Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pussy Galore



My first apartment in San Francisco was a three-room flat in the Haight Ashbury district. I lived in the only bedroom—a small, dark 15-by-12-foot room with the only closet and one window looking into the wall of the adjacent building. Henry and Jessica, my roommates, lived in the den and living room, which was divided by a sliding door. This was a normal layout for most SF apartments. The kitchen was a small sliver off the living room that dumped into the hallway leading to the front door.

Henry and Jessica were my sister’s friends, a little older and wiser to the City’s ways. They took me in and were patient with my transition from big suburban ranch house to small city apartment. When I didn’t do the dishes—a symptom of living on your own for the first time—they would gently remind me that my mom didn’t live with us. They also taught me how to bake a potato, so I wouldn’t starve.

Even though Jessica and Henry were first-generation SF punks, when punk was a little artier, gayer and people still pogoed, they tolerated my enthusiasm for hardcore punk. While they drank beer in the back of the club while seeing the Circle Jerks or Flipper, I would be in the front thrashing and stage diving. Every few songs I’d take a break, to catch my breath and see what they were doing. I would be bloody and beat to hell. They’d laugh. I got lucky with them.

Henry was a dispatcher at a bike messenger company and sold pot on the side. He had gone to school in the central valley of California and lived in the dorms. When his first dorm roommate moved out, he littered the floor of the room with garbage until it was about 18 inches thick. Everybody that the school sent to live with him refused, so eventually they gave up and he was able to live by himself until he graduated. I never asked if he cleaned the room, once the threat of a roommate was over. I would assume not. Henry was a shit stirrer before I knew him, but I only knew him as the smart, soft-spoken guy down the hall.

Jessica worked with Henry as an order taker at the same messenger company. She had flaming, red, curly hair, bunched up on the top of her head, falling in her eyes like a long pompadour. Despite it being a nuisance, it was part of her like her eyes and nose and her vanity prevented her from cutting it. For some odd reason, we called it her “poo-tang" (not poontang). Jessica had no problems with the name and adopted it.

Jessica was fond of saying, “Gregory, my poo-tang is bugging me,” blowing the hair from her face. I knew that she meant her hair was bugging her, not her crotch. This inside joke would backfire on her.

Jessica met a suave black man named Marvin at San Francisco State University. He convinced her to go on date with her with the line: “Come on, Jessica. A little wine, a little women, it’ll be nice.” She fell for it and Marvin came to our apartment the following weekend with a single red rose and leather loafers, reeking of cologne.

While Jessica fiddled about her room looking for a black cardigan to go with her black outfit, she nervously brushed away her “poo-tang” from her face. Marvin patiently waited. As she fluttered about the room, she absentmindedly said to Marvin, “Man, my poo-tang is bothering me,” pushing her hair off her forehead. Jessica saw Marvin’s reaction to the comment, and feebly tried to explain that poo-tang was the tuft of hair dangling in her face and poon-tang was between her legs. She tried but irony is impossible to explain. They still went out and I think Jessica gave Marvin a little wine, a little women and I’m sure it was nice because every once in a while I saw Marvin being led past my room late at night.

Since both my roommates worked at the same messenger company, it only made sense that I worked there, too, as a bike messenger. Henry got me the job and we would ride our bikes to and from work like a little family. At first I didn’t have a bike, so the company lent me a heavy one-speed with a basket in front, which was status quo for messengers back then.

Through being a bike messenger and Henry’s dealing, I met a fellow messenger and pot smoker named Tom. He would come over to the house to buy pot and would usually stay and hang out. Eventually he and I were going out all the time.

One Tuesday, Tom, Jessica and Henry and I went to see Tales of Terror and White Flag at the Mab. We crowded into my small car, picked up my sister in the Mission, got burritos and headed to the show. On the way, we pulled over and got a 12-pack for the road. It was customary to either drink beer in the car before the show or take it up to the club and find an alley to drink it. This time we chose the car.

Lisa had been drinking before we picked her up, so she was quite drunk by the time we got into the show. Lisa wasn't a mellow drunk—she was feisty, loudmouthed and opinionated. I wasn’t looking forward to babysitting her and keeping her from fighting, which was usually with guys. In situations like these, the only thing she had going for her was sexism: most guys wouldn’t hit girls.
Lisa, Jessica and Henry went to the bar and Tom and I went to the front of the stage. There weren’t many people there and we were able to get close enough to avoid the few punks thrashing about in the pit. Tales of Terror were playing, led by their singer Rat’s Ass, who was a notorious SF punk. He was notorious for two reasons: one, because of his name, and two, because it was reputed, by his own admission, that he had a tattoo of Elvis on his dick. This begged many questions: Was the tattoo on the head of his dick? On the shaft of his dick? Was he erect when the tattoo was inked? I was oddly curious.

After a song, Rat’s Ass unzipped his pants and announced: “I’ve got a tattoo of Elvis on my dick.” I pushed toward the front—finally, the question was going to be answered. He stopped halfway, then zipped it back up. Tease. Switching gears, he taunted the crowd: “Someone hurt me. Come on you fucking pussies, someone hurt me.” A guy in front of us grabbed the microphone stand and slammed it into Rat’s Ass’ face, the microphone careening into his front teeth. Stunned, Rat’s Ass stepped back, leaning over with his hands pressed against his mouth. He regained his composure, approached the microphone and said, “That did it, that fuckin' hurt!” His eyes were glassy, watering.

Tom and I retreated to the back and found my sister, who was having problems with a longhaired guy. “What the fuck is that?” my sister yelled at us, looking over our shoulders. The guy had tan, muscular arms and longish blond hair, and was wearing a sleeveless shirt that said Pussy Galore in large colorful letters. "What the fuck does Pussy Galore mean? I’m gonna rip that fuckin’ shirt right off him.” Luckily, the band was playing, drowning out her screams. The object of my sister’s hatred had no idea that a crazy woman was about to attack.

“Lisa, calm the fuck down, Pussy Galore is a band. It’s just a fucking band.” I pleaded. There was no stopping her, I had seen this behavior before and it was pointless trying to rationalize with her. Plus, she was wasted, having spent most of her time at the bar. Between the alcohol and years of Women’s Studies classes and yearly subscriptions to On Our Backs, I knew there was nothing I could do to stop her from attacking this guy. “Jesus Christ, Lisa, calm down!” I pleaded with her.

Tom and I watched as she walked toward the guy, his back turned to her. She immediately grabbed the top of his shirt and yanked downward as hard as she could, ripping it from the collar to the pit and then some. He turned around and yelled, “What the fuck?” He was pissed and rather confused. He could’ve kicked all three of our asses.

Tom and I grabbed Lisa and pulled her out of the club, leaving Jessica and Henry at the bar, who were oblivious to what was going on. She went reluctantly, screaming, “Fuck you, dude. Fuck you, you dick.” He returned the insults with, “Fuck you, bitch. What the fuck?” not sure why this crazy woman was trying to rip his shirt off him. But he stayed put, not following us. Just in case, we dragged Lisa halfway down Broadway, past Montgomery and down the hill until we couldn’t see the club.

When the coast was clear, we let go of her. She shook her arms, looked at us with a smile, thinking she had done something good, and said, “Fuck that guy, what the fuck did he think he was doing?” Before she could finish, I pushed back, “Fuck you, Lisa. That guy was gonna kill you. And probably me.” Tom chimed in, “And me too.”

Just then, a large truck drove by. A cowboy looking dude in the driver’s seat yelled, “Devo, B-52s!” It was something that straight people yelled at us all the time.

Lisa flipped him off and yelled, “Fuck your mother.” The wheels on his trucks screeched, throwing it into a skid. We grabbed Lisa and ran down the hill, making a left on Sansome and darting into the two-tiered free garage where we always parked.

“Lisa, you’re a fucking idiot. I’m sick of you doing this.” She was drunk and moving from feisty to apologetic and pathetic.

“I’m sorry, little brother.” At the end of the night, my name usually changed from Greg to Little Brother. “Fuck, I know, I know, but that guy was a fuckin' idiot.” She wasn’t giving up but she was fading quickly, slumping in the back seat. I failed to respond. “Come on, Little Brother. Don’t be mad at me.” We rode home in silence—me stewing in the front seat and Lisa slumped down in the backseat.

Driving down Market, past Van Ness, Lisa’s head popped up: “Pull over, I gotta throw up. Pull over.” I jerked the car to the right and turned off the lights, keeping the engine running. It was midweek and late, so there wasn’t much traffic. Lisa lurched out the back door and walked in front of the car, bending over where we couldn’t see her.

Tom and I sat motionless in the front seat, waiting for Lisa to reappear. Even though I was drunk too—drunk enough to get a DUI—and drawing attention to the situation could lead to all of us going to jail and the car getting impounded, I decided to pull back on the high beams while simultaneously laying hard on the horn. Lisa was really bugging me and I felt the need to get back at her.

There weren’t many people on the street, but the ones who were near us noticed the drunken woman crouched down, throwing up in front of a car. Tom and I laughed hysterically. After a few seconds, we figured she would appear, stumble back in the car and tell us to fuck off. No, this wasn’t my sister’s style. A lone finger—the middle one—slowly rose beyond the hood like the sun in the east. I stopped honking. Her middle finger stood stone like, pointing toward the sky. It was followed with a mumbled, barely discernible:

“Fuuuuuuck Oooooofff!” That's my sister. Defiant to the end.

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