Your mama lets you have sharks in the house?

And so, with little fanfare, our hero moves to San Francisco.

His apartment, a narrow, white Victorian in the Lower Haight, still smells of wet paint and sawdust, the inescapable new apartment smell. It’s cold, and his room has no curtains. There is no internet, which troubles him, but not over much.

He is a long way from home, and he has nothing to eat but bear claws and some grapes, yet he is bold. Bold, and untroubled.

The cars roar past his window, and he reads, and he plots. The winds of change whistle through the cracks in the windows.

———————————

Moving is unpleasant. Americans are not a naturally nomadic race, not by any stretch. Unloading my worldly possessions, arranging, sorting, boxing, thankfully I’m almost finished now. The material accumulations of my life, the sediment that’s settled around me in my past five years, confounds me. Where did I get not one, but two copies of a book about mullets? Why do I have so many birthday candles, and a dozen green lightbulbs? Why do I have four hundred complete yet unmatching sets of silverware? Where the hell are my socks?

Needless to say, much of the transitional discomfort is behind me. Us. My roommate and comrade in arms Jolizzle has handled the entire situation with her trademark chaotic grace, decorating and organizing with full tilt abandon. We compliment each other well, austerity vs. fashion, determination vs. enthusiasm, dark vs. light. Our home will be a good one, no doubt. Oh, the parties we shall throw.

Books, books everywhere. A good 80% of my entire personal property is books, and old computer parts. It’s good though, it adds a touch of intellectual class to our new pad. All we need now are garbage cans. And a shower curtain. And a coat rack, we simply must find a nice coat rack for our vestibule.

The Bua paintings have been hung, and my bedroom has assumed an almost normal state, with knotted cables and tangled wires sprawled out everywhere, stuffed cleverly behind guitar stands and dressers. It’s not home if it’s not a huge electrical fire hazard. Daisy-chained surge protectors and tacky green Christmas lights and CAT-5, oh my!

I’ve met a few of the neighbors, in passing. Charles, the strange bachelor above us, introduced himself as I sat playing guitar on our fire escape. He then proceeded to rant about the failings of San Francisco’s sustainable building policies. He’s an up and up in Solar Power and Organic Plastics circles, I gathered. He plans to hold a cookout soon, to encourage sociable relations amongst our building, which I heartily encouraged. He seems harmless enough.

I introduced myself to the very San Franciscan woman upstairs as she toted her garbage to the garage. Her name escapes me; she warned of strange happenings and questionable ventures afoot next door. I have yet to see anyone enter or exit the next building, except for an ancient Chinese woman and her albino great dane, who watched me suspiciously as I unloaded my desk yesterday. Keep your doors locked, she advised.

Undoubtedly, we will be the talk of the block. Already, I’ve been addressed as “the new couple that moved in downstairs”, and with both of us bringing lady friends over at odd hours, rumors are sure to fly. Why the hell does everybody think we’re married? I don’t have a ring. Shit I don’t even have a watch. I’ll be interested to see what the gossip mills churn out about us, in this here apartment building.

There is, of course, the house full of our friends across the street, who have welcomed us to the neighborhood graciously. I don’t believe I’m at a point where I can simply go across and bang on their door for no purpose other than hanging out and mooching wireless access; after all, those girls are still more Jolene’s friends than mine, and such impositions would not engender friendly neighbor relations so early in our stay here. Hopefully things will progress, however, and that degree of separation will disappear. I’d certainly like to recreate the open-door highly social atmosphere I worked so long and hard to foster in the Grand Ave house, with various friends coming and going at will at all hours. It’s harder in a city, where people can’t simply stop by on their way home from class, but I’ll bet with a little encouragement and free food, the guests will start to appear. Here me now, friends. Come the fuck over and hang out.

——————————–

Still trying to get my bearings here. A change of setting is, without a doubt, a positive move. All movement is good movement, as they say. Is it speed, or velocity which can never be negative? I believe it’s speed; my physics fails me right now. But whichever one is always positive, that’s what’s working its magic now.

Life in the city? Well.

Who the hell knows. I’ve only been here two nights.

I’ll tell you more later, once I get a better sense of things.

——————————-

Camping;

We went camping a week ago. Two weeks ago?

A week ago I believe.

We went with Galo’s high school friends, who were not only from Moraga, but from Moraga. Duraflames and fruit salad and fleece, oh so much fleece. The look on their faces when I brought out the firewood was priceless, even more so when I started hacking away at it with a hatchet. I don’t think any of them had seen a hatchet before.

They were nice enough people. The guys were typical, a math teacher, a consultant, various other harmless professions. Their girls were typical background Other Side Of The Tunnel girls, mousy and brown and infinitely bland. I’ll say they were nice, lest you think me a bigger asshole than I really am. But nice is just about it. We set up our campsite and immediately started in on the boozing; the others (Galo’s friends) were spending the day winetasting, and we had much ground to cover to catch up. Albertsons in CV had an 18 pack of PBR for 4.99. Four ninety nine.

Four Ninety Nine.

That’s as close to free as it gets, without stealing. Regardless, out came the tents, the chips, the football, and the beer. Now we’re fucking camping, fools.

When they returned from their white-collar suburbanite diversions and found their camp inhabited by two Hayweirdos and one of their own who has certainly strayed from the flock, I think they were a little put off.

Good.

Being around the affluent and naive has a serious effect on my personality; it polarizes me completely, and suddenly I’m a working class thug from the Hayward ghettos, a hatchet-wielding foul-mouthed savage, a leathery half-Idahoan world traveler with a chimp’s sense of propriety and a relentless lack of respect for the whitebread tract house bourgeois. I’m a fiend with the lighter fluid, and I scowl a lot.

The kids grew on me, though. Despite their non-humble origins, I took a decent enough liking to them. We played the who-knows-who game and found that one of their roommates at UCSD had dated one of my roommate’s roommates, back in our college days. Oh, you know so and so? And her too? and that tall guy, their roommate from the water polo team? Yeah yeah, I know him. I met her at a party once. The world gets a little smaller, and we all shake our heads at what a god damn miraculous coincidence a bunch of Californian 23-25 year olds knowing each other is. It was interesting being in an environment where my… clique, I guess. My circle was not at the center of the activity. We gather new friends and acquaintances, our ever-expanding East Ave Bret Harte Moreau Cal Poly core. New friends don’t gather us. Other peoples’ inside jokes and stories and memories… it was like a foreign country; I’ve become so accustomed to absorbing, of new satellites being caught in our orbit that I had forgotten what it was like to spend a night in someone else’s galaxy.

I argued long and hard with Zach, (Zach? Was that his name? I think so.) a union organizer and liberal at large, for nearly two hours. I don’t recall what specifically started the argument, which was reasonably good natured. It was one of those rambling, wandering battles that’s more a clash of ideals, personality, and essence than a real debate over a specific issue. Being of the liberal bent myself, you’d think that our views would be reasonably in line, and I think when seen from above, from a suitably high point, our ideas would run in pretty much the same direction. And yet, we argued tooth and nail almost constantly. He abhors my loathing for the government, for my defeatist and selfish idealism, just as I scoff at his wide-eyed faith in the inherent good of the American public, for his post-modern hippy activism and his witty bumpersticker politicism. Guitar in one hand and beer in the other, I shouted my disgust with his petty crusades. Hands waving, spilling his glass of red wine repeatedly, he looked to the heavens in abject disbelief at my cynicism and closemindedness. I gave up the night Bush was re-elected, I yell. Let these stupid fuckers burn our country to the ground, I’m too tired to patch the dike that holds back all this country’s retards. Buy the ticket, take the ride; these morons want to turn our country into a Christian theocracy run by oil tycoons and midwestern inbreds, there’s nothing I can do outside of open revolt to stop them. You have no concept of the strides we’re making in this country, of the plans in motion to set things right, he shouts. What about proposition whatever, we’re working to get What’sHisName on the ballot in Sonoma County for 2006, and to get the teacher’s minimum wage raised to whatever whatever by next October! I’m sure an extra twelve cents an hour for old women teaching Long Division is just the kind of social progressiveness that brings comfort to all the dying soldiers in Iraq. You have no sense of the common good, he says. And you have no sense of priorities, I retort.

And so it continues, degrading, as arguments between the inebriated are wont to do, into a pseudo-philosophical shouting match about the nature of humankind and the universe at large. I look up and see emptiness, he looks up and sees the stars. I roared some twisted metaphor about people and wolves and dogs for forty five minutes; Zach shook his head and stuttered and barked retorts. The only difference between a wolf and a dog is the suppression of instinct, I say. People are the same way, and some of us end up more wolf than dog. People are happy and kind and just confused, and everybody is happy and Bambi’s mom comes back in the end and we all hold hands and nobody starves or bleeds ever again, he says. He didn’t really say that. That may have just been my interpretation, but god dammit the sentiment is accurate.

The other men dispersed from the circle quietly, lest they be caught in the crossfire. Galo stuck it out, and discussed as well, though he never took the gloves off like we did. Candace fell asleep in her chair.

We ate our shepherd’s pies, meat and potatoes wrapped in foil and tossed directly onto the fire. The Moragans ate their propane-grilled sausage and fruit salad and french rolls and drank their wine.

Only once did one of the girls address me directly. The rest of the time, they were milling about in the background, preparing food and giggling and folding things or whatever the fuck boring chicks do when I’m not watching. I was ranting about money wasted on this entire Childhood Obesity campaign by the Governator, about how mind-numbingly stupid it was (and is) to spend money to stop kids from fucking drinking soda when our education system is in shambles, we’re fighting overseas, and our economy is a disaster.

“Diabetes in children can be a very big problem, though.” She said.

I whipped around to face her across the fire, snarling. The argument had been particularly vicious for the last few minutes, and I was going full bore.

“Are fucking kidding me?” I yelled.

Wide-eyed and caught completely offguard, the timid housewifeish brown-haired girl looked devastated. Never before had she been spoken to like this; I doubt if anyone has ever so much as raised their voice at her. Or needed to.

“You think an unfortunate yet treatable malady which occurs in a very small percentage of the population should even be of the slightest concern considering the dire state of our nation? While Americans and our victims pull shrapnel from their bloody wounds on foreign sands, while people starve and go homeless because of hurricanes and earthquakes and economy crisis, you want me to give a flying fuck about little Scotty’s Mountain Dew addiction?”

Her jaw dropped, just a little, and she sank back farther into her hooded sweatshirt. Tears welled in her eyes.

“How fucking stupid can you be? Shouldn’t you be cutting up some orange slices for soccer practice or something? Or doing your boyfriend’s laundry?”

Everyone got quiet.

I looked across the fire and saw what my violence had wrought. I saw a girl, whose porcelain dreams and simple, kind heart were completely shattered by my viciousness. I saw a girl far younger than her years would imply break down completely in the face of my anger. A girl who wandered into the wrong argument at the wrong time, and left in shambles.

She looked across the fire and saw me. Anger and bitterness and eyes like the void, glaring at her across the fire with abject unconscionable disgust.

She hid her face with a small and shaking hand, and, stumbling, left for the tent. Her boyfriend followed, not meeting my eyes.

I broke that poor girl without a thought, completely out of hand.

Jesus, how did I get this bad?

———————————-

I decided to use my super powers, and turn back time. Reversing the flow of time is an exhausting and uncomfortable proposition at the best of times even for one of my powers, however, upon seeing the look on that girl’s face whose name I never bothered to learn, I felt it must be done.

And so I turned back time.

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

The girl balked. I don’t know that I had ever seen a person balk before; it was simply a word in books, a purely theoretical expression of emotion. This girl balked.

Everyone got quiet.

“I understand that diabetes is a horrible disease. My grandmother had it before she died, it was terrible. Don’t you think that there are more pressing issues at hand, though? We can worry about diabetes after we stop murdering foreigners and raping our environment and cure AIDS.”

She mumbled something, and looked at her feet.

“Priorities, it’s all about priorities. You know what I mean?” I said, sitting back in my chair. I tried to think of a nice song to play on guitar, as repentance. I don’t know anything but Alice in Chains, though.

She finally looked up. I saw a girl whose timidity and unbelievable naivete remained shaken but intact. I saw a girl raised in a glass case, in a terrarium, in a world very different from my own.

She looked across the fire and saw me. Angry, a hard-hearted and mean-spirited bastard to be sure. Not that she’d ever use the word bastard.

She got up and walked off, joining the other girls for post-dinner cleanup. They put an arm around her as she joined them, and looked at me over their shoulders while they whispered in her ear.

I looked over, hoping Candace was still asleep. I don’t need her finding out what an evil man I really am.

—————————-

Later that night, looking at the stars after the other kids had gone to bed, Galo and I talked for a bit.

“Man, you ripped that girl’s head off.”

“Yeah, yeah I did. You should have seen what I said before I reversed time and bit my tongue.”

“What?”

“Nevermind.”

“You’re pretty negative, you know that.?”

“Yeah.That damn girl had no business wandering into that argument, though. You don’t play hopscotch on the minefield, god dammit.”

“True.”

We watched for falling stars, and Candace and Galo and I wished for things, silently.

——————————-

We woke before the Moragans the next morning. Some assbag’s car alarm went off around 7:30, and must have shrieked for a good five minutes before he got his lard ass out of his trailer to turn it off. Somebody’s white trash children bombed by about thirty times on their little pink bikes, training wheels rattling at full volume. So much for the idyllic wildnerness morning, you scum. Christ I hate people.

We walked around a bit, strolling through the dry Napa October. The others busied themselves with cleanup.

“What do I have to do to make one of these white women bring me some breakfast?” I asked.

“Just sit back, they bring it to you.” Zach said, laughing.

“Maybe you, man. I think I’m on the blacklist now.”

Petro and Galo and I talked sports for a while, and they loaded up their fleece and their unused Duraflames and their Campo Lindo sweatshirts into their suburban. We tossed our shit into my truck, and roped the tarp down. We went our separate ways.

———————————

The rest of the day was spent enjoying the rare fall weather. Sunshine like you wouldn’t believe, in Napa and back in the city. The Blue Angels were tearassing around in the skies above us as we crossed the Golden Gate, and Candace led us to a hidden hill above the Sunset where I watched their aerobatics with secret, 8-year old boy glee.

“How come guys always know about jets?” Candace asked, after hearing Galo and I discuss the merits of an F-15 in comparison to the newer, more versatile F-22 Raptor.

“Jets come right after dinosaurs, in the little boy childhood obsession scheme.” I explained. “If it can’t shoot down a Mig or bite a Brontosaurus in half, we don’t give a shit about it till we hit puberty.”

“Weirdos.”

She’s right, of course.

I couldn’t stop humming Danger Zone for the next three days.

——————————-

Sunday night in a new house.

No food here. God damn I wish I had a hot dog.

I wonder where Jolene is, and whether she’s bringing a shower curtain. I took a bath this morning, a god damn bath. You know who’s too tall to fit comfortably in a damn bath tub?!

We desperately need that shower curtain. And the Internet. Who knows how long this madness will languish on my hard drive before SBC sees fit to grant me their favor and an IP address and I can broadcast it out to the teeming hordes.

Corrections, Revisions, and Clafirications:

In reference to some previous post, a Mr. Q. Soto has informed me that Rosie Perez did not, in fact, star in My Cousin Vinny. It was Marisa Tomei. I am inclined to believe him, as his knowledge of worthless and arcane movie trivia is unmatched. I apologize sincerely to both Ms. Perez and Ms. Tomei, and wish them the best in their failed and hopeless careers.

-T.

i’m certain that i have never seen
a turning, a turning from deceit

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One Response to “Your mama lets you have sharks in the house?”

  1. marisa: hot

    rosie: not

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