Thursday, April 10, 2008

San Francisco Daze: March

Yes, I know it's now April. What can I say, I'm a laggard. Now posting the March edition of San Francisco Daze, a daily reflection of life here in the city that I wrote in 2005, now being foist upon an unsuspecting world. This one also includes a dash of Seattle, since I did a pilgrimage there in March/April 2005.

March 1

Unable to sleep tonight, I went for a stroll around my neighborhood at 1:00 AM. The streets were lit in spectral yellow and vaguely fuzzy in evening mist. The corner of Eleventh and Clement was four dark empty lanes intersecting, quiet in every direction, restaurants, laundry and linen store all dark and shuttered for the night. Above, through a gap in the clouds, the silent moon shone and a handful of stars glowed blue-white.

March 2

In the mellowness

of late afternoon,

even the dingy neon sign

of the massage parlor

on Polk just before Geary,

looks cheerful,

and glad to be there.

March 3

On the way home tonight, my attention was caught by a red mini-van that had "Denmark" in stenciled in white letters on the side, along with the Danish flag. And, sure enough, it seemed to be surrounded by honest to God Danes. Four of them, tall gangly young guys, dressed for warm weather on a rainy night, with hair too blonde to be believed. It was as if central casting had sent out for Danes. Now I'm completely intrigued— Why does Denmark have a mini-van? Who is the crew manning it? I don't know the answers, but I look forward to seeing more European touring vehicles on the streets of San Francisco (which is, after all, the favorite U.S. city of many European tourists). Maybe Liechtenstein will be next.

March 4

It rained where I stood

And clouds brooded gray

Over the Bay

But the East Bay

Was bathed in light

Home-encrusted hills

Agleam in polished white

One bare hill

Aglow with green and gold

March 5-8

There is no record of these days. Apparently, in spring a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of love.

March 9

Park Presidio foggy AM

Bus-stop wait

Evergreen tops

Turned gray in the mist

Vines climbing rough bark






March 10-11

Nothing. Spring strikes again.

March 12

Charlie is a wonder. She stands on the stage at the back of the Make Out Room, MCing Writer's With Drinks, six feet of curly blond haired sunny Texas hoedown-dressed transvestite glory.

March 13

They have been doing restoration work on Mountain Lake Park for the past four years. Clearing the eucalyptus trees whose leaves poisoned the waters, planting local flowers and trees along the shore, improving drainage. Today, on this glorious spring day, standing on the stones that ring the tiny beach, watching the coots, ducks and seagulls plying the surface and the dappled gold of the sunlight play off the mud of the bottom, I understood why.

March 14

Brick arch

just off Pacific & Front

frames perfect scene:

Round green grassy hill

Topped by tree bursting in explosions

Pink and white blossoms

March 15-23

No record of life in San Francisco on these days.


March 24

On the express bus, turning my attention to the fact that I really need to finish my essay for Kitchen Sink, even at the risk of absconding from work time to do it. That doesn't feel great, but then again, it doesn't feel awful. And there you have the tectonic shift that's going on in my life. Hopefully the earthquake damage will be limited. But heck, them old plates need to go where they need to go. So, anyway, currently we're hard charging uphill in the rain, chugging along, still working on passing Van Ness. Almost there— we've got Gough and the big stone medieval castle of Trinity Presbyterian. Woo! Now we've broke on through to the other side. A few minutes later, Snackwell Deli, the Psychic Gallery and Café Mozart, all gleaming in some kind of burnished gold, say we're almost there. We've just passed the Top of the Tunnel, the delightfully divey looking bar perched atop the Stockton Tunnel overpass. And now into the brown-gray stone, glass and metal of the Financial District, almost to the stop at Montgomery & Bush.

March 25

Boy is this rainy little downtown-bound bus getting crowded and desperate. This even before the Arguello stop. The gorgeous girl who just got on got to see me sneeze. Glory, glory hallelujah. God I love watching people on the bus, their faces alone are a joy. There's the guy with the knit cap, glasses and a beard. Swarthy looking- I think I'll report him. Environmental issues girl with her square glasses, little cleft in her chin, talking earnestly and non-stop to the friend seated next to her. Guy with the bushy eyebrows and poofy hair is a marvel. Beyond him, girl with the interesting face keeps making surreptitious glances my way. Back to talking-glasses girl— I love her green rain jacket, her sports jersey and the way nobody can be sure whether or not she's a lesbian. Same for her super red-haired friend. So red-haired that even her eyebrows are noticeably red. And I'm more than enough of a dirty bastard to carry that thought through to its conclusion. Oh alas, alack, we've only just passed Van Ness. Well, we'll be there eventually.

March 26

How Do You Write About A Place in Its Absence? (I):

Oh so happy to be sitting at the bus terminal in Seattle now. I'm here for a week of vacation, all alone, to make a microbrew and coffee and grunge pilgrimage. The sky is gray and multi-layered outside, and I'm resting for a second before seeking out the bus to the Citycenter Travel Lodge. Nothing to do but sit. And look at the big blond girl with the glasses who I'm inexplicably enamored of. Okay, signing off for now— off to the hotel!

March 27

How Do You Write About A Place in Its Absence? (II):

Got to fill you in on the run. I'm hunkered down in Pike's Place Market, a cool kitschy collection of shops, and much more alt than I would have thought. I'm in the basement shops now, which is really sort of an endless maze, but I think I'm edging my way toward liberation. Currently just outside the Women's Hall of Fame, and not too far from Lefty's World. Which, sadly, turns out not to be a shop devoted to progressive activism, but instead a dispenser of products for left-handed people. Well, when I do liberate myself, I want to go back and check out that little cheese factory on the street level. Best freaking Macaroni and Cheese I have ever had.

March 28

How Do You Write About A Place in Its Absence? (III):

Sitting here in the International District on a bench in a little pagodaed park, under a tree raining down pink and white blossoms. It isn't as idyllic as it sounds. Very flat and drab compared to San Francisco's Chinatown, although the mix of Asian stuff here is nice. And, unfortunately, this place is bordered by total skeeve-ville. Train station on one side, freeway overpass on the other. The street on the third side, which I took a stroll down, looked for all the world like the Tenderloin. Crowds milling in front of liquor stores, low-rent hotels, the works. I swear in the few minutes I've been here I've spotted at least half a dozen people I'm sure one could score off of. Okay, the sun is breaking through the rain clouds now, and I'm off to see what other wonders this realm may hold.

* * *

I'm now at Pioneer Square, which is much different than I'd expected. I was expecting a waterfront park, I think. Whereas this is actually a cobblestone square in an Old West setting. All the buildings abound in stone and wood, and now the presence of the Cowgirl Saloon just down the street makes sense. It's all actually much more charming than I was expecting. Except/including (?) the little kids in a school tour group swarming all around and screaming, chasing birds and climbing over benches. I am grateful, though, that they pointed out that the curved space formed by the union of the backs of the two benches that face in opposite directions is a perfect hobo's house. Oh, and before hitting the square (which is actually more of a triangle, properly speaking) I found the Pyramid Brewery and confirmed tour times. Not bad so far, very productive vis-à-vis my goals for the day.

March 29

How Do You Write About A Place in Its Absence? (IV):

Dude, okay, here's the deal— I am some percentage of the way on my way to the University of Washington. I passed that gallery with the Ballard and Ballard exhibit, and it was sweet. Extremely sweet. It had a fake documentary on the fake star of a fake talk-show, complete with fake episodes of the show and fake memorabilia. It makes me think more of the possibilities of collaborative word-visual art. Other than that, a fairly temperate day, lots of clouds in the sky but also lots of blue. Big puffy white clouds, with just the right touch of breeze. And I've stumbled upon this awesome riverside view from a little park, at which I'm now writing. God I love Puget Sound. I love the temperature here. I love the way the air feels. I think my home planet was a lot like this. Okay, now further. UoW awaits.

March 30

How Do You Write About A Place in Its Absence? (V):

In the bowels of the Experience Music Project. Actually, in the café. One of the nice features of this whole setup is the hand stamp that allows you to wander in and out. The real thing that got me here, though, was the fire alarm that forced us all outside, and my realization that I needed to refuel before tackling the next floor. So far, this thing has been worth every penny. The Beatles exhibit and the Songwriter room alone have been worth it. Who knew that you could have so much fun with a tempo dial, slowing a classic Rolling Stones song down to Blues or speeding it up to hardcore? And I haven't gotten to the most meaningful (to me) part of the Northwest exhibit, the part that covers Grunge. Or the whole Dylan and Hendrix exhibits on the second floor. And who knows what else is up there? Oh man does this do it for me. You need to start taking guitar lessons and take a stab at the whole DJ class thing, young man.

March 31

How Do You Write About A Place in Its Absence? (VI):

Tonight at a club at Pike Street, with a full bill of Heavy Metal acts. It was an interesting place. The first floor was 18 and up, but you had to show your ID to get to the second, where the booze was. And therein, a balcony that looked down on the stage for much more satisfying views than the general admission crush of the ground floor would have allowed for. Finally, the respect that the elderly deserve! I was slightly enamored of the first band, an outfit from Canada called Controller, Controller. They were good, but truth be told, my enamority was likely fueled as by the fact that they had a round and curvy girl with short dark hair fronting for them. No such aspersions can be cast on my love for the next act, Death From Above 1979. Also Canadian (What is it with Canadians? Are they keeping rock alive until we in the US can re-ignite it?), a two man metal drum and bass duo. Yes. Really. With no back-up, or tape loops, or anything. And yet it worked, it utterly worked. They rocked hard and yet were also somehow danceable. These kids warrant further investigation.