Thursday, December 31, 2009

Respect at the Age of 45

I regret to report that the #1 stall in the men’s bathroom on the first floor was out of toilet paper this morning. I didn’t discover this until the end of my morning bowel movement. Like all people stuck in this situation, I scoured the empty toilet paper role(s) for remnants, rifled my pockets for discarded tissues and even searched the floor for bathroom reading material: sports page, SF Weekly, etc - anything that could take the place of toilet paper. Nothing. I pondered my options but I knew what I had to do.

Like a ladle dipping into a well, I lowered my hand into the water of freshly clean toilet bowl. I splashed water on the soiled areas until the grimy texture gave way to fresh skin. I retracted my hand and held it over the floor, careful not to drip water from the bowl on my trousers. I pondered my options again. This wasn’t over.

I could wait for my hand and buttocks to air dry, but that would take too long. Keenly relying on my second sense, I listened for approaching footsteps in the hallway. Silence. The bathroom was empty; I made my move.

With my pants straddling by ankles, I broke for the next stall. The thought of toilet paper outweighing the chance of getting caught with my pants down. Success. Clean.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How cool would it be to get into a fistfight in a used bookstore with a guy that looked like Spencer from the Hills?

I opened the door to the punch line: “It was an adverb not an adjective.” The balding, never-left college man behind the counter let out a belly laugh and his co-worker, a diminutive woman with cat-eye glasses and a threadbare cotton t-shirt, chuckled, proud that her joke went over so well. Like all successful jokes she repeated the punch line: “It wasn’t an adjective.” 3 deep in line, the customers were privy to the joke, either giving a short courtesy laugh or nod that said “I got it.” I looked at all 5 and regretted leaving Border’s. I was out of my element and on the run.

It was a used bookstore in a college town. What did I want? The aisles were narrow and errant paperbacks were stacked vertically along the base of the shelves like molding. There were a handful of people in the store and we were all jockeying for position in the fiction section.

I wanted the book Middlesex by an author I couldn’t remember, but there was no way in hell I was going to ask the 2 behind the counter who wrote it. Even though the book was approved by the used bookstore intelligentsia and the subject matter was titillating and could be used as liberal leverage at parties or poetry readings, I was afraid that just asking a question would spawn conversation about books and I didn’t want that. I decided to go it alone, starting in the “A” aisle. It had a familiar cover and was popular book, so it wouldn’t be that hard to find.

It didn’t’ start well. Next to me was a guy in a Strand t-shirt, the CBGB’s of used bookstores. I glared at him and thought: “We get it, dude. You like books.” He bugged me already.

Since there was a little room to move past the book browsers, I bunny hopped sections, going around the back of the bookshelves. Ending up in the “S” section, I had yet to find the book and had already written it off. My eyes darted from book to book, mindlessly wandering the mosaic of fonts and colors that were in front of me, wasting time until my exit.

Two students passed behind me, parking themselves in the “P” section. I caught the tail end of their conversation: “Fuck’em if he was offended. He didn’t move,” he proudly boasted. He was young, good looking, taught and tanned. He had that rich-boy look that was intimidating and that said “Don’t fuck with me, I have something to prove.” I gave him a lot of space.

Pulling a book of the shelf, his friend appeared to be the opposite of him: mousy and non-descript with a best-friend-never-a-girlfriend vibe. It was easy to see that she pinned over him and was too dumb to notice or didn’t care.

“Have you ever heard of her?” thrusting the binding of the book toward his face.

“No, contrary to popular belief,” he said, “I’m not that well read. Who is she?”

What a dick, I thought.

She continued, “Well, she was a woman that was married to an abusive man. She killed herself. I like poetry like that.”

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I'm in Michigan

See ya in a week

Thursday, July 16, 2009

An Arbitrary Admission of Adolescence

By the time we got to Minneapolis, the word was out; at least our booking agent Ellen knew about it.

We were drunk - really drunk when some kid interviewed us for a local fanzine in St. Louis. We never thought that it would be published and distributed by the time we reached Minneapolis and, we assumed, no one would read it. Regardless, what did we say that was so bad or offensive? I found out it wasn’t what we said, it was what I said.

I wouldn’t have remembered if it wasn’t for the interview. It slowly came back to me - the sloppy grade school-like photo of both bands with beers in hands and over animated expressions, and all the responses to questions starting with, “Dude!” It reeked of intoxication.

And there it was, like big zit on your nose on a date, at the end of the interview: “Duuuude, I had sex before masturbating. I attribute this to my well being high school.” It came out of nowhere – an arbitrary admission that had nothing to do with the interview. It was like standing up in class announcing that you’re gay.

The admission was met with a chorus of “Bullllshiiiiit!”

Ellen asked me if it was true. Supporting the interview, I responded, “Yes. I attribute this to my well being in high school.” I’m not sure how this little anomaly is serving me in adulthood.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Picture of Freedom

My new symbol. When you think of me, think of this:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Where the Doctors and Lawyers are Poor

While sitting in the bar area of the lodge of the fanciest ranch in Montana, the bartender asked, “Are you guys a flight crew?” IT was the oddest question and was said with such sincerity that it couldn’t be a joke. Just by the looks of us, it should’ve been obvious that none of us could fly a plane, let alone be trusted with one. We were not of this ilk.

“No, we’re the band,” we responded, wide eyed with bewilderment.

Realizing we had no idea why he asked us if we were pilots, he cleared things up: “Sorry, a lot of the guests’ flight crews stay here.”

“So, you mean people fly here in private jets?”

“Oh yeah, most people do.”

“Really? Wow!”

"Yeah, this is a place where Doctors and Lawyers are considered poor."

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

You’re Like All Dads

I mean, come on, wouldn’t you be pissed if your dad distracted you from your Wii game and you lost because of it? I sure would. And wouldn’t you want to challenge him to a game and say, “I want to kill you at this?” Sounds pretty reasonable to me. Luckily I wasn’t the dad or I’d feel completely different.

While the 9 year old cooled down in the living room, my head laid against the shoulder of their dog. The dog didn’t seem to mind and it was quite relaxing. Testing out my pre-teen whisperer skills, I tested the tumultuous waters, offering her a spot next to me on the dog’s stomach. I was trying to be the cool dad or, more like, the cool friend of the dad. We would talk it out and everything would be alright. Fantasy, right?

Appearing to calm down a bit, she moved to lie down. Feeling pretty good about my parenting skills, I said in a loving manner, “Put your big head here,” gesturing to the dog’s stomach. She abruptly stopped and gave me a menacing look: “Big head? You’re like all dads.” And she stormed off.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Sign Replacement Program

A few years back I started the Sign Replacement Program at work. The concept was simple: replace hand written notes on poles, walls and doors of rooms in hotels in the Tenderloin and replace them the next day with type written, cleaned up versions of the original note. For Example: “Iron Broad For Sale, $10, nock on #223” would be replaced with “Ironing Board For Sale, $10, Knock on Room #223.” I would set it to fancy type and maybe even throw in a graphic. I would keep the original and we’d call it even.

The program came to an abrupt end when a co-worker was chased down 3 flights of stairs for stealing a note from Tenderloin hotel door that said “Don’t even think about knokking (sic) or will be boxxing (sic).” This was a very common note on TL doors (don’t knock) except for the boxing part. After this incident, I suspended the program.

Last week I was walking back to work after lunch and saw this young, junkie, homeless guy posting a note on a security gate next to a tranny hotel. He didn’t have tape so he finagled a rubberband around the joints of the security gate to hold the note in place. Given the look of the guy, it had to say something good.

I milled behind him, acting like I was either waiting for a ride or intently interested in something going on across the street, waiting for a glimpse of the note. I finally got a glance: “Suicide NOW, Do Not Wait.” What the hell does that mean?

I ran back to work and announced that the Sign Replacement Program was back in business. I went to my computer and typed, “Suicide NOW!!! Don’t Wait!!” When I returned, he was gone. I took the note and replaced it with the new and improved note.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Jimmy Gestapo

An RV careened into the expansive parking lot, swerving left and right in a playful manner due to the amount of space. We could see the driver through the windshield and he had a big smile on his face. Counting our van, there were only 2 vehicles in the lot - the RV was the third. It came to an abrupt stop near the entrance of the hall. Figuring it was Murphy’s Law, we stopped what we were doing and eyeballed the side door of the RV, anticipating its opening.

Jimmy Gestapo was the first to exit, dangling a six-pack of beer by the plastic rings. Like a castaway on the ocean finally reaching land, he hastily distanced himself from the RV, throwing his hands in the air as if to say, “Finally, we fuckin made it.” Hours of driving will do this.

Harley was the next to exit. Just as notorious Gestapo - more for being 12 years old when he played drums for the Stimulators - he rolled out with a bottle of Jack Daniels in his left hand and a small 1-12 bass combo amp in the other. I had seen him when he was all of 14 at the On-Broadway in San Francisco. Full of confidence and bravado, he was in the audience leaning against the stage, hanging with San Francisco’s punk elite.

We cautiously walked over and introduced ourselves as the opening band, Short Dogs Grow. Gestapo was the opposite of his name: goofy, funny and slapdash, offering all of us beers. He said they had plenty more in their band rider.

Turning toward his band, who were exiting the RV, Gestapo, in the thickest of thick Brooklyn accents, he said, “Hey Guys, it’s fuckin’ Short Dogs Grow, fuckin’ Short Dogs Grow!” They ignored him. Harley walked over and stood by him, saying nothing and looked very intimidating. He continued, “It’s fuckin’ Short Dogs Grow, I love that name. Yabba Dabba Do!” His band mates were ignoring him but we were eating it up.

Judging by our perplexed expressions when he said the out-of-place “Yabba Dabba Do,” he explained that they had come from Jellystone Park. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a tchoski from Jellystone. As the night progressed, he revealed more and more Jellystone memorabilia.

Looking at their RV, I noticed that most of the bottom half the body had deep scratches from cutting corners too close. Gestapo saw me looking at the RV and said, “Yeah, we used that (RV) to tour with the Beastie Boys. We opened for them on a stadium tour across the country. They gave us new equipment – Marshall Stacks – and by the time we reached LA we had lost it all. Now we play with these small amps,” looking down at the combo amp that was now on the ground next to Harley; his other hand still gripping a Jack Daniels bottle. You would have to assume that alcohol had something to do with the damage to the RV and losing their equipment.

At the end of the night, we said our goodbyes to Murphy’s Law. Careening out of the parking lot in their banged up RV, they ran over a parking block. The vehicle swerved and lurched to one side, but the brake lights never appeared. I looked at Tom, smiled and said, “Fuckin’ Short Dogs Grow. Yabba Dabba Do.”

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Black Flag Kills Roaches

The glory days of punk were over and so were they. With songs like “Slip It In” and “Black Coffee,” both sexist and inane, Black Flag appeared to be going through the motions and cashing in on their credibility from Jealous Again. This didn’t stop us from seeing them, though.

When they played the dirgy “Life is Pain,” Jay and I pushed to the side of the stage. Rollins was front and center, crouched down, naked except for running shorts. His long curly-hair hung in his face, wet from sweat; his body taught like a twisted rubber band. He was a very tense, little man.

He picked up an empty Coke can on the stage and ripped it half. Going to knees, he pushed the jagged edge of the can into his stomach, carving the flesh. As blood trickled down his stomach, eventually reaching the waistband of his shorts, the enthusiasm of the punks in front of him turned from excitement to disbelief. Jay and I had a clear shot of the scene from the side of the stage and were laughing at how these hardcore looking punks were appalled at his behavior.

One of them reached his hand out, in attempt to wrestle the can away from him. Rollins was in a near animal state and paid him no mention. A skinhead looking guy did the same, grabbing his wrist. Rollins ignored both of them, proving that life is really pain. It was high-dramatics at the punkest level and I was happy to have witnessed it. The song stopped and so did the ceremonial cutting. Rollins played the rest of the show with a bloody stomach. Fuckin’ punk!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Well Worn $20.

The $20 dollar bill was well worn and had the look of being freshly laundered. Its days of inflicting paper cuts were over and it was just a matter of time before the Mint got to it and exchanged it for a cuter, younger bill. I balled it up and put it in my pocket next to other bills in the same condition.

At the register, I paid for the meal with my credit card, like I had done the 50 or so times before. I had the Petaluma omelet (chicken apple sausage, spinach, mozzarella, mushrooms and salsa) with a Diet Coke; Wolfie had the usual: sesame bagel with cream cheese and milk. Neither of us had deviated in our breakfast choices in 5 years or when he moved into solid foods.

Waiting for the clerk to return with the Diet Pepsi and milk, I rummaged through my pocket searching for a tip. I pulled out a faded dollar and made sure the clerk see me put it into the tip jar. I don’t know why I waited, but everybody does. The clerk’s eyes brightened and he responded, “Thank you very much, Sir. Thank you.” The response was excessive for a dollar tip and made me a little embarrassed.

Wolfie and I walked upstairs and took our regular seat overlooking the main floor of the restaurant. It was early and only a quarter full with small families and early rising college students. Before sitting down, I thought about the clerk’s response. It didn’t make sense. It was only a dollar and didn’t warrant so much enthusiasm. Did I tip $20 dollars?

I checked my pockets and there was no badly worn $20 dollar bill. I checked again and then pilfered my wallet. There was a $20 in the wallet, badly worn, but I wasn’t sure if it was the $20 I was looking for. I sat and ate breakfast, with my mind on the $20 and my $20 on my mind.

On our way out, I stopped at the counter, under the guise of asking for water, even though I was aware that a pitcher of water was available next to the utensil counter. While asking for water, I peered into the stainless steel vase that doubled as a tip jar. Alternating between looking at the clerk and the vase, I visually searched for any sign of a 2 or a 0. I didn’t see either.

Leaving the restaurant I accepted that I either lost a 20 dollar bill...or I didn’t. I convinced myself I didn’t.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Jack Martial Arts

In the 2 years that Jack had been delivering to the hotel, he had not spoken to the doorman. They acknowledged each other’s presence with nod or slight gesture of hand, but hadn’t taken the step of introducing themselves. Both were comfortable with this informal relationship.

Last week Jack walked through the front door of the hotel on his way to the elevator. The doorman nodded, John reciprocated but this time he followed him to the elevator. They stood in silence, eyes watching the round floor buttons above the elevator move down from the 4th floor. 4-3-2-1.

Once inside, they repeated the same behavior, watching the floor buttons move up this time. Jack broke protocol:

“How’s the tips here?” looking straight forward, eyes on the illuminated buttons.

“Fare to medium,” appearing to mock his tone, void of expression.

On the 4th floor, Jack got off and doorman stayed on. Neither said goodbye.

When Jack returned to the lobby, the doorman was back at his post. On his way out Jack decided to introduce himself:

“Hi, I’m Jack,” extending his hand.

“I’m Tsan,” pointing to his name tag.

“San?” Jack said, squinting at his name tag, hoping that his printed name would help with the pronunciation.

“Tsan…like Tsan,” once again pointing to his name tag like it would help. Jack thought of his friend Dano who would introduce himself as “Dano…like Drano.”

Jack forced a smile, regretting that he asked. He walked toward the door.

“Jack. Martial arts,” Tsan yelled, not explaining the context of martial arts after Jack’s name.

Jack turned and forced another smile. “Huh?” he replied, pondering if Tsan thought his last name was Martial Arts.

Tsan yelled again: “Jack, you know you hunch over when you walk, it’s not good for your heart.”

This got Jack’s attention, as his glass was always half empty. In 5th grade his teacher told him he would get an ulcer if he didn’t stop worrying.

“I do? You think so?” he said, not questioning the snap diagnosis of a stranger.

Tsan followed Jack outside and asked him to clutch his hands behind his head, like he was a prisoner, and to sit on a bench that was outside of the hotel. Jack obliged and sat down.

Tsan climbed over the backrest of the bench but couldn’t get a good position. He asked Jack to twist his torso where his shoulders were parallel with the bench. Tsan stood on the slanted bench next to Jack and jammed his knee into his back while pulling back his shoulders. Jack grimaced in pain, heard a crack and for a brief moment felt some relief. Before he could raise a concern, Tsan’s knee collided with Jack’s lower back. Feeling great pain, Jack jumped up and was on his way.

That night while lying in bed, Jack worried about what Tsan said about his posture and heart. The next morning he woke up and couldn’t move is neck.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Right of Kid Cupcake

Jay told us he was fighting at the Cow Palace in a few weeks and asked us to come. I assumed he was fighting in an amateur boxing tournament, not some street brawl at night in front of the building. But this was Jay, so you never knew.

For the past few years, Jay went to a local boxing gym to learn the craft, sport or whatever you want to call it. According to him he was pretty good and he proved it many Friday and Saturday nights on the faces of patrons at bars in San Francisco. I had never seen him get into a fight - by the time he reached this level, I had refused to go out with him because I knew how the evening would end - but I heard about all his exploits on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Jay lived upstairs in our warehouse and was a frequent visitor in our space.

His stories made me uncomfortable, but Jay was highly intelligent and a great storyteller and always spun the violence into an entertaining story, rather than a bloody fight. While churning out lore after lore of fist fights, we sat rapt, guilt ridden for enjoying his exploits. We were anarchist punks and while we would rather engage the system than individuals, the brunt of his lashings was always yuppies or jocks - people that deserved it? Knowing this made everything a little more palatable.

Three of us made the trek to the Cow Palace, not knowing what to expect. My history with boxing had mostly been Ali, Frasier and Foreman - The Thrilla in Manila and the Rumble in the Jungle – and I assumed this would be like that but on a much smaller scale.

There were 2 rings set up in a large hall next to the main room, where I saw many concerts in my youth. The room looked like it was used for conventions and, by the smell of it, 4-H events. Large, boxy and unassuming, fold up chairs circled the stages and bleachers bookended the rings. Not wanting to get too close, we sat in the bleachers. Jay was first on the card.

Like professional boxing matches on TV, they announced the boxers over the P.A. Jay pranced in, ducked under the ropes and danced around the ring, throwing fake punches, before returning to his corner of the ring. A man that looked more like a fellow boxer than a trainer stood in his corner and encouraged him before the bell rang. I imagined he was saying something like: “Pick and jab,” “don’t’ get caught in the corner” and” keep your hands up.”

We moved forward as the bell rang. For 3 rounds Jay went toe-to-toe with a more experienced boxer, landing punches and taking 3 in return. We were having a great time seeing our friend get beat up in a controlled environment. We yelled, “Run, Jay, Run,” as his relenting opponent chased him around the ring, looking to back him in a corner.

At the end of the 3rd round, the bell ring and Jay lost by a decision. He was bruised, a bit bloodied and beaming with pride. We were impressed and couldn’t wait for his take on the fight; we were sure it would be the exact opposite of what we saw.

While waiting around for Jay to clean up, we watched the other fights. The fighters got progressively bigger, meaner and more brutal. The last fight, between Irish Danny Maguire and Pat Lawlor, proved to be the best fight of the night.

Irish Danny was first to enter the ring. As his name echoed through the hall, I looked around and noticed the crowd had gone from friends and family to fans of these 2 boxers. The Sunset district look was in full force: Irish, white, 20 – 35 years old, mean looking, shaved head, baggy trousers, backward baseball caps and NBA tank tops, specifically the Boston Celtics. It was like House of Pain was playing next door.

Seeing that the propensity of violence in the crowd increased considerably (we were long hairs), we situated ourselves opposite from where they congregated and tried to blend in.

As they announced Irish Danny Maguire, his fans stood and taunted the crowd, throwing their hands up and bouncing up and down. The P.A. blared Jump Around by House of Pain; As they announced Pat Lawlor, the other half of the crowd, dressed exactly like Danny Maguire fans, stood up, threw their arms in the air and bounced up and down to the tune of Jump Around by House of Pain. It was almost like they were fighting for rights of the song.

Not to be out done my Danny Maguire fans, Lawlor fans unveiled a homemade banner on what looked like a queen size bed sheet. With a crudely painted of picture of the Pacific Ocean with a rainbow over the ocean, the banner said, “Pat Lawlor, The Pride of the Sunset,” the later following the arch of the rainbow. It was a beautiful sight – all homemade banners have a tinge of beauty.

Almost immediately, Lawlor fans screamed out addresses in the Sunet and Parkside, neighborhoods in San Francisco: “48th and Taravel,” “23rd and Judah” and “38th and Lawton” and many more. Maguire fans countered with more addresses. I assumed this was where they lived and customary at these type of events.

As the bell rang, the crowd of tank tops surged and we moved back to the bleachers. While Lawlor and Maguire beat shit out of each other, Jay appeared in street clothes, holding a gym bag. He looked like he had showered. His face was a little red, but he looked good.

Downplaying losing the fight, he reached into his bag and pulled out his boxing shorts. Embroidered along the front of the waistband were the words Kid Cupcake. I hadn’t noticed the name when he was fighting. Jay said that they made him turn the waistband inside out, which explained his “short” shorts.

I don’t remember who won the fight, but I do remember how it ended: an all out brawl between the Maguire and Lawlor fans. It was fitting end to the night.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Speedboating Baseball

Somehow he had become a big baseball fan. Even though he was only 5 years old and had trouble pronouncing last names like Uribe and Rentaria, he loved the game and would sit through 9 innings without a break. We started collecting baseball cards and it wasn’t long before Emmanuel Burriss’ card replaced his teddy bear at bedtime. I was thrilled because I loved baseball…and because it was so damn cute.

His first game was a Monday night vs. the Braves. I bought tickets on craigslist in the Club Level to avoid the requisite drunks that inevitably populate sporting events. The level offered easy in and out access, shorter bathroom and concession lines and had an enclosed area to watch the games on flat screens in case it was too cold. It was a little more expensive, but it was his first game and I was hoping to avoid a drunken brawl between Giants and Braves fans.

The game was exciting. It had great pitching, stellar defense, plays at home, home runs…and the obligatory drunk. Regardless of how much you pay for a ticket, you can’t escape the drunks. Lesson learned.

In a sea of white baseball fans, 2 young African American men strolled down the aisle carrying 2 beers a piece, garlic fries and hot dogs. It was the second inning and they sat 2 rows in front of us. After putting down their food and beer, the taller, leaner one of the two – the one that got the ladies – stood up, pulled out a 5th of Hennessy from his back pocket and took a long drag. He did nothing to conceal what he was doing. Grimacing from the bite of alcohol, he turned around and addressed the crowd: “Who’s a Giants fan? Stand up if you’re a Giants fans? Come on!” Nobody stood up. He waved his hand us and sat down, grumbling how he was the biggest fan. I leaned over to Wolfie (son) and said, “He’s funny, isn’t he?” hoping to defuse any subsequent actions brought on by his behavior. He wasn’t long for the game.

At the end of the inning he and his buddy left, returning in the bottom of the 4th with more beers and snacks. For the next 3 innings, he chided every opposing batter with taunts and swears and befriended the 2 pre-teens sitting next to me, much to the chagrin of their conservative parents. He acknowledged Wolfie’s presence and threw him high-5’s. Wolfie gladly reciprocated. He was harmless, even charming at times, but it wasn’t going to end well.

In the middle of the 7th evening, the P.A. announcer asked for a moment of silence, to honor American soldiers who died in war. It was Memorial Day. My friend 2 rows in front of us took the opportunity to finish off the last dregs of Hennessey. He tipped the bottle back; beads of alcohol fell on his extended tongue. He dropped the bottle and yelled, “Viva la baseball! Viva la Baseball. Go Gigantes!” I gave him the once over, reevaluating his heritage. Maybe he was Latino and I was too stupid to know? In his alcohol soaked brain, I assumed he had mistaken Memorial Day for Cinco de Mayo.

It started with, “Shut up, idiot.” And then, “Have some respect.” He was oblivious to the forces gathering around him. He continued yelling, “Viva La Baseball,” while dancing in his seat. Finally a woman across the aisle got his attention, “Shut up, you fool, and have some respect.” He countered with, “I served my country, I served my country.” The simple act of responding brought out every Central Valley speedboat owner that did a stint in the Iraq War, the Gulf War and even Nam. Throughout the section, beefy, barrel-chested white men turned toward him and stared him down. It didn’t look pretty.

Just in time, 2 policemen tapped him on the shoulder He stood, knowing his time was up. He looked like he was used to this. As he ascended the stairs, both cops gripping the back of his arms, half the section clapped. I felt this was in poor taste. I kinda liked the guy.

An inning later his quiet friend appeared and sat down. He stayed for one out and then left.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I'm Swearing, Aren't I

She and 3 of her girlfriends entered in the bottom half of the first inning. They sat down like a storm, reached into their bags and pulled out water bottles filled with Orange Juice and Vodka. Placing them in the convenient drink holder, the woman closest to me yelled, “Woo-hoo. Go Giants;” the leader of the group – the pretty one with wraparound black sunglasses – stood up and yelled, “Fuck the A’s!” The latter echoed though section CL203 and announced to everyone that that if the game was boring, they’d provide the entertainment. I both grimaced (because I had my 5-year old son Wolfie with me) and looked forward in anticipation (who doesn’t love 4 swearing drunk women?).

Ironically, 4 guys around the same age sat behind them. It was like an episode of Friends waiting to happen except I got a strong Daly City/South San Francisco vibe from the girls and a potent Walnut Creek scent from the guys. So, it would be more like Valley Girl. Depending on how you looked at it, one of the groups would either being slumming or rounding up. They immediately acknowledged each other’s presence and the drunken mating ritual began.

The woman closest to me - the funny one of the group– said hello and we exchanged pleasantries. Getting caught up in the developing story, I leaned over and said, “You know, they’re 4 of them and 4 of you – this could be like a Cinemax movie?” I changed the scenario from Friends to Cinemax and regretted it immediately. She smiled, laughed – not really getting what I said. Like I said, she was the nice funny one and didn’t want any trouble – at least for now.

The 2 groups barbed, flirted and one-uped each other all night. As the male group drank more beer and the female group finished their water bottle cocktails, the 2 of them got looser and their taunts turned from inane to laced with profanity and sexually suggested.

Acknowledging their swearing, the big girl leaned over and whispered, “I’m swearing, aren’t I?” Her face was squinty and her shoulders were up, as if to say, “Watcha gonna do?” in a very, very nice way.

I leaned back and responded, “Yes, you are. You’re having fun, don’t worry about it.”I was playing the cool guy and pandering to them, even though I should’ve been more adult since I was with my 5-year old. My intellect rationalized their actions: “They’re young, having fun, not hurting anybody and I did much worse at baseball games at their age.” The father in me and getting-old-cranky side thought: “Fuckin’ Daly City trash. Shut the fuck up, shut the fuck up.” The latter is usually deeply suppressed and rarely comes out.

She whispered again, “You should hear me when I let loose. It’s a lot worse.” Even though this could be taken as a threat, it wasn’t meant as such. She was just letting me know that she was doing her best to act civil.

By now, I was unintentionally mimicking her squinty whispers. I whispered back, “I can only imagine. We’re gonna go to the bathroom and get some food next inning so feel free to get it out of your system while we’re gone.” drawing out every word. I was kinda bummed that I was gonna miss her verbal assault.

“Ok, thank you. I will do that.” She whispered back.

When Wolfie and I returned, we sat one seat away from them. They were loud, distracting and, because the woman next to me was rather large, it was hard to see the batters when she twisted her body to talk to her friends and the guys behind, which she was always doing. I placed my bag in the seat the between us, just in case she decided to move over and chat.

I hoping she wouldn’t acknowledge the insult. I was wrong. She immediately turned her head, looked at me, then the seat and gave me a look as if to say, “Hmphhh!” I leaned over, hoping to ignite our previous whispering session and said, “I don’t mean to be rude, it was just that, um, you were rather loud and it was hard to see and....” It was like I had conjured George Costanza.

In a gracious move, she said, “It’s ok, sweetie.” She topped off the kindness with, “I’m drunk.”

With 2 outs in the 9th inning, we stood and clapped. Lincecum, the Giants’ wunderkind pitcher recorded the 27th out and the near sellout crowd went crazy. We clapped and high-fived our neighbors. Unbeknownst to me, my neighbor – the big girl turned drunk girl – had gone into my bag and pulled out Wolfie’s foam #1 Giants hand.

Dancing in the aisle with the foam hand piercing the San Francisco night, she looked over and playfully jabbed me in the stomach. Slightly touching the foam finger on top of Wolfie’s head, my shy boy recoiled, grabbing my thigh. I laughed and loved that she went into my bag.

As the crowd moved toward the exit, Wolfie and I watched the players shake hands and the media hover for interviews. The 2 groups next to us awkwardly broached the idea of hanging out. I listened intently as they devised a plan to meet up at a bar near the stadium.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I'm on Vacation

Friday, June 12, 2009

We’re not on the sidewalk, Homes

My friend Josh and I were skateboarding down San Pablo Street in Emeryville, coming back from a Soul Asylum show at the Berkley Square. We were about a quarter mile from our warehouse, carefully crossing train tracks, when we heard a voice to our left: “Hey, get off the sidewalk!” We looked and a cop across the street, walking to his parked car, was gesturing toward us and seemed mad. It looked like he had just gone to a store and was on his way back.

I replied, “We’re not on the sidewalk, Homes!” He either didn’t like my righteous tone or use of the word “homes” because he moved quickly to his car, got in and flipped a u-turn. Josh and I didn’t wait around. We skated as fast as we could to the entrance of the warehouse. We knew that if we could make it inside, the cop would not come in. They knew who were and routinely were called to break up our warehouse’s parties and shows and knew that the space was a very dark maze of hallways.

I made it inside but Josh didn’t. I told my roommates what was going on and we ran to the roof to see if Josh got caught. Lying on the roof, we saw a silhouette of what we assumed was Josh, slumped down in the back seat of the cop car.

He was released early the next morning and came straight over, feigning being pissed at me. I felt a little bad because I was the one that threw out the “Homes” comment.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Scarification in Arkansas

Cruising down Haight Street, a man in front a tattoo shop flagged me down.

“Where you going?” I asked. It was the beginning of my shift and I’d repeat this question at least 60 more times before the night was over. It was a Tuesday in the dead of winter and I was happy to have a fare.

“16th and Valencia. I’m finishing up my back piece.” He didn’t clarify what “back piece” meant, assuming I knew the vernacular of tattoo culture. It was the late 80s in San Francisco and everybody in the Lower Haight had multiple tribal tattoos, bountiful piercings and standard issue Doc Marten’s. He took a liberty and I responded correctly, proving my hipster cache:

“You mean you just finished your back piece, right?” gesturing to the tattoo shop next to Walgreen’s.

“No, I was there getting scarification on my arm.” He peeled up a large bandage on his bicep, revealing 4 symmetrical vertical wounds, slightly raised and infected.

“Cool.” I said with a flare of indifference. I didn’t bother inquiring about the process, the infection said it all.

At the stop light at Church and Market, I flipped the dome light and turned around, my arm resting on the back of the front bench seat. He scooted forward, twisted his torso and pulled up the back of his shirt, revealing a very large and intricate tattoo of a medieval scene. It spanned the small of his back to the base of his neck.

“Cool,” I repeated. Not knowing what to say.

Pulling his shirt down, he said, “He should be able to finish it tonight. I’m moving back home to Arkansas this weekend to work on the family farm. Before I leave, I’m finishing up this piece on my back, I got scarification on my arm, I pierced my nipples, tongue and septum and tomorrow I got an appointment to dye my hair Manic Panic red. They don’t have any of this stuff in Arkansas.”

The light turned green and we rode in silence, as I digested his laundry list of body manipulations. To most, his instant transformation would appear contrived and calculated, a severe attempt to fit in with the trendy scene that enveloped the era; however, hearing him matter-of-factly talk about getting scarification like running an errand, I figured he wanted to return to Arkansas with trophies from the big city...and be noticed.. Being from the suburbs, I understood this urge.

I pulled over at 16th and Guerrero. As he exited, I looked out the back door and said, “Good luck in Arkansas, they’re gonna love you.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Leaving Town Tonight

While looking at children’s books at Pegasus bookstore in Oakland, I overheard a peculiar conversation between a very patient clerk and a loud, brash customer.

Not even 5 feet in the door, a young woman with bangs yelled in the direction of the checkout island, “Do you have Islands in the Stream by Hemingway? Can you check for me?” The clerk looked up as she made a beeline to the counter. She was loud and obnoxious, but this behavior was somewhat normal in bookstores. For some odd reason, people like to scream the title of the book they’re looking for, to let everyone know they’re literate in the classics (Hello, everybody. I’m looking for War and Peace - possibly the greatest book ever written!”). I would’ve gone back to perusing books, ignoring her rude behavior, but Islands in the Stream made me think of Dolly and Kenny, so I listened intently.

In a calm voice, the clerk replied, “No, we can’t look it up, but if we had it, it would be over there,” gesturing toward the fiction section.

A few minutes went by as she walked to the section and scoured the shelves. I pictured her, head tilted, straddling the H section.

Out of nowhere she yelled, “It’s not hear. Why doesn’t anybody have it? I guess I’ll have to go to Border’s.” She was having a conversation with herself, asking and then answering her own questions.

Mentioning Border’s was like a threat and it was meant to be. It was like she was saying: “See, people. I tried, I tried to buy independent. I was willing to shop here instead of Amazon, but, once again, you fucked me!” People like this are always insincere in their philanthropy.

Everybody in the store heard her. Like an echo, I stopped, listened and waited to see if the clerk would immediately respond. In a soft yell, he politely said, “We can check to see if our other store has it. Do you want me to do that?”

She appeared from behind the shelves and walked toward the door, passing the clerk without looking at him: “No, I’m leaving town tonight. Thank you.” And she disappeared onto College Avenue.

Monday, June 8, 2009

MC Humma


I know for fact that this is not Hammer’s Hummer. Hammer drives a black Hummer.

A year ago we played a gig with Hammer at the San Jose Convention Center. Not really a gig, but we were in the same large room as Hammer. Hammer was a judge at an American Idol-like competition for Google. We backed the Google singers, to the likes of Gloria Gaynor, Alice in Chains and other Karaoke standards and Hammer did his best to critique them, along with other Google higher-ups.

Before the gig, we were lounging on the loading dock with our guitars. While Southwest Airlines planes flew overhead, a black Hummer pulled up to where we sitting. MC Hammer got out, walked past us and into the building. He was wearing black wraparound shades, dressed all black and appeared to be flying solo. He looked good.

Later that night while on stage, I caught Hammer’s eye and gave him the Too Legit To Quit hand gesture. I was very proud of myself and acted like it I was the first idiot to think of this. Even though he had his shades on, he acknowledged the gesture with a slight nod of the head.

The Colonel is Fucking With the Chickens!

An excerpt from the never to be published book (or perennial word file): Donations Excepted: Dumb Dogooding thru Punk and Anarchy or White Dope on Punk (working titles):

One of the last Doggie Diners in the Bay Area sat at the intersection of Adeline, Macarthur and San Pablo. The iconic wiener dog sign stood high above the eatery, looking over the border of West Oakland and Emeryville. Shortly after we moved in the neighborhood, it was leveled and replaced by a check cashing business.

We welcomed the check cashing business by spray painting “GET OUT OF OUR NEIGHBORHOOD” on their new stucco wall. We tried breaking their front window but it held strong, the bricks bouncing back and almost hitting us. We found this type of window familiar, like the one we were not able to break the McDonald’s at 52nd and Telegraph…though we tried. Our paranoid side thought they reinforced the windows, knowing that we might try to break them.

After spray painting the check cashing business, we went back to our warehouse and got my car. The night was early and there were still many windows to break and walls to spray-paint. We had no plan; however, we had a few clumps of concrete that we got from our warehouse parking lot, two cans of spray paint, crazy glue, ski goggles, a crowbar and a small can of butane—a well-stocked vandalism kit.

Driving north on San Pablo we slowed down to admire our past work on a wholesale butcher warehouse. The walls were speckled with various colors of paint bombs from the months prior, giving it a Jackson Pollock/Damien Hirst feel. We used mason jars and house paint for paint bombs. Both were in limited qualities, so we rarely carried them anymore.

It was 3 am and the streets were empty. We were listening to a Chumbawumba cassette. The only people out were drug users looking to score, prostitutes and us. Near the end of the Berkeley border, we eyed a Kentucky Fried Chicken. For some reason, Stinky and I were particularly against KFC. They were no worse than Burger King or McDonald's, but we just liked saying “The Colonel is fucking with the chickens.”

We parked the car a block away and slinked in the shadows back to the KFC. I ran to the front door and squeezed crazy glue into lock, looking eye-to-eye with a graphic of Colonel Sanders on the glass door. Stinky yelled, “Watch out!” I looked back and he had a large rock that he pulled from the landscaped walkway. I ran back to the sidewalk. Laboring with the large rock, he awkwardly moved toward the front plate glass window and heaved the rock. A low boom rang out, alerting the neighborhood that we were now fucking with the Colonel. It felt like a bomb went off. As the alarm rang out and glass settled on both sides of the window, we turned and retraced our footsteps back to the car.

I kept the headlights off until we reach San Pablo. We were both scared and excited, chattering a mile a minute:

"Jesus Fucking Christ, did you hear that?” I said, half laughing and still out of breath from the sprint to the car.

“I know, I had no idea. Those things usually never break.” Stinky admitted, his voice getting higher with the excitement of retelling the act.

I met Stinky in an arranged friendship. We had both responded to an ad looking to start an anarchist punk collective in an East Bay warehouse. Before we moved into together, Stinky came over to my apartment in the Haight. At the time, he was living in a shitty squat in Noe Valley and happy at the idea of having permanent housing.

Stinky was from North Hampton, Massachusetts, and never let you forget it. He was about 5’ 10”, had naturally spiky brown hair, wore oversized wire-rimmed glasses and had intermittent tattoos over his arms. On our first meeting, he proudly showed me two of them: the ubiquitous Black Flag bars and the “squat” symbol, a lightning bolt through a circle. He would later add the intertwined peace and anarchy symbol on his inner wrist, another staple tattoo of anarchist punks. He divulged that his mother felt that anybody who had over three tattoos was a sexual deviant. If this was true, Stinky was a deviant and so was his father.

After breaking KFC’s window, we decided to call it a night and go home. On the way, Stinky yelled, “Stop. Pull over! I’m gonna flatten its tire.” A large truck with a logo that said “Quality Meat” was parked on San Pablo, on a block without a lot of commercial businesses. Stinky jumped out of the car and ran over to the front tire nearest the sidewalk. For minutes, a loud hissing permeated the air. It abruptly stopped, replaced by sounds of a short struggle. The large cab of the truck obscured my vantage of Stinky, but I could see his feet. He had moved from a crouching position next to the tire to standing next to the hood. His feet moved back to the middle of the sidewalk then ran to the hood, jumped, then jumped a few times more, lunging forward.

Stinky came back to the car laughing, shaking his head and with a windshield wiper in his hand.

“What the hell were you doing?” I asked. “From here, it looked like you were fighting the front of the truck.”

“Yeah, I was pissed off because flattening the tire was taking too long, so I decided to rip off the windshield wiper,” he said, a bit perplexed why taking a penny and jamming it into the valve of the tire wouldn’t flatten the tire in less time.

As we took off, Stinky rolled down the window and threw the windshield wiper at the truck.
At the corner of University and San Pablo in Berkeley we saw two cops, guns drawn, slinking around the corner of a bank. The light was red and we watched as they cautiously moved forward. The light turned green and I made an immediate right, getting off San Pablo to take a less traveled street. Somebody must’ve broken into the bank.

Riding down Hollis, Stinky once again yelled for me to stop. I pulled over and he ran across the street with the ski goggles and the crow bar. Pulling the hood over his head and putting on the ski goggles, Stinky approached an ATM. He looked around, reached into his pocket and squirted a large dose of butane on the ATM. He put the butane in his hoodie pocket and reached in his pocket for matches. Moving one step back, he lit a match and threw it at the ATM. A faint bluish yellow light reflected on to Stinky’s dark clothing. The expected large burst of flames didn’t happen. He took the crowbar and alternated between bashing it like a baseball and wrenching the crevices. After a few swings, he gave up and walked quickly back to the car. The fire had gone out and the alarm was silent.

We were tired and it was time for some sleep.

The next morning we watched the check cashing business clean the graffiti the walls. That night Stinky and I returned and spray-painted “…And Stay Out!”

Sunday, June 7, 2009

City Hall

City Hall
San Francisco

Friday, June 5, 2009

You and that Fuckin' Gorilla!

Gratuitous Simian Profanity
by David Fullarton

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Mormons or Mods

While Alex and Wolfie were in the bathroom, I watched 2 teenage boys, in oversized suits that unknowingly paid homage to David Byrne, peruse books from an airport bookstore. Sticking together like feral dogs, they picked up books, put them back, interspersed by watching a flat screen TV in the corner.

I was pretty sure I figured them out. I had seen their types before - big suits, cheap shoes, white short sleeved shirts and backpacks. The only thing missing were badges on the breast of their jackets.

I got up and stood next to them:

“Hey, you guys on your mission?” I said, in a buddy-up kinda way. I was so sure they were Mormon kids on their year mission or really bad Mods.

The kid nearest to me looked confused: “What are you talking about?” I knew I had the wrong guys, but I continued on, regardless.

“Aren’t you guys Mormons?” I said, still trying to sell my fallible observation.

“No, we’re going to our Aunt’s funeral,” they said matter-of-factly, with no tinge of indignation. I would’ve been that generous.

“Sorry about that.”

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

An Odd Sense of Decorum

While standing on the dock, I looked down the alley and noticed 2 scraggly junkies hustling up the block carrying 2 armchairs. Like the junkies, the chairs looked like they had spent some considerable time on the street before being adopted.

Despite the chairs being cumbersome, the junkies moved at a fast clip, dodging obstacles that littered the sidewalk. Oddly this wasn’t an odd occurrence. It was the first of the month and many SRO Hotel dwellers were on the street, having spent their G.A. or SSI checks on drugs, not rent. Street sales were ample and people were moving clothes and large objects from hotel to hotel or just donating them to the streets.

Approaching the end of the alley, they abruptly stopped and placed the chairs, angling inwards, in a shallow inlet between 2 buildings. The woman immediately sat down and shot up in her ankle; the other guy pulled out a blue bandana and placed it on the seat cushion, before sitting down and shooting up. Obviously this junkie was either new to the street and not “jonesing” as much as his partner or, regardless of his situation, still maintained a sense of decorum – street decorum. I found this little act of dignity fascinating and humanizing.

I sat on the dock and watched them. Once they had shot up, they settled into the seats and stared straight ahead, like they were watching an imaginary TV. For this rare moment, they were at peace and enjoying a rare sense of privacy (even with me eyeballing them).

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Fistfighting at Taco Bell

Driving east on Bay street on a foggy Sunday, I stopped for a red light. Looking in the rear view mirror, I see 3 young men in the middle of the street running my way, waving their hands for me to stop. They were definitely running from something.

I thought about blowing the light, but there was too much traffic, so I locked the doors. The automatic door lock didn’t work. I panicked and thought about getting out of the cab and running.

All three jumped in the back and looked out the back window, checking to see if anybody was chasing them. “Go, go, go,” they yelled.

In their heightened state, one of them had the wherewithal to ease my fears: “Don’t worry, we’re not gonna hurt you. Treasure Island.” My face must’ve shown fear. They were military and were stationed at Treasure Island.

The light changed and I proceeded in silence, still not sure if these guys were legit. Once we were off Bay Street, they stopped looking out the back window and physically relaxed, sinking into the seats. I relaxed too.

Making a right on Battery, on my way to the Bay Bridge, they relived why they were running:

“Did you see that bitch with the umbrella hit me? She didn’t even work there.” When he opened his mouth, it was obvious that he wasn’t from the area. He had a country twang, drawing out the last word of every sentence. I surveyed the three of them in the rear view window and it was now obvious that they were 3 country boys on leave from the military for the weekend.

“Yeah, I saw her go after you with the umbrella, but I was dealing with that asshole Manager. Fuck that guy. So, I didn’t know what sour cream was. I didn’t like his tone” He got more animated as he relived the incident, blurting short, disjointed accounts of what happened.

Umbrella? Fighting with a Manager? What had these guys done?

By the time I exited at Treasure Island, I had pieced the story together: When ordering food at Taco Bell, one of the guys pronounced enchilada “en-chill-da.” The Taco Bell employee corrected his pronunciation. This pissed them off, but he stayed calm…for now. He continued with the order, but got stumped when it came to asking for sour cream, not remembering what it was called:

“You know, I want some of that white shit. You know…white shit?” he couldn’t remember the name.

“Do you mean sour cream?” the employee sassed back.

Once again not appreciating the employee’s patronizing tone, he reached over the counter and punched him in the face. The Manager of Taco Bell intervened, grabbing the guy in a head lock and pulling over the counter. His buddy’s reacted and an all out fistfight ensued.

I dropped them off in front of the guard station. As I watched them show the MPs their military IDs and disappear into the barracks, I thought about pulling up to the guard station and telling him the story. Instead, I made a u-turn, knowing they gave me a wonderful story.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Rhyming is Not Punk!

Sue pressed play and we launched into “Sick to Death,” our unanimously agreed upon best song:

Sick to death of the live I’m living
Life’s troubles just pass you by
I don’t want to see your face
This is where it al begins

The lyrics purposely didn’t rhyme. I felt rhyming was conventional and not punk.

We didn’t have a P.A. so I had to sing directly into the boom box to be heard. After much experimenting, I found the perfect spot about 18” from the microphone. Leaning down and over to the boom box on the floor and playing guitar at the same time was not easy.

We recorded 3 other songs: Red, White and Dry, Reagan Country and Young and Stupid (and going nowhere) and chose Sick to Death to send to the Maximum Rock-n-Roll radio show, the punk rock only radio show from midnight to 2 am on Sunday nights on public radio. The quality of the recording was horrendous – only we could discern the drums, guitar, bas and vocals. To pretty much everybody else, it sounded like pure noise. Even so, we packaged the cassette with a lyric sheet and information about the band and sent it off.

3 weeks later at 1:55 am – the last song of the night - they played our cassette. Without an introduction, it followed a band from Fairfield, California (an even farther out suburb of SF) called Carnage. I was ecstatic and moved closer to my clock radio. It was the first time --and only one of a handful of times-- I heard my music on the radio.

It was loud, distorted and barely discernible, but I loved it. The blood rushed to my face, from fear, anxiety and excitement. The song stopped, started, slowed down and sped up, as was the custom of many punk songs at the time. For a little over a minute – the length of the song - I was riveted, engaged. It ended with dead air. Thinking the song wasn’t over; they let the silence go on for way too long. Finally, a loud, over-produced song screamed from the radio. I recognized it immediately and was mortified. IT was a song by Yes called Don’t Kill the Whales” - possibly one of the worst, over-indulgent progressive rock songs of all time. When we recorded, I took a used cassette from a pile of cassettes to record on and didn’t check to see anything was on it.

They quickly yanked the song and sounds of laughter filled the airwaves. They thought it funny, not recognizing the song. Because of this mishap, my punk credentials were in dire straits. I knew everybody in the band and a few friends were listening.

Tim Yohannon, one of the founders of Maximum Rock-n-Roll, came on and said, “That was Anti-Social Youth with “Sick to Death” from Pleasanton, California. It’s happening everywhere, people - even in Pleasanton.” Those few words were what I was waiting for. Acceptance in to the punk scene by the punk authority, I went to bed smiling.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Avoiding Cars

San Francisco
Tenderloin Alley

Friday, May 29, 2009

Arbitrary Compliment #3: “Are You a Rocka?”

It wasn’t expected, but it’s never expected. And it wasn’t really a compliment – more an observation. But I’ll take it.

Coming back from a grueling hour and a half session at the Oakland DMV, where I asked the clerk’s supervisor, “Did I say something to offend you? No? Then why are you being so rude and patronizing?” I was in need of a large fountain soda. Ever since my drinking days ended, I’ve used fountain sodas, like alcohol, to soothe the pitfalls of the DMV, waiting in line at the grocery store and crackheads in the alley at work – a placebo without the addiction (not so true) and nasty mornings.

Wearing company issued khakis and a dark blue polo with the Chevron logo on the right breast, the clerk at the Extra Mile Chevron Mini-Mart showed her flair and individuality with a gaudy lip piecing and neon colored bangles. Even thought the line was long and customers wore visibly annoyed at the douchebag at the counter paying for a pack of gum with his ATM card, she was personable and looked each customer in the eye. I was impressed and waited quietly.

I put my 44oz drink on the counter. Before I could reach for my wallet, she yelled, “Are you a rocka?” Her faced was crumpled, mouth open and she did kind of a jig to go with the statement. She held the position, waiting for my response.

I looked down at what I was wearing: green, lo-top Converse sneaks, skinny, tight-ish cords from Urban Outfitter, orange belt from H&M, neon purple watch from Nixon, white, argyle t-shirt from Old Navy and a Mayor McCheese head with a Yamaka sized bald spot and a hairline that pays tribute to the right angle! I was the poster boy for age inappropriate dress. But a rocker? More like an old-ass hipster trying way too hard.

I flashed my toothy Osmond smile, looked down at the counter and demurely whispered, “No, more like a poseur. Thank you, though.”

As I walked away, she finally gave me the devil horns and yelled, “Rocka!” Everybody in line gave me the once over as I walked past them.

Time to grow up.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Blue Face

San Francisco
Tenderloin Alley

The Horse’s Ass

A broken down plastic horse stands on my desk. 2 gaping holes have replaced his left ear and tail, the remnants of both rattle inside him like a maraca when he’s moved.

One morning last week, I arrived to work to find my work I.D. dangling from the horse’s ass. Someone had stuff the necklace part of the I.D. in the hole where the tail used to be, gauging the right length where at first glance it kinda passed as a, uh, tail. Well, not really, but I got the idea.

Instead of pulling it out and wearing it, like I’m supposed to, I left it in the ass and went badge free until early this week. My hopes were that someone would inquire about my I.D. and I would be able to respond, “My I.D. is in the horse’s ass.” It wouldn’t be a lie.

On Monday, I stopped on the stairs at work between the 3rd and 2nd floors. My shoe was untied. Leaning against the rail, I noticed it was knotted. I sat on the on the bottom step between the landing and took off my shoe. The knot was bad enough that it would require 2 hands, good fingernails and some might.

As I slowly worked the knot, people walked past me and said nothing. It wasn’t uncommon to see people parked on the stairs (we’re a social services building), but it’s pretty customary to hear, “You can’t sit on the stairs, buddy.” But most people were passive aggressive and got security to do their dirty work.

I looked more like a client than an employee and I didn’t have my badge, so I knew it was only a matter of time before someone questioned me. It happened and I was delighted:

“Buddy, you can’t sit on the stairs.”

“I work here.”

“Where’s you badge?”

“In the horse’s ass.”

He shook his head and got security.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dog's Eyes, Dog's Eyes!

May 22, 2009

Homeless Models, Inc.

We told them to get backup models because there was a high probability that the ones we suggested wouldn’t show. This was how it always happened but nothing ever changed. Upstairs would call and ask for a handful of clients who would be willing to participate in an ad campaign (usually billboards) for our agency. We would suggest a few with the caveat that some of these people were stricken with one, some or all the following: poverty, mental illness, drug addiction and/or critical illness, which could prevent them from showing up. Knowing this, once we had done our job, we wiped our hands clean of the project and kept a low profile.

On the day of the shoot, only one model showed. I told ya! I received a call from upstairs asking (begging) if I would be willing to be in the shoot. I knew this would happen, so I gave them no grief and agreed.

On the second floor, the photographer and crew had turned the backroom of our grocery pantry into a little studio. To a point-and-shoot guy, it looked pretty pro: umbrellas, computer hooked up to the camera, photographer showing her midriff, etc.

Unbeknownst to me, the model gig was not guaranteed. After the client didn’t show, the photographer and our team scrambled, searching staff I.D. badges for someone that would fit what they were looking for. Up to this point, I wasn’t aware there was look.

When I got to the second floor, a stylist/makeup artist was applying base makeup to the client model’s face. While the people in power talked in the corner, Omar, an Administrative Assistant, stood by himself, leaning against the wall.

“Hey, Omar. How are you?” I said, not expecting a response. Omar never replied. He was either a dick or shy, I wasn’t sure.

Once I entered the room, the people in charge turned and looked at me and Omar. Ignoring any sense of politeness or social norms, they openly talked about our strengths, interspersed with whispering when our weaknesses were thrown about. Obviously, this gig was between me and Omar, which was odd. Omar was a clean cut, quiet Indian dude and I was a pasty, perennially tired, loud white guy - exact opposites.

When I overheard that they were looking for someone who looked homeless, I knew I had the gig. They dismissed Omar and walked me to the makeup chair, where they decided that I was “homeless” enough and I didn’t need makeup or any kind of wardrobe. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this.

The photographer sat me down in a chair, adjusted the lights and gave me instructions:

“So, this is a campaign directed at donors. I want you to appear hungry, depressed and looking for love.”
I quickly replied, “That’s my specialty.” She wasn’t amused.

We played around with a few poses - mouth open, tongue seductively peaking though my lips and sultry eyes. I was having fun and “camping” it up. I mean, come on - hungry, loveless and depressed?

“Can I take my shirt my off? I think it would be good. You know I did a little modeling for Tonka and Sear’s when I was in Kindergarten.” I was half joking, throwing out my modeling credentials to let them know they weren’t dealing with an amateur (I did model for Sear’s and Tonka).

“No, I don’t think it would work. Please. Be serious.” The photographer was kind of a b-i-t-c-h and wasn’t responding to my unorthodox attempts at charm.

Our people shot me a look and I gave them a look right back that said, “See, I told this would happen. Did I tell you to be prepared and have backup models?” They were stuck with and knew I had the upper hand.

I got serious, conjuring the great Dead or Alive video by Bon Jovi where Jon Bon Jovi (JBJ) and his road tired band are at an all-night diner. JBJ is sitting in a booth, looking out the window and longing for the comfort of home and his woman. With JBJ as my muse, I gave the best pensive, lovelorn, hungry-ass look I could muster. They loved it!

My large face with the caption, “All you need is love. Oh yeah, and some food” ran on buses, subway stations and billboards. Friends called and inquired about my well being and I told them story.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I Identify as a Woman

It was only a matter of time before I would be able to respond, “Well, I identify as a woman.” I was practiced and ready and knew it would be only a matter of time. The time finally came at the San Leandro BART Station.

Descending the escalator stairs in twos, passing experienced commuters who hugged the right rail, I knew exactly where the bathrooms were located. I had used them frequently, and, despite their atrocious condition, I’d rather brave the grime and perennially wet floors than hold it until I got home. I had to go, I always have to go.

The ability to find public bathrooms was a gift of mine. Built out of necessity, due to my Diet Pepsi habit, it was one of the 2 God given gifts that he bestowed upon me. The other one was the ability to name the location of every 7/11 in San Francisco, past and present. God judiciously doles out these arbitrary gifts.

The lock to the men’s bathroom said “In Use.” I looked to the right and women’s bathroom said “Vacant.” Knowing they both were exactly the same, I opened the door to the women’s bathroom and went in. It wasn’t much of a decision.

As expected, the bathroom floor was flooded and the seat was wet, from either errant water from the sink or a guy had been the last one to use the bathroom.

Before leaving, I cleaned the seat with a paper towel and then put the seat down. I grew up with woman and the majority of my roommates were women, so I was trained in the politics of bathroom etiquette.

I opened the door to a non-descript woman in her mid-30s. She was reading the paper and didn’t look up. As she instinctively took the a few steps toward the bathroom, she looked up and saw me…a man. Her expression changed to one of disbelief and she gave me a look that said, “What the fuck, dude? Can’t you read?” I kept my head low and intently concentrated on adjusting my bag.

She stopped moving forward and turned as I went passed her: “Can’t you read? It says Women’s.” It happened and I was ready.

I pursed my lips and smugly replied, “Yes, I know. I identify as a woman.” I could’ve said “I’m Pr-Op” but that would’ve been pushing it.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fuckin' Down It, Tommy

That day we decided to drink off our drummer woes at the Oakland Coliseum with Motley Crue, Whitesnake and Poison. We met our friends Lord Jim, Chris Bitch and Insane Lorraine, a motley crew in their own right, and scalped tickets on 66th Avenue. None of us owned a record of the any of the bands or even particularly liked them; to us it was kitsch -– anthropologists studying the hairspray locals. At least that’s what we told ourselves. All of us, except Lorraine, were making the awkward transition from Anarchist punk to civilian life. Some of us found college rock and others got their pop culture fix with hair metal.

Baking in the hot Oakland sun, I laid on my back watching the jumbotron flash: “Take It Off, Take It Off.” Bret Michaels from Poison was leading the chant and the jumbotron followed suit. I surveyed the crowd and, yes, a few girls on the shoulders of tanned boys had taken their shirts off. All was right in the world of arena rock.

Launching into “Talk Dirty to Me,” I jumped to my feet and screamed, “I know this song!” It seemed like an appropriate response for somebody who had only heard the hits from the band. But to the real fans, who surrounded me like a storm, I could visualize the word “Poseur” spilling from their disapproving looks. The effects of pre-show alcohol and marijuana had reared its ugly face.

The Crue pranced in from the side of stage, perfectly quaffed, giving the crowd the international metal sign and pointing to the third deck. I had read in Rolling Stone that they did push-ups right before going on stage, to make their biceps a little more attractive and wondered if they were out of breath from just doing a round of reps. They were tanned, their hair flowing and looked like they were about to have the time of their lives.

“Oakland, how you fuckin’ doing?” Vince Neal, lead singer, squealed in that metal voice. It was just the first of many “fuckins” to come. He knew how to work the crowd.

Not to be outdone by Poison and their “Take it off” shtick, Vince, still court-mandated sober for killing Hanoi Rocks’ drummer in an alcohol-related car accident, broke it down in the middle of the set:

“Do you motherfuckers like to party?” The word motherfucker is always a crowd pleaser and gets a positive reaction from the even the most lackluster crowd. “I can’t drink, Johnny Law says so, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to party and have a good time [screams from crowd].” The pace of his phrasing sped as he climaxed at “good time.” “Well, my friend Tommy [drummer] likes to drink, oh yeah!” Tommy stands, points his drum sticks at the crowd and cups his left hand behind his ear, while his right hand urges the crowd to make some noise. Giving that open-mouthed look of excitement that only drummers can do, he comes out from behind the drums, displaying an outfit of short shorts, that’s it. He confidently grabs the bottle while Vince squeals, “Fuckin' down it, Tommy.” I look at the jumbotron and it’s flashing “Down It, Tommy.” The crowd chants “Down it, Tommy,” (omitting the fuckin’) while he takes several large gulps of what is probably tea. He spits the last gulp in the air and returns to his drums, where his rack tom hides his lack of clothing.

Vince high kicked over to Nikki (there something about tight spandex pants that makes hair metal guys run in an affected manner) and puts his arm around him, his clinched fist resting on his torso - a very guy way of showing affection. “Now this motherfucker is crazy.” He hands Nikki the bottle. “Fuckin down it, Nikki!” The crowd goes crazy and the scoreboard follows suit.

Vince grabs the bottle from Nikki and thrusts to it to the sky, his extended arm the sole focus of 50k fans. He looks at the half empty bottle and then looks back at the band: “Fuckin pussies!” Vince appears pleased with himself and the crowd obliges and he gets a laugh. Ba-boom!

HE walks over to Mick Mars. “Now, you might not know it, but this motherfucker is the craziest of us all.” Mick, looking 1/3 El Vira, 1/3 Emily Strange and the rest Uncle Fester with a black wig with a chaser of Sam Jackson’s character in Unbreakable, grabbed the bottle and took a quick swig, quickly returning the bottle back to Vince. Vince looked a little annoyed and confused, not knowing what to do. While the jumbotron flashed, “Down it, Mick,” expecting Vince to go through the motions, Vince ran off stage and gave the bottle to a roadie. Eventually the jumbotron stopped flashing. Mick had blown the end of the Jack Daniels bit. Pure performance art! Back to the rock.

I returned to lying down -- I'm drunk, high, dehydrated and sunburned -- and watch my friends painfully move closer and closer to each other for a drunken hookup.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Because of my Disability

Just when I thought I’d have the whole returning undergraduate table to myself, a woman in her late 40s approached the table. Wearing large jeans, pulled up over her belly button, with a matching button-up jean shirt with bead embroidery over the chest and shoulder area, she had the look of somebody that stopped at a roadside stand in the 4 Corners area of the southwest.

On her left hand she wore two large turquoise rings and had some sort of feathery necklace, which Jon Bon Jovi would’ve worn in the music video to the movie Young Guns. Her face was dark and she had indigenous features. If people were neon signs, she would say, “I’m Native American.” Unlike most people that claim to be Native (1/64th Cherokee?) - specifically bad rock guys to impress the woman - she actually looked like she drove down from Apple Creek Casino in San Pablo to attend this meeting (joking). I politely said “hello” and then went back to scouring the class schedule. She looked annoying, so I didn’t invite conversation.

Sheila, my guidance counselor, sat between me and the Turquoise. We were waiting for a large man to stop introducing the bevy of PhDs at other tables, where we could converse with Sheila and get our fall classes. And get the hell out of this mandatory orientation.

Turquoise made a play for Sheila’s attention, hoping that she would be the first to get her consultation. Lucky for me, Sheila said she would talk to me first, since we had met previously and it wouldn’t take much time.

I had all the papers from our previous meeting and I presented them to here. She double checked what we talked about and gave me the thumbs up for the 3 courses. Yeah!

As I filled out the paper work for the classes, she moved on to Turquoise. I was intrigued with Turquoise and knew she would have a lot to say, so I kept an ear open.

As expected, she talked enthusiastically about being back in an academic setting and was looking forward to the youthful energy of the students. She threw out all these grandiose plans, but answered all her statements with a caveat: “Because of my disability….” For example:

“I can’t wait to dive into the world of academics. You know, there’s so much to learn. And I’m really looking forward to working with young people. I feel I can help them, but because of my disability, I can only go to school part-time.” She would offer up and then rescind.

Sheila was doing her best not to throttle Turquoise. I caught her eye and gave her a look of pity. All around the room were potential students who had probably worked an 8 hour day and were haggard and had little energy to give. All of us shared one thing in common: somewhere along the line we fucked up at school or in life or both, which led us to this place today, in search of a paltry B.A. degree. I wasn’t here for youthful energy nor were the youths excited that that they may have to pair up with me – a 45 year old disheveled man – in a Science class. I resented Turquoise's free time.

I was intrigued by her disability. Recalling how she walked when she approached the table, I didn’t notice a limp or any prominent physical disability. As she sat there, I gave her a once over for any sign of labored breathing, twitching or anti-social behavior. Nothing. Her eyes were shifty and she was super annoying after 2 minutes, so I assume her disability had something to with her ability to be so fucking weird, or the great illnesses: depression, anxiety, bi-polarism, etc.

While choosing her classes, Turquoise said that she wanted to teach music to children where she grew up…on a reservation. Before Sheila could commend her on a noble professional objective, she said, “But because of my disability, I can only work part-time.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Man in front of Asian Art Museum

Civic Center Plaza
San Francisco

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Man Feeding Pigeons

Olive Alley

Weird but Nice

My Dentist’s name is Dr. Fine. How cool is that? He’s this mid-50s bachelor that’s obsessed with Golf and aspires to quit his job when he turns 59 and join the PGA Seniors Tour. He’s high of course – and he knows this – but a Dentist can dream, can’t he?

In his Pacific Heights apartment, he installed an indoor driving range. Even though a taut net divides a speeding golf ball from his living room wall, he told me that sometimes the ball goes through the net and lodges in the wall. He says his neighbors are not too fond of him.

We have an odd relationship. Sometime in the last 10 years, we got comfortable enough to start making fun of each other. At first it started with swearing. Once the professional ice was melted, all topics were appropriate.

Last month while getting my teeth cleaned, I grabbed my dental chart, while the hygienist was out of the room. Besides information about my teeth, it contained personal information like, “Has a 5 year old son,” “Plays in a kids band” and “Lives in Oakland.” These were used conversation starters.

At the bottom of the page was a very personal comment: “Weird but nice.” I yelled, “Dr. Fine. Fine! Come here, I’ve got something to show ya.” He was in the other room working on a patient. A hygienist yelled that he’d be right with me.

A few minutes later, he entered the room with latex gloves, a surgical mask and high powered bi-focals around his next. A pit peeved, he asked, “What? What the hell is wrong?”

Smiling, I indignantly responded, “What the hell is this?” throwing the file at him.

“What? What are you talking about?” he cried, walking back out the door.

“Hold on, look at the bottom of the page where it says ‘weird but nice.’ What the hell is that?”

I thought I had him. Dr. Fine looks at it, laughs and says, “Well, it’s true.”

Monday, May 18, 2009

George Not Jorge

I come from a long line of George’s: George Hilston Kim (Dad), George Fairweather Kim (Grandpa), George Ofthejungle (Monkey), etc. So it only makes sense that I should’ve been named George, don’t ya think?

When my dad met mom, he didn’t know of my Mother’s hatred of the name George. I’m sure at first she clenched her jaw and called him George, but as the relationship grew, and his quirky habits that she once found endearing and cute grew tiresome, she sprung on him that she hated the name George. From that day on my dad became known as Kim (his last name). Or as my very southern mom pronounces it: “Ke-yem.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard my Mom call my Dad by his real name.

I met Jorge 13 years ago when he was working at the Salvation Army. The Army had just lost their contract with city to deliver hot meals to Seniors in SF because they wouldn’t adhere to domestic partners guidelines and were the new contract holders. While at the Salvation Army, scavenging city owned ovens and delivery materials, we saw Jorge standing on a dock with a look that said, “What about me?” We took Jorge to deliver senior meals for us.

Jorge introduced himself as George. Jorge/George was obviously Latino and was used to dumbing-down his name for white people. According to me, I was one with the people and I knew how to properly pronounce Jorge, so why couldn’t I call him Jorge? Didn’t he see I was one of the cool ones? It would’ve been a multi-cultural trophy that I could place on my mantle and repeat over and over in conversation: Well, you know Jorge at work…” My friend Jorge said....” Even though it pained me to pronounce the hard “G” of George, I accepted his wishes and called him what he wanted. Years of sensitivity training prepared me for this moment and I passed the test. 13 years later he’s just George and I could give a shit about calling Jorge George, or Esteban Steven – it’s what they want not me. It’s a tough lesson for a white liberal.

Every once in awhile at work I have to deal with strangers who Jorge sees every day on his delivery route. This usually happens when Jorge is sick or on Vacation. I always introduce myself the same way:

“Hey, Hey, I’m subbing for George. I’m Greg.”

Inevitably, one of them responds, “You mean Jorge?” Knowing we’re talking about the same person, I play ignorant. I’ve found this tactic very effective.

“No, I’m subbing for George. You know, the muscular Latino dude.” I add the description to let them know we’re talking about the same person.

“Yeah, Jorge.”

“No, George.”

I’ll let this go on for as long as it takes. If they don’t give up, I’ll break out the big guns:

“Listen,” if you want to piss off somebody, start with “listen.” “I’ve known George for 13 years and if anybody’s gonna call him Jorge, It’s gonna be me. But that ain’t happening, so get over it. If you’re white, he wants you to call him George. Got it.”

Well, that’s what I’d say if got to that point.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Get Your Patchouli Stink Out Of My Store

A few years after knowing Steve, he confessed that he thought I was gay when we first met. He heard that I was gay from other touring bands and he just assumed I was because I wore lots of jewelry and had painted fingernails. He failed to remember that when we first met he was the one wearing Daisy Duke jean shorts, a jean vest with medals pinned to the vest, and ratty leather tennis shoes with no socks. Oh yeah, and there was no shirt underneath the vest. If Steve and I had participated in a "gay off" at the time, I think he would’ve won. Pipe down, Steve.

The gaudy jewelry stayed with me until I got arrested in Chicago. I protested as I took off my rings, necklaces and nose rings at the Police Station, but they explained they were potential weapons. They also took my shoelaces.

After a weekend in jail for disorderly conduct and rioting, I quickly jumped bail, leaving all the tacky jewelry in Chicago. Steve had moved back home, but I thought of him as I drove Interstate 80 back to San Francisco.

It was awhile before I went fully straight. The earings and nosering and eventually found its way back on my body, fulfilling the need to be different. It took Tim Robbins’ character in High Fidelity to finally free me of my terrible style.

Tim Robbins played Ian Raymond, John Cusack’s sexually active upstairs neighbor and eventual fling to his girlfriend. Peaceful to the core and reeking of scented oil, he wore lose, yoga-inspired clothes, pulled his long flowing hair back in a ponytail and wore two hoop earrings in both ears. He was the type of guy that would ask if he could wash your hair while you were taking a bath. Gross.

By the time I saw the movie, my jewelry infatuation had decreased. Two small hoop earrings in both ears survived, but all the rings, piercings and necklaces were gone. As I watched his appalling character, I realized that I was in danger of looking like him. My friends had moved on, cutting their hair and removing their piercings of the late 80s. (They couldn’t do anything about the tribal tattoos.) The toe-gazing, lo-fi indie sounds of the 90s was calling and it wouldn’t put up Ian Raymond characters. It was time for a change.

That night I took out my earrings for good.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Power Ranger in Willow Alley

Power Ranger
Willow Alley
San Francisco,Ca

Chico - My Middle Eastern Friend

I woke up naked except for socks, with throw up all over my body and the wall. There was a note from my sister on the nightstand: “You totally blew it, ralphing all over yourself. Chico was pounding on your window and woke up Mom and Dad. They’re pissed. Where’s the car?” Chico was my Middle Eastern friend who we called Chico because we thought he was Latino; The car was on the neighbor’s lawn at the end of the cul-de-sac. The night before me, Chico and the Thrush brothers drank Old Granddad in my car at the end of the Cul-de-sac. Even though we had moved to California from Virginia 3 years earlier, my friends liked to remind me that I was a “Virginia Pussy” anytime I refrained from doing something that could get me killed, arrested or in big trouble. This night I proved them wrong by drinking the most of the Old Granddad. They still called me a Virginia Pussy, even though I puked, drank the most and parked the car on the neighbor’s lawn.

The note has traveled with me for 30 years. It's one of my favorite possessions!