Going back to Memphis, babe, where I had much better luck

Sick as hell and going stir crazy.

As it seems to every couple of months, my pathetic immune system has failed me again and I’ve voluntarily quarantined myself.

“You OK in there Trevor?” Concerned voices ask through the crack under the door.

*hack, cough* “Yeah just great.” *cough*

I’m pretty sure it’s SARS or the Bird Flu. Possibly drug-resistant TB brought back by that nutjob from Greece I heard about on the radio. In a city this big, with such a pantheon of germs, it could be any damn thing.

My roommates, wearing rubber gloves, swim goggles, and face masks, warily pass me a box of supplies through the door each morning. I spend my day wheezing and groaning, like some dying animal. A half-pint of warmed whiskey with four packets of Theraflu for lunch. Just what the doctor ordered.

————

Despite my sordid condition, I ate a fistful of dayquil and gunned it out to a bonfire on Saturday night for Meredith’s birthday. The prospect of fresh air and open flame was too enticing, especially now that winter has decided to stop sucking for at least a few days.

Ocean beach is pretty much a complete piece of shit as beaches go, but it’s close at least. I’d never been there at night, and was prepared for the worst, but conditions were shockingly mild. No wind, low tide, big fire…

Packs of chattering teenagers were out, burning their families’ Christmas trees in big, festive pyres. The more ambitious would get three or four going at a time, setting them up vertically so they looked like effigies. The whole beach would light up in two bursts, the first orange as the dry trees flared up, the second white as fifteen or twenty digital cameras wielded by fifteen or twenty highschool-aged Chinese kids went off. Take lots of pictures, kids, lest you forget what a damn fire looks like.

We had been there for all of eleven minutes, being introduced to Meredith’s strange hipster (read: non-capoeira) friends when the first of the fuckin Pine Swine rolled up.

Little did I know that, on any given night, forty to fifty percent of San Francisco’s on-duty cops hang out at Ocean Beach. It’s far and away the most heavily policed area in San Francisco. Possibly in Northern California. Rangers, state troopers, city police, sheriffs… I think I even saw a fucking FBI agent or two, but maybe they were just random white dudes with suits on.

They crept right the hell up on us, flashlights off. Nine of them. Literally nine. I counted. No bullshit. There were probably eleven of us dangerous criminals sitting around a small fire, listening to Melvin with the long bangs and tight jeans talk about how concerned he is for the people of Sudan.

“ALRIGHT FOLKS NOBODY MOVE.”

Nine maglights click on in unison. Great.

“Hey… officers…”

The hipsters cowered, openly fearful at the appearance of Loud Authority. Several of them clung to each other or hid their PBRs in their hoodies. Ellie and I sipped our beers.

“Have I come and talked to you about alcohol tonight folks?”

“What?”

“I SAID DID ANYONE COME THROUGH AND SPEAK TO YOU AB”

“No man, we just got here.”

“There’s no alcohol allowed on the beach.”

“Ok.”

“No glass containers allowed on the beach.”

Aww yeah. I sipped my (glass) bottle of Fat Tire, sticking it to the man TWO TIMES for the price of one. God I’m hardcore. Officer Shitcakes continued his speech.

“All this alcohol needs to disappear.”

“Ok.”

“Also, there’s no burning of Christmas trees.”

Wouldn’t want to have it fall out of the fire pit and catch the fucking sand on fire.

“And pick up all this litter and you can’t burn anything that has nails in it.”

He stood watching us for a moment, seeing if we’d react. A couple folks made the appropriate bustling movements towards the beer and wine, which satisfied the battalion of SF’s finest. They moved off to the next fire, where they proceeded to handcuff and arrest some kid after searching his backpack and finding a bag of weed the size of a Hershey Kiss. Protecting and serving. (For you non-San Franciscans who might not know, busting somebody for having a tiny bag of weed is completely, completely unheard of here. We were shocked; in SF, this is the equivalent of seeing a cop mace and taser a jaywalker, as far as overreaction goes.)

That set the tone for the night. Every 45 minutes or so at regular intervals for the next four hours, a ranger, cop, or trooper would march up to our fire, shine the light in everyone’s eyes, look for alcohol, and then wander off after saying something suitably stern and condescending. Fucking assholes. Go die.

I mean you can’t blame them, right. If I were a cop, I sure as shit wouldn’t want to be down in the TL or Hunter’s Point at midnight. There’s all kinds of thieves and murderers and crackheads out there. Criminals! That shit’s dangerous. I’d probably come out here and hassle the christ out of completely harmless twenty-somethings, where it’s safe. Better than having to break up a fight between two transvestites trying to stab each other with their dirty heroine needles.

And really, a lot of the seemingly-draconian rules make sense:

No glass on the beach – Nobody wants to cut their foot on a broken bottle. Keeping people from bringing glass on to Ocean Beach allows the general populous to run around happily cutting their feet on the absolutely prolific rusted bedsprings and folded sheetmetal and ancient Volkswagen bumpers instead.

No parking in the beach lot after 10 – This prevents people’s cars from being broken into, since you have to drive them a mile into Golden Gate park and leave them. As a bonus, you can be raped and stabbed in the bushes when you walk back to your ride at 2 AM. There won’t be any cops to help you, of course, because they’re all at the fucking beach.

No alcohol – This is the most important rule. Drinking impairs judgment. You never know when you might get tipsy, and the beach starts looking more and more beautiful in the moonlight… You forget about the piles of garbage everywhere, or the rotting kelp and dog shit, and the beach just looks better and better… and then maybe you tell the beach how pretty it is, and maybe you tell it how soft its sand feels, and maybe you end up having sex with the beach and never calling it, because you wake up with it the next day and realize how fucking hideous it is in direct sunlight… And that’s just not fair to the beach.

No burning Christmas trees – This is one’s a multi-faceted rule. First of all, we’re talking about a state beach. That means it’s government property. That means no religious symbols. Only non-denominational trees may be burned. That’s in the Constitution, folks.

Also, if your tree were to fall out of the gigantic cement fire pit and into the sand, it might somehow start burning at 2500 degrees Fahrenheit which would melt the sand, thus turning it in to glass and violating rule number one.

————-

Despite how absolutely ridiculous the po were, we had a good time. We filled up somebody’s camelback with wine and Patrick came through with a handle of whiskey miraculously shaped like an Aunt Jemima syrup bottle.

————-

The next day, I found out Mark “I’m Thirty And I Still Play Magic: The Gathering And Love Strongbad” Shick’s wife is pregnant. He’s going to be a dad.

This shocked me only slightly less than when Couevas told me his wife was pregnant. I had always sort of assumed he’d die of rabies he caught from a stripper in Mexico City or some shit before he’d have the chance to breed, but I guess not.

Life sure is funny sometimes!

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