap her in plastic to protect my tattered upholstery and then drive her to the nearest clinic before we all ended up getting the ooze!
“Wah da ya mean ya ain’t cummin’ ova ta-nite!”
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Monday, February 21st, 2005 at
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I came home tonight to Tony, my landlord, and Tony his assistant, known respectively as Big and Little Tony; as they were busy yelling at some rather large yet forlorn crackhead who was trying to gain entrance to my building by slamming his head into the glass front door and screaming – “Lemme in!”
Of course Tony, Big and Little, were inside of the building standing on the lobby stairs while both of them were shouting something warm and heartfelt no doubt. But luckily I couldn’t hear either of them because unluckily I was outside standing on the sidewalk behind mister crackhead and here in lies the rub! What am I suppose to do with our newly installed security system when there’s a, well, a crackhead in the ointment, so to speak? It wasn’t like I really wanted to overexert myself by brushing aside the poor miscreant and key in my building code with one hand as with the other I run interference keeping him at bay and then once safely inside close the door in his face! And standing outside in the cold after a hard day of diligent drudgery while this pathetic story unfolds itself was not my idea of an entirely good use of my quality free time either.
And sure in reality I could have just as easily smacked him on the head or beat him to the ground which upon doing so I’m only too sure that Tony and Tony would have then given me my very own key to the laundry room or repainted my bathroom in any shade or hue that I wanted. But does that really do any good and do I really want to get involved in what is obviously a private property dispute and actually its not my property and I really don’t see the advantage of keeping out one aimless dope fiend when the whole building is populated with such! And besides unlike the Tonys who seem to go around in packs I gotta walk these streets alone at all hours of the night and day and the last thing I need is an upset drug addict who’s nursing hurt feelings seeking to extract a vendetta against me or my pitiable car!
Meanwhile inside the lobby I could see a small crowd of my fellow tenants gathering behind Big Tony as Little Tony turns and bounds up the stairs on his way to calling the cops and as the front windows were starting to steam up a bit from their collective breaths I buttoned my coat to ward off the cold night air and said “Ah, excuse me but could you go bang your head down the street? I need to get inside to go home and you’re blocking the door, besides they’re just gonna throw you back out even if you do make it inside before the cops come.”
And you know? I always tend to forget that spastic fiending crackheads are not beings of logic!
“Youse gots sum muny man!” He said as he turned around to face me. “Cuz I needs a few dallar! Youse live here, youse musta gots sum muny!”
And sure I suppose to the untrained eye of a homeless indigent dope smoker that my state of the art single occupancy efficiency unit apartment building looks a lot more hospitable then it is. Though why he didn’t just wander his jonesing ass over two blocks to the luxury condominiums with all the BMWs parked out front and press his little battered face against their glass walled foyer and ask for money I’ll never know? But the fact remains that he hadn’t and I was still nowhere nearer to getting home and I was either going to have to risk an infectious rabid crackhead bite as I rushed the front door or I was gonna stand out here twiddling my thumbs until the cops came and we both knew that that wasn’t going to be anytime soon! Yet what I was really impressed by was the fact that my landlord and about five other cowering tenants all saw the predicament that I was in dealing with this crackhead, who was now sprawled on the ground in front of the door and seeing that did nothing other than stare out at the two of us as I calmly tried in vain to negotiated my entrance into the building.
“Doh’n I knows youse?”
“Surely my good man, you jest!” But after I had said that I noticed that he indeed did look a tad familiar. Though for some reason I find that most dissidents of the streets tend to look a bit like someone that I know or knew to be more precise. But then maybe anybody would look like an old acquaintance of mine if they were covered in grim and lying at the curb. And amazingly just then a black and white squad car pulled into the alley from off of Third Street and while the vehicle was still grinding to a halt in front of me the passenger side door flew open and a large overly buff police officer bounds over towards us holding a flashlight like a club and asks me “Is this man bothering you?”
And what am I going to say to that? Yes officer, please bludgeon him to a bloody pulp with your mag-lite and then drag the carcass away so that I may enter my humble abode as I am late for my mindless TV show and scrumptious frozen dinner! But instead I just looked at this cop whose obviously a lot younger than me and said: “You know! I just don’t know what this city is coming to? I’m a tax payer who pays your salary and this man gets to sleep for free on my public sidewalk! Now why don’t you just shoot the miserable bastard like you guys usually do and let me be on my way!”
And you know? I always tend to forget that angry steroid enhanced 24 year old corn fed police officers are not beings of logic! Or in possession of a sense of humor either!
“Sir, would you please stand over here and show me some identification?”
Me show him some identification?
This was not working out. Here I was tired and really just wanting to go upstairs to my little apartment and instead of aggressively expediting the situation I had passively waited it out and somehow I was becoming the victim, if there was one in all this, and now I was going to have to provide some sort of identification to this neanderthal of a cop. Who was then going to run my name through the various legal systems looking for warrants and needless to say my past criminal history was gonna come popping up like the reoccurring bad dream that it was and somehow just because I got a big smartass mouth I was gonna be the one catching the flack tonight!
Except that fortunately as providence would have it both of the Tonys as well as a few of my fellow tenants actually came out from the relative safety of the lobby to attempt my rescue; and after forcefully shoving the front door open to dislodge the then totally prone crackhead they precariously advanced on the cops and demanded to know why they were harassing me, one of the building’s better residents, while the offending culprit that they had called them about was being ignored and allowed to continue blocking their lobby’s entrance? Of course this open display of such an obtrusive disregard for authority immediately put the cops on the defensive; where they then responded by saying that they’d been called about a man brandishing a deadly weapon and if there wasn’t one found that either someone had some explaining to do or they were gonna search everyone present until they were satisfied that there wasn’t a weapon in someone’s possession!
And in the ensuing turmoil I calmly watched mister crackhead get up and dust himself off as he then turned around and slowly wandered back down the alley disappearing into the dark of the night. Because obviously he wasn’t the main focus anymore – I was. And it was with a bit of reluctance that I started to comply with the policeman’s demands as he told me to put my hands on the vehicle and spread my legs. Where he then roughly patted me down for “weapons” while the contents of my pockets were strewn across the car’s hood in front of me to be carefully examined by the other officer. And as I had feared the eventual report from police headquarters via their radio confirmed that I was in fact a former member of America’s most wanted. Which elicited a million questions – such as: Was I still on parole? When was the last time that I’d been arrested? Does my landlord know that I’m a convicted felon? And so on and so on until I was certainly getting bored if not a bit obstinate, yet I had gotten the point that was obviously being made, which was: Don’t be such a shit disturber!
Ultimately however it wasn’t until an hour later that I finally got home to my apartment, exhausted and mentally trying to decipher if there was indeed a lesson to be learned in all this, and in the end if there was one to be learned – did I?
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Wednesday, February 16th, 2005 at
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