Archive for December, 2008

I want to electrify my soul

Posted in Blog with tags , , , , on December 18, 2008 by trevorgregg

Music – Kruder & Dorfmeister – Bug Powder Dust

“I love winter!”

“Fuck you Natalie.”


“You heard.”

“Well, it’s true.”

“No it’s not.  When you say ‘I love winter’ what you’re really saying is ‘I love how safe I am in my warm jacket and my warm apartment when it’s 30 degrees out.'”


“You like camping too.  Sure, camping is great, you get to go out and sleep under the stars and enjoy a fire and maybe see some squirrels, but when you’re done, you can go home and take a shower and watch DVDs and shit.”


“But as much as you like camping, if you go camping all the time, and I mean day in and down out, you know what that makes you?”


“A fucking vagrant.  Homeless.  Camping is only fun while it’s optional.  Otherwise you’re just some dude that lives in the woods.  The same goes for winter.”

“Your apartment cannot be that cold.”

I slammed my hands down on the table, sloshing the collection of half-consumed lattes and americanos.  She looked at me, wide-eyed.

“You DON’T KNOW. You DO NOT.  You know what I did last night? I built a little fort on my bed out of blankets and sleeping bags so I could use my laptop without gloves on.  I’m not even fucking kidding.”


“YES.  It was 37 degrees INSIDE. I’m dead serious; I’ve got a thermometer on my wall.”



“Why don’t you turn on the heat?”

“WHAT heat?  We have one heater in our entire house. ONE.  And it’s in the living room.  The thing’s a World War 2 era relic and leaks enough carbon monoxide in an hour to gas a bull moose.”


“Every day we have to choose; risk death by exposure or death by asphyxiation.”

“Is that why you’re down here at the cafe all the time?  Or have you just developed a profound affection for Mac users and weak tea?”

“I hate my life.”

I really do.


In an effort to maintain some tenuous grasp on our sanity, Ellie suggested we think of the positive aspects of living in our HORRID ABYSSAL MEATLOCKER of an apartment.

Here’s what I came up with.


1) Can leave milk out on the counter indefinitely.
2) Never ‘just want to stay home for the evening’.
3) Don’t need to layer up to go outside.
4) Get to sleep with a beanie on.
5) Toilet steams impressively when you pee.


I was home Saturday, sitting in my kitchen with all the stove burners on and the oven open, considering viable methods of suicide when my phone rang.


*Deafening roar*


*Deafening roar*

“You there?”


Oh shit, I thought.  Santacon is today.  I totally forgot.

I shrugged off my three heavy blankets and threw on a Santa hat.  I stomped down the stairs and stopped briefly to slam my front door several times, my subtle, encouraging way of reminding my landlord downstairs that we STILL DON’T FUCKING HAVE A HEATER.





The phone rang again.


*boisterous din*


“YO.  WE’RE AT ROGUE AND “*garbled voices, boisterous din*

“I’m leaving the Fortress of Solitude now! I’ll be there in ten!”


I took off up the hill at a sprint, the little white bob of my stupid red hat flapping behind me.


I don’t know what I expected from the whole business, coming around the corner towards Washington Square. Twenty or thirty people in varying degrees of costume, perhaps… some straggling drunks in fake white beards… I dunno.  I’d never been to the Official San Francisco Santa Claus Pub Crawl before.

I should have known, since Captain Mo sent out the invitation, that this would be no half-assed bush-league affair.

Oh no.  This was the real deal.

I rounded the bend and plunged headlong into a sea of red and white.  Thousands and thousands of beards, bellies, and red hats. It was a god damn Christmas army.

I stood at the corner of Powell and Union and saw the world anew.

There was a moment of epiphany… Remember that scene from 2001 when the guy looks into the monolith and his fragile human consciousness is completely overwhelmed by what he sees?  How his eyes go wide and the universe goes all psychedelic and all you can hear is his heartbeat?

Yeah.  It was like that.

My God.  It’s full of Santas.


The first thing you learn at Santacon is that it’s fucking AWESOME.

The second thing you learn is that it is literally impossible to find your friends when you’re in a crowd of a thousand people and everyone is dressed like goddamn Santa Claus.

I fought my way through the crowd into Rogue, and someone grabbed me by the arm.

“Ho ho ho.” said Santa.


He pulled his beard down.

“Matt! Thank fucking Christ.  All I want for Christmas is to find my friends in all this craziness.  Where is everyone?”

“Beats me, I just got here.  Mo said she’d…”

A fresh wave of Santas broke through the doorway and pushed us apart.  I struggled for a moment, then headed for the bar.

I spent my last ten bucks on two beers and, kicking and headbutting, fought my way out to the patio.


The first familiar face I picked out of the crowd was Justin, a guy I’d met houseboating back in May.  Last time I saw him, he’d jumped piss-drunk off a second-story stage into a crowd on Slaughterhouse Island, shouting about the ‘Second Coming of Motorhead’.  I sort of assumed he was dead, but no real surprise seeing him here. This is just the kind of wild and rowdy shit that attracts the surviving members of the Houseboat crew, those few of us lucky enough to not have been murdered or married or institutionalized.

“Merry Christmas.” I said, handing him my second beer.

“Holy… Wow… Really?”

“Yeah man.”

He held the pint up tenderly, cradling it with equal parts of love and pride, like it was his firstborn.  I think he started to tear up.

“None of that, now.” I said, punching him in the arm. “Good to see you, broham.  It’s been too long.”

“You too.  This is…” he started to introduce the short brunette who’d been chatting him up, whose name he obviously couldn’t recall, but was interrupted by the arrival of the rest of our group.

The cavalry.


Enter Captain Mo, in full Christmas regalia, at the head of a column of forty of our friends.  What a fucking sight.

Considering how often we’ve hung out, I know surprisingly little about the ‘real’ Mo.  I don’t know what she does for a living, assuming she has a job.  I don’t know where she’s from or where she went to school, assuming she was educated amongst us lowly humans.

But what I do know is that Mo’s superhuman power is to function as human divining rod that leads us straight to the coolest, most fun shit on Earth.  I do know that she can party without sleep or food or respite for literally weeks on end.  With a beer in each hand, she is a fucking force of nature.

And not only can she rage tirelessly under even the harshest of conditions, she never hesitates to bring us lesser mortals along for the ride.

Mo is a compass that always points Awesome.

I leaped up off my bench, vaulting over Justin, and gave her a jumping highfive.

Thus did the Santacon party start in earnest.


We surged from bar to bar, crowding the streets and joyfully snarling traffic.  A group of folks next to me, the Hipster Santas, started playing as many of the Steve Miller Band’s hot hits as they could think of on an accordion, banjo, and djimbe they’d smartly brought with them. I guess Steve Miller’s as close to caroling as their hipster sensibilities will allow them to get.


“We should go beat the shit out of them.”  Justin said.

Though I braced for it, my normally raging, unbridled, white-hot hatred of hipsters didn’t rear its ugly toothy head.  Their terribleness and absence of rhythm and STUPID fucking hipster Santa outfits were somehow overcome by their enthusiasm and simple joy for life.  They sucked, but they sucked so wholeheartedly that I didn’t even want to stab them in their collective face and paint myself with their blood.

Call it a Christmas Miracle.


“That’s the fucking Christmas spirit right there.”

“We should challenge them.” Alcorn said

“To what?”


“No, Justin.”



Mo had already dashed off to confront their leader.

And so in the middle of Grant street, amidst ten thousand Santas, to the struggling, arrhythmiatic beat of Steve Miller, we merrily busted some moves and showed Hipster Santas what the fuck was up.

Ho ho ho.


Things got wilder, blurrier.  It was pure Christmas insanity, and beautiful.  Alcorn and Mo had both thoughtfully brought along huge backpacks full of Bud Light, so we were drinking heavily and on the cheap.  The occasional bouncer would charge up to us and demand we throw out any Outside Drink, but trying to enforce any kind of regulation amidst the fucking Christmas Tempest was totally impossible.

Seeing the frustrated, furrow-browed bouncers try to pick us out of the crowd, I felt a surge of pity for those lions you see on nature shows trying to keep track of which zebra to chase amongst an entire herd.

I met some amazing Jewish Santas, with fake sideburns and little red and white yamakas.  I met two dudes carrying car batteries in their backpacks who had done themselves up like Christmas trees, flashing lights and all.

One was named Steve, I think.

People dressed up like elves dressed up like the Secret Service, the folks nominally ‘in charge’ of this entire event, tried to guide us from bar to bar.  They steered us as effectively as a plastic bag steers a gust of wind, but they seemed to be having a good time being totally ineffectual, so more power to them.

A woman dressed up as Frosty was helping drag the wounded and passed-out into Northbeach Pizza, which became a sort of impromptu infirmary.  I gave her a thumbs up.

“TIS THE SEASON TO PUKE ON YOURSELF.” She yelled, and I laughed. Because it was true.

Then somebody brought out a rope and the Tug of War started in the middle of Grant St.


I fought my way to the front with my buddy Joey, a 200+ pound titan of a guy who looks like Patton Oswald if Patton Oswald lived in a land of midgets. And dressed like Santa.

“I don’t know if you know this Joey, but I’m 135 pounds of fucking fury, and we’ve got this bitch in the bag.”

“Hell yes.  HOPE YOU GIRLS ASKED SANTA FOR A SACK THIS CHRISTMAS!” He shouted at the opposing team, many of whom were in fact girls.

Totally Hammered Santa ran to the front of the other team.

“You.. YOU guysss are DOING GOWN. GOING.”  I saw a little barf on his matted, off-center beard.

It was looking like a pretty even match, until fucking Linebacker Santa lined up behind me and Joey. He towered over Joey just as much as Joey towered over me. We looked like those little Russian dolls, each one bigger than the last.

Somebody blew a whistle and we pulled.  Against Linebacker Santa, they had no more chance than a waterskier does against a boat, and all flew forward.  Totally Hammered Santa went from 0 to 30 in about four feet, let go of the rope, and promptly went headfirst into the quarterpanel of the Volvo parked alongside.

“OH SHIT!” We shouted in unison.

Hammered Santa became Knocked The Fuck Out By A Volvo Santa.

One of the elves and Frosty fireman carried him to the pizza place, and Joey and I pounded a beer each in his honor.

“Hammered Santa, we knew ye but briefly, though we shall remember you always.”

“May all of our deaths be as honorable and glorious as yours.”

Cheers to that.


A hundred and fifty or so of us forced our way into Grant & Green, a bar whose posted capacity is about 12.  I latched on to Mo’s backpack like a baby babboon riding its mother across the savannah and made it through the rough shoving matches near the door.

Alcorn and Lilley were near the bathroom line talking to a couple girls I didn’t recognize, bartering beers for phone numbers.  Joey was doing a valiant if piss-poor job of wingmanning, and eventually resorted to just boxing out the girls’ homely, annoying friend.  It’s a defensive strategy commonly seen in basketball, but rarely used in social situations, and it was surprisingly effective.  Joe’s got quick feet for such a big guy.

I moved over to help set the pick when Ranjit grabbed me by the arm.

“Look behind you.”

I turned around just in time to see what at first glance I mistook for two oversized honeybaked hams in white fishnet stockings.  Then the lady finished climbing on to the bar, Ranjit started laughing.  I threw up into my mouth a little, involuntarily.

A part of me died inside.

“Dear Christ, that is NOT OK.” I said, clawing at my eyes. “Did you have to point that out?”

“There are some things you can not unsee.”

“Like a sixty-eight year old woman in a Christmas thong dancing on a bar.  That’s a fucking atrocity.  That’s a god damn crime against nature.  God I hate North Beach.”

“How does that even happen?  Don’t her great grandkids stop her at the door and go ‘Hey, Nana, for fuck’s sake put some pants on.'”

“Her ass looks like John McCain’s neck.”


Since it’s North Beach, it took all of about four minutes for a fight to break out.  The place was so packed that the two neckless behemoths couldn’t actually hit each other, they just wiggled angrily and bumped flabby chests, like elephant seals in furry red jackets.

I was three people deep behind King Hippo Santa, who was describing some uncomfortable-sounding sexual athletics he’d engaged in with Angry Beardo Santa’s mom, when the shoving started.  As they grappled, we were all alternately crushed against the bar or tugged forward toward the door.

I’m a highly trained martial artist, and my finely-honed fighter’s instincts kicked in immediately as I whipped around to brace myself against the bar, shielding my beer from the chaos.

Next to me, a girl dressed as a reindeer was smashed brutally into the wall, spilling her Amstel all over her brown skirt.  As the crowd surged toward us, I heard the air squeeze out of her with a wet, sudden little pop.  It’s a distinct noise you can only hear on two occasions: when you open some of those vacuum-packed biscuits or when somebody unsuspecting gets the living shit squished out of her.

We were pinned there, awkwardly close and face to face, for several minutes while the retards resolved their differences in time-honored North Beach fashion.  I had one knee and both elbows jammed against the bar, sheltering my beer with my whole body, while her head was pinned against the bricks by the fury of the surging Santa tide.

Me: “So hey.  How uh… how’s it going?”

Reindeer: *gasp*

Me: “Yeah I know what you mean.”

Reindeer: *pathetic mewling, scraping at the wall*

Me: “The holidays can be so hectic.  I have no idea what to get for anybody, and with the economy like it is…”

Reindeer: “…shit….help.”

Me: “You come here often?”

Reindeer: “…can’tbreathe…”

Me: “Yeah.”

Me: “Hey I like your antlers.”


After much shouting, shoving, and posturing, Beardo Santa was thrown forcibly out into the street and King Hippo Santa ducked into the bathroom.

I helped the Reindeer attempt to fix her hopelessly mangled antlers and grabbed her a replacement beer out of Alcorn’s backpack.  She was amazed that we’d had the foresight to bring our booze with us.

Oh I never leave home without a twenty-four pack, I explained.  I pointed to Alcorn.

“He’s my beer sherpa.” I told her. “I won him in a mahjongg game in Mexico City in 1996.  I’ve been teaching him English and rudimentary math.  Now he’s Alfred to my Batman.”

I realized quickly that she didn’t know what a sherpa was because North Beach chicks are idiots, and that my high-minded bullshitting was totally wasted on her, so I left to help Joey run interference with the other girls’ problematic friend.

What can I say, I’m a generous spirit.


We ended up at O’Reilly’s.

I’m pretty sure it was O’Reilly’s, because I remember there being a life-sized carved pirate, and I can’t think of anywhere else in North Beach with a big-ass carved wooden pirate.

Mo had swapped clothes with some guy and was now dressed in a solid gold pleather jumpsuit, the kind of monstrosity you’d find in James Brown’s AAA Rent-A-Space locker.  The dude wearing her Santa skirt was passed out and slumped up against the pirate.

I briefly considered waking him up to ask him why the fuck he had worn a solid gold vinyl jumpsuit to a Christmas event, but decided instead to desperately cling to a column while the room spun around me.

Alcorn, Lilley, and some other dude were sitting on the floor behind one of the booths sharing a bottle of liquor-store-bought Jaeger, safe from the bartender’s prying eyes.

Joey and Justin were telling jokes. I don’t remember any of the jokes, but I do remember one of the punchlines was ‘Shoulda raped her.’

My kind of people, those two.

Classy as fuck.

Then Alcorn stood up and slapped some other dude upside his head from behind, which was hilarious. I think the guy chipped a tooth on his vodka tonic.

Then some girl with crazy eyes threw a bottle at somebody else and I said “LISTEN, Crazy Eyes, you need to calm down and think this through” and then this chick Adele pulled a knife the size of a meat cleaver out of her purse and Joey started buying rounds of tequila and then Mo wanted to get everyone to go to Mitchell Brother’s and then I decided it was time to leave.

“MERRY CHRISTMAS, BITCHES!” I shouted, throwing up the Richard Nixon double-Vs. “MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL.  EVEN YOU, CRAZY EYES.”


I remember sitting, gasping cold air on the steps of Vallejo.  I felt like I was spitting up blood, but I’d touch my hand to my lips and it’d come away clean.  There’s nothing like twenty blocks of sheer mountain to convince a drunk man he’s got TB.

Jesus these fucking hills. I hate this fucking city and I hate these hills.  I live on the far side of Russian Hill from NB, unfortunately, which means I have to climb approximately four thousand feet in the one-and-a-half mile hike home from the bars.

It’s an endless and horrible labyrinth of alleys and staircases that even the sober and sane have trouble with on occasion, and I had collapsed about half-way home and was praying for a quick hypothermic death.

A young kid and his mother passed my heaving, wretched corpse on their way down the hill.  She pulled the kid away from me protectively.

I gave him a thumb’s up as they passed.

“Hey kiddo.  All Santa wants for Christmas this year is a fucking escalator.”

They hustled off down the hill and into the night.

I eventually made it home where I did not take off my jacket or boots as there was no discernable temperature difference between my apartment and the harsh winter night outside.

I climbed into bed fully clothed and counted on my high BAC and the spirit of Christmas to keep me alive through the night.


And furthermore, Susan…

Posted in Blog with tags , , , on December 3, 2008 by trevorgregg

Music – Frank Zappa – I Don’t Wanna Get Drafted

Thanksgiving week is the second-best time of year to be in San Francisco.  Ours is a city of transplants and immigrants and exiles, the accumulated riffraff of an entire nation, but for four or so miraculous days, we “locals” are left in peace.  The Douchebag Exodus starts gradually on Monday, and by Wednesday morning the airports are packed with twenty-something Easterners flying back to whatever frozen, oil-slicked cesspool they call home.

I don’t know where they all come from, or why they choose San Francisco.  They accumulate here like filth on a drain grate.  Schools like Brown and Middlebury and Boston College must have some kind of Liberal Arts Graduate export program.  I imagine stern, whip-wielding men on horseback herding hundreds of goateed, messenger-bagged literature majors into box cars, issuing them leases for apartments on Valencia and pre-faded Red Stripe t-shirts before locking the heavy doors shut.  To New England and Cleveland and Chicago, San Francisco has become what Australia was to Britain, except instead of sending us criminals they send us white people with knitted beanies who really like Modest Mouse.

I can only hope the exchange isn’t one way.  I hope in return there’s some neighborhood in New York that’s overrun with Vallejo hoodrats in over-sized Warriors jerseys and Donald Duck parkas.  I hope there’s some suburb of Philadelphia that’s full of red-eyed Chico State dropouts selling overpriced bags of weed cut with astroturf.

It’d only be fair.

But on Thanksgiving, the Invasion retreats.  The streets are emptied, the traffic dissipates.  A clear, fresh wind blows, and there’s not a Red Sox hat in sight.  Mission coffeeshops look like ghost-towns, and the Phone Booth is lucky if it gets two customers a night.


The only exception is San Francisco’s startlingly large population of Steelers fans, who I assume don’t go back to Pittsburgh because:

A) they’re wanted for rape, assault, or B&E in Penn.
B) they’re too poor for a Greyhound ticket.
c) they don’t have families because, rather than being born, they simply coalesced out of Pittsburgh’s polluted, putrid air, their bodies a physical manifestation of cheap beer and pure fucking malevolence.

Thankfully they pretty much keep to themselves.


For the curious, Thanksgiving is indeed the second best time to be in San Francisco.  The first is the week of Burning Man, when legions of worthless artsy scenester fuckwits, regardless of origin, take their bikes and a backpack full of tight jeans out to the desert, leaving our city a briefly hipster-free heaven.

A Paradise. A San Francisco without dbags or photography enthusiasts or bloggers. It would be like Aspen if all the rich suddenly emigrated.  It would be like Hawaii before the invention of air travel.  It would be like Florida if all Floridians swam out into the ocean and drowned.

It would be pristine, unspoiled.

Alas, the letters I’ve written to the City Council suggesting that we dynamite the bridges while the assbags are away remain woefully unanswered.


On Friday, Jo returned briefly from LA, and with Claire and some others we discussed the Eastern Occupation at length while getting ripped on gin and tonics at a blissfully uncrowded Elbo Room.

“LA is just as bad, if not worse.  Up here you get a nation’s worth of scum.  In LA we get that shit from around the globe.  Everyone’s a screenwriter or a lawyer or a prostitute, and they all carry knives.”

“It’s so much less noticeable, though.” I pointed out.  “The sheer volume of shit may be higher, but people born in LA are so fucking unbearable that there’s no sharp contrast, no point of comparison.  They’re just vermin with different accents and strange clothes.”

She went on to tell me stories of all manner of awful things she’s witnessed first-hand at parties in the hills overlooking Los Angeles.  I consider myself reasonably worldly, reasonably hardened against the ugliness of life in our time, but fuck, there’s some bad shit going on down there.

“…this dude had a bowl of cocaine and was playing showtunes.”



“Wow. Showtunes?!”

“Fucking Thanksgiving parties.”

I forget that, though I’ve had occasion to run with some seriously reprehensible fucks in my time, people deeply lacking both ethics and good taste, there’s a whole other level of atrocious villainy accessible only to the super-rich.

I had never really considered it before.  I suppose in some deep unconscious part of my brain I suspected that there is a higher caste of well-dressed degenerate that I’d never had occasion to encounter, having been educated in public schools and raised in the middle class.  An entirely separate USC-attending trust-funded drug-addled amoral aristocracy.  But to hear direct accounts of them, of verifiable sitings in the wild, is something else.

I shudder at the thought.

This year, give thanks that you weren’t born in LA, and don’t have bowls of cocaine and showtunes at your holiday parties.