Just can’t seem to drink you off my mind

The sun sets and I hit the streets, with the rest of the mutants.

I wander through the dark, learning the spiritual and physical topography of my new locale.

Three lanes of maniacal taxis and commuters floor it up my street, honking and swerving with the desperate unpredictability of consistently unhappy. Such a rush to get home to their drab lives. So I head south, away from the freeway in my yard.

I follow the cracked and oily pavement down through the projects, stepping over the mumbling, malodorous poor. They ignore me, they know I’m not worth begging; I’ve got the stern look and hard step of a city dweller. I was born with it.

I find myself in the Haight.

The Haight is a land of remnants and immigrants, inhabited by the husks of a simpler age and their arrogant, fashionably trashy children. A few of the originals hang around, simpering old men and women in ripped tie-dye and corduroy who sell crap necklaces and beaded things. Yellow teeth and vacant smiles, they look around with eternal junkie optimism, as if just around the next corner the age they knew and loved is still waiting. A man leans out a convenience store window, waving at me. This place is in my veins, if not in my heart. Perhaps he’s seen it in me; my heritage betrays me.

“Howdy brother.” He says, giving me a thumbs up. I stop, and look at him.

“A bit dark…” He stops midsentence, wracked by the distinctly consumptive cough of a sixties survivor. “A bit dark for those sunglasses, ain’t it?”

I stare at him, not saying anything.

“Spare any change, brother?” He asks, smiling and picking at his filthy grey hair.

I walk on.

It’s not as though I have anything against hard drugs, or softer ones. Self destruction is a basic human right that I exercise regularly. I simply don’t have the constitution for anything harsher than malt liquor, and seeing these rotting revenants staggering around the cold city streets reminds me of what could have been.

Packs and pairs of people my own age wander by, looking out at me from under dyed black hair cut at weird angles. Checkered shirts and yellow socks and thrift-store affluence. Who are you kidding, you scum. You live in the Haight. I wonder how much Daddy spends a month to let you live your gloriously artsy lifestyle, how much Daddy sends you to let you craft that image of calculated poverty. Get out of my way.

They do.

The Haight still hums with some old energy, despite its populace. The streets themselves buzz with it, the buildings creak with it from behind modernized commercial facades. You can smell what was once here, if you don’t mind all the other smells that come with it. It hums the way the rocks do in Alamogordo, near the old test sites; an energy of unnatural infection.

I’ve got mixed feelings about this place.

The misty eyed elderly that speak of it with an almost holy reverence are, of course, full of shit. There was no revolution here, cultural or otherwise. 99% of this place’s fame is the product of memories distilled by forty years of drug flashbacks and delusional self-aggrandizement. Pot and unemployment and poor hygiene weren’t, and aren’t, the panacea they thought they were. All the love and peace and brotherhood and crap this place was at the heart of fell apart at the first breath of wind. All that’s left are cold junkies and a few opportunistic vendor/vultures picking at the corpse of the older generation’s mass hallucination.

Still…

I’ll bet it was one hell of a party.

I head west, south of the park, into the flats where the lights get dimmer and the alleys narrower.

I pass two werewolves beating a gypsy senseless behind a dumpster, hissing and frothing with rabid greed. A Nepalese monk curses in a forgotten language at the Muni bus that just left him behind. Two homeless women stagger in circles around a bench, talking to nobody. A mural of Eastern gods, undoubtedly painted by a white grad student with spraypaint he bought at Home Depot back before Burning Man 2001 decorates the outside of a liquor store. CNN barks news of the wars out someone’s fire escape window. An Indian girl in heels walks her yipping rat dog around the rim of the park, nose in the air.

Welcome Home.

—————————————–

-T.

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