Archive for March, 2008

I first produced my pistol, then produced my rapier

Posted in Blog on March 21, 2008 by trevorgregg

Another St. Patrick’s day rolls around.

Saturday, around 10 AM, and we’re in Lilley’s bomb shelter playing beirut. Four white dudes and one tall, tall Indian. Mahesh stoops over to keep from smacking his head on the low rafters, being very careful about how he celebrates victory, lest he knock himself unconscious on those unforgiving goddamn 4×8’s. The rest of us leap around, jeering and high-fiving every shot, and all poor Mahesh can do is clap and smile his huge, nervous grin.

There are some strange housing situations in San Francisco, people living in old bank vaults and garages and storage containers and shit, but Lilley’s got one of the weirdest. Five minutes out from the mansions of Washington Heights, you find yourself in the middle of a full-blown eucalyptus forest, right where you’d least expect it. Short rows of huddled, two-story bungalows, all painted identical shades of beige and red. Half-ton iron doors set just outside the foundations lead to reinforced bunkers underneath the spartan homes. Old military buildings are hardly a rarity in SF; you drive around long enough, look in the right places, and you’ll see all kinds of batteries and silos and shit. You forget, living here now, that there was a big chunk of time when San Franciscans expected enemy ships to come sweeping in under the Golden Gate, guns blazing. The Cold War was a big deal in these parts. The whole western half of the city was built during these manic, paranoid years. For decades, officers’ families huddled in these basements with their canned goods and their various supplies during nuclear drills, listening to air raid sirens and clinging to each other. They knew the End was coming, it was just a matter of time.

Now the bunkers are filled with mountain bikes and Maytag washers. And giant bins full of empty Coors Light cans. A pinball machine or two. This one is at least.

There’s something disconcerting, something creepy about Eric’s place. We live in a City, not a Forest. End of story. All these fucking trees, all this quiet, it weirds me out. There’s nothing inherently malevolent about the woods, or about the city itself, it just seems freaky when you see them bound up in such unholy union. I hate the sound the wind makes out there. This town is no place for a wilderness.

Furthermore, people who live in the forests of SF should have tracks in their arm and untreated syphilis, not ping-pong tables and barbecues.

“Where were you last night, man?”
“Fucking work.”
“All night?”
“Til 1 AM, man.”
“You worked till 1, Trevor?! Shit I didn’t even think you had a job.”
“I know, right? Who knew?” I say. A ball drops into my cup. “Mahesh, fuck. Are you fucking kidding man? How do you keep making those shots? Telekinetic bastard.”
“He’s got Indian voodoo.”

Mahesh shrugs and grins his bigass grin. Motherfucker deceives you with his quiet demeanor and endearing accent. Mr. Oh No I Never Played Beirut Before, shit, don’t believe it. He can put a ping-pong ball in a Solo cup at thirty yards, blindfolded with a ten knot headwind. Bet they call him The Sniper back home. Fucking sleeper. We have to keep rotating him amongst the teams, so people don’t start blacking out.

He’s loving it, too. Smiling like the Natives invited him home to their special ceremony, sharing a secret and cherished part of their culture. Like he’s gotten a rare glimpse into our exotic ways. Insofar as the four of us have a culture, though, I guess this is it; playing drinking games all morning in a goddamn basement, and listening to the Pogues.

Ah, Saint Patrick’s Day.

Needless to say, we were all shortly blitzed.

———

Things were getting frantic out in the forest by one or so. We’d drunk the minifridge dry and folks were getting restless, angry. Some dude named Mike had turned the hose on the neighbors’ yapping shih-tzus, and they (the neighbors, not the shih-tzus) made a lot of noise about calling the cops. Bottles were broken and words were exchanged. Meanwhile, I was out in the trees with Eric’s nine-iron, looking for deer. I’ll kill one and we can cook it, I explained. For lunch.

Somebody’s cousin or something showed up with a truck and drove us back over to my place, the closest parking to Civic Center. The eleven of us weaseled it into my narrow ass garage, a feat, and we headed downtown.

Alcorn and I, who had spent the lion’s share of the time competing against Mahesh the fucking Invincible, were barely conscious. He slumped against every telephone pole we passed, and after having failed to bag a deer in Eric’s yard, I decided we must stop for pizza.

I’m not sure if we did or not. I think so. Memory fails.

I woke up six hours later under my kitchen table, missing a contact lense and both my socks. Alcorn was nowhere to be found. It was pitch dark.

———-

I ended up over in the Marina, back on Alcorn’s couch. Nick was there with Grace, sober and evil as hell. My hangover was in full effect by 10pm. People were texting, the phone was ringing, but fuck if I was getting off that couch come hell or high water. I turned the phone off. Other than going to the bathroom to puke, I don’t think I moved for about five hours.

Alcorn was in a bad way too, looking like hammered shit, and Nick kept yelling and hassling us, dancing around like a weirdo. I felt like I got hit with a grand piano, and all he can do is holler and spray Guinness at me. Fuck sober people.

We played wii for a couple hours, in relative silence. I had a hard time focusing on the screen; the brightness hurt my eyes. I think I’m getting too old for this shit.

Grace was passed out on the couch behind Nick, her arm elbow-deep in a bag of chips. God knows if she had anything to drink or not. There was a little hill of crumbs on the front of her Cal sweatshirt. I swear that girl weighs 96 pounds despite a diet of nothing but Ranch Doritos, Kettle Korn, and cheap wine. The human body amazes me.

We (humans) can’t figure out how to recycle things like styrofoam and circuitry, but our bodies can turn shit like Fiery Hot Cheetos and Funyuns into muscle, bone, sinew… fucking crazy.

This is the kind of shit I think about, you know, when I lay slumped against Grace and Alcorn’s toilet. I watch the ants wander by, picking their way through the contact cases and spattered toothpaste, and concern myself with the subtler miracles of the world. Meanwhile my Bud-drenched brain tries in vain to escape forcibly through my ears, and I heave until my abs give out.

Such is life.

I made it home around two, my body in a state of complete confusion. You can hardly blame it; pounding headache, taste of bile, extreme vertigo… all signs point to Sunday morning. My internal clock, scrambled by my mid-afternoon blackout, was convinced it was the Morning After. Thus denied sleep, I stayed up til sunrise listening to NPR, watching the room spin, and writing more Six Word Memoirs to trade with Jolene.

There comes a time, around four am on a Sunday, when you’re listening to Rick Moranis talk about his new country music album and the sheer, all-consuming strangeness of the universe hits you like a shotgun blast.

You step back and you think, I’m really listening to Rick Moranis sing country songs about the FBI on NPR. These events are really occurring.

It boggles the fucking mind.

-T.

Mama made me cute but the devil he made me smart

Posted in Blog on March 10, 2008 by trevorgregg

“What happened to you?”
“What, this old thing?” I point to my sling.
“Yes.” says Sean.
“Freak masturbation accident.”
“I knew it. Elaborate, por favor.”
“Let’s just say it involved barbecue tongs, two fur seals and a copy of the original, black and white version of 12 Angry Men. On VHS.”
“You freak. Aren’t you right handed, though?”
“Variety is the spice of life.”
“How’d it really happen?”
“Capoeira.”
“Did you learn your lesson?”
“If that lesson was ‘Don’t stand up in the middle of somebody else’s parafuso’, then yes.”
“Is it broken?”
“No, thankfully.”
“Is it disgusting?”
I gingerly peel off the sling and roll my sleeve up, showing him the yellow and purple monstrosity stretching from my shoulder to my elbow.
“Jesus christ, that’s grotesque. It looks like the inside of a huge rotten egg.”
“You suck at metaphors.”
“You suck at dodging kicks, but you don’t see me criticizing.”
“That’s low, friend.”
“God that’s fucking ugly. I think I see the Virgin Mary in the brown part there…”
“Jesus don’t touch it you shit, it hurts! It looks more like Abraham Lincoln than the Virgin Mary…”
“Hold still, let me take a picture.”

Ah, the road to recovery.

——–

As if there weren’t enough reasons to be obsessed with Green Apple Books in the Richmond, I found out on Friday they’re open till 11:30 at night on the weekends.

I went, of course. It wasn’t packed, just a handful of weirdos and nerds picking through the dusty and disorganized stacks. Up front, the pimply-faced clerk was playing Who Can Recommend The Most Obscure Band with a chubby Asian dude in an Inka Cola t-shirt.

“Have you heard of Goblin?”
“Oh yeah they’re great. I loved their second album. What about Stigmatic Fetus?”
“Loved that single they did for the European release of the Dawn of the Dead soundtrack, man. Great stuff.”

Fucking hipsters. I have no use for these vermin. I looked down at my mound of used Philip Dick and Charles Bukowski books. For a second, I considered throwing a fit, complaining about how long I had to wait in line while they discussed the heavy-hitters of post-modern Baltic punk, but I realized quickly how ridiculous it would seem. So what if I had to wait 10 minutes; obviously if I’m in a goddamn used book store at 10:30 on a Friday night, I don’t have anywhere important to be.

So I waited it out.

Also, for the record, both Philip K. Dick and Charles Bukowski are fucking geniuses. Dick wrote something like 47 billion wildly different stories and novellas, about half of which have been turned into movies or television shows of dubious quality. We’re talking about the mind behind everything from Blade Runner to Total Recall, and hardly anyone even knows his name. Hardly anyone who isn’t a card-carrying dork, at least.

Bukowski, on the other hand, wrote essentially the same story about being a drunk loser 47 billion times under different titles, and it’s still fabulous. I plan to read them all. People bitch about how similar all of his stuff is, how little variety there is in it, but hey, fuck those people. He stuck with the one topic he knew intimately, which was How To Be An Alcoholic Piece of Shit, and it works. Fucker was brilliant.

———–

I woke up around 4 AM last night. Somebody was screaming outside.

Not an obnoxious, I’m-So-Drunk-Haha-WOO kind of scream. It was an ugly, broken, terrified scream. A rare and terrible sound.

I went to the window and looked down onto the street. Nothing. No lights. Quiet.

There’s no noise at 4 AM in my neighborhood, not even the everpresent background hum of the trolley cable under the street. They turn that off around 2.

I listened and watched for a minute, then woke Ellie up.

“Did you hear that?”
“What?”
“That scream.”
“No.”

She fell back asleep.

I stood at the window for another ten minutes or so before going back to bed.

A half hour or so later, I heard moaning, weeping in the distance. Barely audible. I thought, for a while, I was imagining it, or dreaming. It stopped before too long.

-T.

Don’t lean on me.

Posted in Blog on March 4, 2008 by trevorgregg

SF is a fucked up place to live sometimes.

You acclimate, you know, because that’s what people do. Acclimate. It’s true, what they say, you really can’t see the forest for the trees. Still, sometimes the haze clears long enough for you to look around, appalled. You can tell when somebody is struck by one of these rare clarities. You’ll see them standing on a corner, looking up into space, completely bewildered.

I watch them, and if our eyes catch, we share a brief, silent, all-consuming moment of confusion. What the shit are we doing here?

A valid, necessary question, often overlooked.

This city is a home to much squalor and degradation. Every manner of filth and ugliness. Poverty. Murder. Tourism. Leprosy. Godlessness. Perversion. Death. Fraud. Vegetarianism. Everything.

Oh well. At least it’s not Los Angeles.

——

There are two kinds of graffiti in San Francisco. There’s the traditional kind, the original flavor. Like blue Trident gum. Runic, indecipherable shit scrawled hastily onto any surface by teenagers in black sweatshirts and athletic shoes. Little weird symbols left on everything from mailboxes to bathroom stalls. Good, honest tagging, as perpetrated by generations of urban miscreants ever since Eli Whitney invented the Sharpie and sprayable latex paint.

Then there’s the new shit. Art student graffiti. Stencils. Decals. Faces. Propaganda. Little robots.

What the fuck is it with the robots?

I remember once catching some little fuckers doing it on my garage door, back when I lived in the Haight. There were two of them, curly-haired, unshaven, undoubtedly struggling by with C’s in their liberal arts program at City College, working at a skate shop for cigarette money.

Tagging in my neighborhood was a dangerous proposition, and I was surprised by their boldness. Cops and crackheads were locked in a perpetual struggle for territory down there, chasing each other around our blocks from dusk till dawn every night of the week like new-age cowboys and indians. Any would-be artist has much to fear from either faction, but these little fuckers would not be deterred.

I saw them on a Tuesday night, rustling with their stencils and spraycans, but they vanished mid-masterpiece when an unmarked Crown Vic came around the corner.

I waited up for them the next night, knowing they’d be back to finish their shit. I sat with the lights off, my first-floor window above the garage open, maglight in one hand and a water balloon in the other. They showed up around two in the morning, milling around for a few minutes until they felt safe.

The tall one got his stencils out and started off while the shorter one started gluing up a huge, bass-relief looking picture of Condoleeza Rice waving a North Korean flag on top of a Wal-Mart. Whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean.

I waited, crouched and eager. They worked diligently.

After five minutes or so, I leaned out the window three feet or so above their heads. I was silent, predatory, evil. I was fucking batman.

Leaping from the sill, I blasted them with the maglight and smashed the water balloon onto the Upper Playground beanie of the tall one, soaking him.

“SURPRISE, COCKFACE.” I shrieked.

The little one took off like a fucking rocket, up to Steiner and around the corner in the blink of an eye, never looking back. Some friend.

The big one, his instincts dulled by years of pot and public education, just stood there shaking and petrified. His limbs vibrated, and he did this hokey, rigid half step like his legs each decided to run a different direction.

“RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAWR.” I yelled, keeping the maglight on his face. I had him cornered.

I’ve never seen anyone so scared. He was near to tears, and trembling violently. He knew, he knew with his very soul, that he was going to die. Right now. Every profanity and prayer the kid knew came out of his mouth simultaneously. “Mrffffffastl!” He moaned.

“What the fuck are you doing to my garage!” I demanded. He looked around, writhing like Rainman, mortified. “WELL?”

This humanized me a bit, I think, and his brain began regaining control from whatever reptilian, adrenaline-fueled subsystem had taken over when I jumped down on him. He quickly became capable of basic speech.

“No… Just. Nothing.”
“This doesn’t look like nothing, this looks like fucking Academy of Art bullshit. ARE YOU A COMMUNIST, SON? DO YOU USE MARIJUANA?”
“It’s… It’s a robot.”

I shined the maglight on the giant, stenciled mural on the garage door. It was indeed a robot. Several, actually, of all shapes and sizes.

“I KNOW IT’S A FUCKING ROBOT. I know what a fucking robot is, I’m not some kind of moron. Why is it on my garage, son?” I was determined to get some answers before he realized we were about the same age and he was six inches taller and fifty pounds heavier than me.

He clutched his Timbuktu satchel to his chest like a teddybear, squeezing it desperately. Little bits of yellow water balloon were stuck to his hat. After a few moments, it became obvious he had no reply.

“Ok son.” I said, shining the maglight away “Tell me this: What the fuck is it with robots?”
“What do you mean, robots?”
“All over the fucking place man. I see stickers with robots, on signs, on parking meters, on delivery vans in chinatown. You people love them. Why robots, man?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know? Explain the fucking symbology to me. What’s the fucking underlying theme here, son, with these fucking robots on everything?”

We stared at each other for a minute. My questions seemed to freak him out even further, and he seemed once again convinced of his imminent death. He groaned softly and bit his lip.

“Get the fuck out of here.”

For a second it looked like he might reach out and give me a hug, but his legs got the best of him and he ran off down towards the panhandle.

I looked at the robots for a minute. They just stood there, with their rectangular heads and pupil-less eyes. I went back inside.

Fucking San Francisco.

-T.