Monday, February 4, 2013

Cannonball

Andy stood at Broadway and Montgomery, smoking a cigarette, staring across the street. Behind him was an SRO hotel. His residence. As far as SROs go, it was ok. It was far from the Tenderloin, so it attracted more drunks than junkies. Sometimes drunks are better than junkies; sometimes not.

Andy was neither. He was poor, working poor, and in transition from a crazy girlfriend, a girlfriend that bought him a weekend in jail for a lie. With a welcoming smile, boots on their third resole and a slew of wool sweaters, he was comfortable in this neighborhood. He fit. North Beach.

Since the 40s, North Beach has attracted writers, musicians and romantics. Everyday, young men walk the streets, looking into windows of bars and bookstores, imaging their heroes: Kerouac, Garcia and Biafra, to name a few. And imagining history. Andy was no different. Fluent in Modest Mouse and Hendrix, Burroughs and Foster Wallace, like so many young people of his generation, he wasn’t pigeon holed by the past or present, only knowing both, without the shackles of age, history and dogma.

Across the street was Centerfolds, a strip club that caters to a more sophisticated crowd – a moneyed sleaze that appreciates girls with less tattoos, bigger boobs and clearer eyes. In contrast, a block to the west was The Lusty Lady, the politically correct strip club. With their jerk-off booths, fleshy dancers and union protection, the discerning scumbag had choices. Regardless of choice, methamphetamine, delusion and bad dads were common denominators of the entertainment.

On the street outside the entrance of Centerfolds, Andy viewed a young, Asian man arguing with the bouncers. By his gesticulation, he could tell he was emphatically making a point. He moved closer to hear the plea:

“I didn’t know, I didn’t know,“ he said, wide eyed and shaking his head, in an effort to sway ignorance. “I didn’t know you couldn’t touch them. Nobody told me; there were no signs,” he continued, scouring the outside wall for a sign that listed the rules.

2 bouncers, crossed-armed and looking a little like Mr. Clean in black suits, stood motionless. Trained not to engage, they let him talk it out, but exhibited enough menace, incase force was needed.

Getting nowhere, he slightly changed his approach:

“My friends are in there. I promise, I swear, if you let me in, I won’t do a thing. I didn’t know. I didn’t know.” He said, resorting back to the original point.

Finally, with no response from the bouncers and out of ideas, he blurted: “I spent a lot of money in there, you know.” No response. He touched a stripper. He broke the rules.

Admitting defeat, he lumbered a quarter block down Montgomery and sat on the curb, his head between his knees. Andy watched, knowing he still had fight left in him.

Breather over, he jumped up and marched back to the entrance. Before he got there, second thoughts ruled, and he turned around. Stopping, with his back to the entrance, he appeared contemplative. Fueled with entitlement, injustice and alcohol, he came up with a better plan, walking farther down the block to where his motorcycle was parked.

Slipping his full-face motorcycle helmet over his head, he walked into the street and slinked back to the club, parked cars obscuring early detection from the bouncers. Crouching down behind the last parked car at the corner of Montgomery and Broadway, less than 15 yards from the swinging double doors of the entrance, he prepared himself for the final part of the new plan: regaining entrance into the club by force.

Bent over at a 90-degree angle, both hands on helmet, he gained speed, crashing into the bouncers and piercing the double doors. Both bouncers fell backwards, but quickly regained composure and followed him into the club. As quickly as he entered, he immediately returned with even more thrust. Pissed, the usually laconic bouncers threw him into the street, helmet still on head. With the professional fa├žade gone, they swore and kicked him in the stomach. He curled up into a ball, bracing for the blows. This is how things like this end. And he knew it.

They grabbed him out of the street, throwing him against the outer wall of the club, extra hard, knowing his helmet would brace him from head injury. Before they could properly restrain him, the police arrived and threw him into the back seat of the police car. They’re always nearby in North Beach. As the police determined what happened, Andy could see the young man violently throwing himself around the backseat, eventually breaking out the back left window. He still had fight left in him and still had the helmet on his head. He would need the fight, and the helmet, because a broken window dictates at least one more beating.