Archive for March, 2009

Empty pop bottles is all we would kill

Posted in Blog with tags , , on March 31, 2009 by trevorgregg

Music – The Breeders – Cannonball

Jolene and I got back into the city around 11, and Claire was already too wasted to give us proper directions to the house party.  Apparently they started early.

A half block past Delirium, by the red oaks, she said.  The second unmarked door.

Look for the Vespa with the antlers, she said.

Knock twice and ask for Titus.

We ended up wandering around 16th for a the better part of an hour, amidst the throngs of hipsters, vendors, homeless, and humans.  The first warm weather of the season quintupled the evening population.  Crowds of people excited to be out on a Saturday night without a raincoat or a wool beanie.

“You guys know Titus?”

“You guys know where Titus lives? No?”

“You guys seen a Vespa with antlers?”

We never found the Vespa with the antlers, but we eventually climbed the right fire escape and found Claire dancing on a roof.

She cut her way through the crowd and took us down into the party proper.

The stairwell was full of people in sunglasses and tight jeans, smoking and having very involved, furrow-browed discussions.  They had a record player set up on the landing.  Not a turn-table, an honest to god record player, manned by a dude with an Amish beard wearing a Me First and the Gimme Gimmes tanktop.  Inside the apartment, they had two huge speakers hooked up to someone’s phone.

Record players and ipods.  People wearing used tshirts and paying $1600 to share a room in a raggedy shithole of a building that should have been condemned twenty years ago.

Behold, the Mission.

Claire scattered some hipsters off the couch and, digging between the cushions, nonchalantly came up with a half empty bottle of Jack and a two-liter of Diet Squirt.  I laughed, impressed.

“You have to hide it from these greedy people.” she told me, drunk and earnest.  “They are greedy and will take your whiskey.  We must be careful.”

The three of us found some clean-ish looking coffee cups and drank the rest of it, the other partygoers watching us with eagle eyes, as though Claire were some amazing party magician who might conjure another bottle of booze out of a piece of furniture at any moment.

Introductions were made to various people whose names and faces I will never remember.  To people who will never remember me.

I traded somebody a pack of gum for a beer.  We moved down to the backyard, out into the dirt backyard.

——

“So… you know what I’ve started watching?  That’s really good?” Jo asked.

We were sitting on a broken plastic table underneath the balcony.  People were dancing to James Brown in near darkness.  All the lights were out; they’d unplugged the tangled mess of Christmas lights and lamps and bare bulbs for the Save the Earth Power Hour or whatever shit and couldn’t seem to get them back together.

We were good and drunk.  Claire had wandered off with her boyfriend in search of a missing bag of barbecue chips.

“What?”

“You’re going to mock me.”

“Yes. What is it?”

“It’s really good.”

“What is it?”

“…….”

“…….”

“Battlestar Galactica.” She said.

“Are you fucking kidding me?!” I shouted.  I spent several minutes making strange noises, half coughing, half laughing, so shocked by Jo’s drunken admission that my throat and lungs were in frank revolt.  My brain did acrobatics.  I felt the world shift beneath me.  I thought I was having a stroke, or an aneurysm.

“It’s really good!”

Jolene does not have a nerdy bone in her body, and to hear her tell me she was thoroughly enjoying some dorky ass show about robots and space blew my fucking mind. Blew the hell out of it.

It was all I could do to shake my head, incredulous.

“You have to watch it.”

I continued to shake my head.

We sat in silence a few minutes, watching the people flail and shake to that Taking Me Higher song, the one from Ghostbusters that makes the Statue of Liberty dance.

“Stop judging me.” She said.

“You know… my mental list of things you could have said that would have surprised me less than “Battlestar Galactica” is fucking immense.”

“Don’t hate.”

“Immense.”

We sat for a minute.

“… Well what did you think I was going to say?”

I laughed.  “I have no idea! Not fucking Battlestar Galactica! Not robots and space fighters and shit!…Lost, maybe? Monty Python with Spanish subtitles?”

“Hahaha.”

“A blank screen?  Wild on E?  Snuff porn?  Fox News?  Nothing, no answer could have surprised me more than fucking Battlestar Galactica. Nothing. I can’t believe you.”

“I know, I know. But give robots a chance.  Trust me.”

——-

We sat out back til somebody named Murph came up to us and started talking about his new gallery showing, at which point rather than stab him or myself in the face, I fled to the restroom.

I got lost and, wandering down a hallway behind the garage lit by a strobe light, I found a sub-basement room with eight guys huddled over their laptops sitting around an immense brass hookah.

Upset by my intrusion, they glared at me so angrily that for a moment I feared for my life.  Then I came to my senses, recalling that I was at a party full of hipster wussbags in some backalley slum, and glared right back.

“What the fuck is your deal?” I asked, gesturing ambiguously to the laptops, the towering metal hookah-monster, and the generally weird situation.  They all had horn-rimmed glasses, and were wearing plaid shortsleeved shirts buttoned all the way up.

I’ve spent enough time in labs and server rooms and parents’ basements full of nerds to recognize a group of geeks, even if they’re geeks with Mission pretensions.

“We’re working.” One answered.

“Do you know Titus?” Another asked.

“And what the hell do you do in a basement at 1AM on a Saturday that you’re ‘working’?”

They looked reticent. I crossed my arms and used my Voice of Authority.

“Well?”

“We’re writing reviews.” One of them said.  His neighbor snickered.

“Bad reviews, because it’s Saturday!” He said with a dorky, Mr. Burns-ish evil grin.

“You’re fucking weird.” I said, pointing to Mr. Burns.  I turned back to the first. “Reviews of what?”

“Restaurants mostly.  Mission-area businesses.”

“You guys work for Zagat or Yelp or something?”

He smiled.

“Not exactly.  More often we get paid for the reviews we don’t do.  A new restaurant opens, let’s say.  Maybe a Tapas bar on Guerrero.  Very shabby chic.  We, as a group of… concerned citizens… approach the owner and offer to protect him from critical and disparaging Yelp reviews, for a fee.”

It took a minute for the whiskey-rusted wheels of my mind to crank. Then I understood.

“Oh, shit.”

The guy nodded.

“That…Wow.” I shook my head.  These nerds were the hipster mob.  The fucking Yelp mafia.

San Francisco, the trendier areas especially, is a city that lives and dies by Yelp and Citysearch.  Every San Franciscan with money to spend and an appetite to spend it on checks reviews of a potential eatery first, whipping out their iphone to find the best vegetarian Thai pastry bakery in a ten block radius.  Online reputation is make or break for restaurants here.

And these clever assholes had reinvented the world’s second-oldest profession, the protection racket.  Build up a bunch of established, ‘trustworthy’ Yelp-reviewer accounts, then threaten restauranteurs with an instantly bad reputation if they don’t pay up.

I was stunned.

“First of all,” I said after a few moments, “that’s fucking awesome. Good on you.”

They smiled as one.

“Second of all, I can’t believe I didn’t think of this first.”

One of them handed me a beer from a minifridge built into the innards of the brass hookah thing.  I sat down, enthralled, and spent an hour discussing the particulars of their system, making suggestions, applauding clever tricks they’d used to cover their trail and maintain their credibility.

We drank some more and had a good old time.  I learned their names, and I apologized for calling the weird one weird.  We traded cards, and when Jolene called, furious that I’d left her alone to listen to Murph talk about his latest interpretive piece and its relevance in the post-Bush pre-Obama cultural paradigm, I promised I’d keep in touch.

“I gotta jet, but it was great to meet you kids.  You keep up the good work, Yelp Mafia.”

I’ll bet those little bastards are making a killing.  And will continue to do so, until some 250 lb Persian pizzeria owner figures out who they really are works them over with a tire-iron.

But until that day comes, best of luck guys.

——-

We found Claire passed out, clutching her missing bag of chips.  I stuffed a note into her purse explaining that a bunch of us were going to see a live action theatrical interpretation of the Twilight Zone on Sunday, then carried her out to a cab where her boyfriend waited.

We barged our way back through the stumbling crowds out on Valencia, and amidst SF’s social elite I stage-whispered questions to Jolene about her obsession with space robots and her love of Battlestar Galactica.

She politely told me to go fuck myself.

A homeless guy tried to sell me a copy of the Book of Mormon with the covers ripped off while we waited in line for a dangerdog.

——

Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

“Everyguddy I know hav a Thoniccare”

“What?”

Jolene spat into the sink, back at my apartment.

“Everybody I know has a Sonicare.”

“This is why I hate and could never live in LA, Jo.  Because everyone you know has an eighty dollar toothbrush.”

“Yeah.”

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First time I lose I drink whiskey, next time I lose I drink gin

Posted in Blog with tags , , , on March 26, 2009 by trevorgregg

Music – The Pixies – Here Comes Your Man

“Imagine life is a bridge.”

“Ok.”

“In crossing the bridge of life, he made it about half way, tied a lead brick to his belt, and jumped off. The lead brick is his wife.”

“Hmm.”

I was explaining to Sapo the tragedy of Matt R.’s marriage. With imagery, for effect.  His wife sucks, and has ruined him utterly.

“I’ve seen it with other people too.  My friend Rebecca, from Poly. Out of nowhere she married some 37 year old Air Force engineer, some pudgy fuck from Oceanside with a lisp and pit stains on all his shirts.  No idea why.  Now she lives on some base in Egypt for god’s sake, and can’t go to the grocery store without an armed guard.  Because of The Terrorists.”

“Yeah.”

“I am utterly at a loss to understand that shit. Must be some kind of deep-seated self-loathing…”

Sapo finished his beer.

“We should go, it’s almost time.”

We left the bar and headed to the theatre.  Neither of us makes a habit of Sunday night drinking, but with fifteen of his roommate’s annoying friends visiting, Sapo was a refugee from his own home, and I am not one to let a buddy drink alone. Especially on the Lord’s day.  We were going to see <i> I Love You, Man, a movie about a guy who contantly flakes out on his girlfriend to go hang out with his last remaining single buddy.

The ham-handed irony that our other friends who flaked on the movie were two married couples, leaving Sapo and I alone on an accidental man date, was not lost on us.

I assured Sapo that even though the majority of our friends are married or mired in serious LTRs, I will always be down to neglect my girlfriend and go drinking on a Sunday. Sapo didn’t seem particularly reassured or impressed by this, though I was quite sincere.

The movie was mediocre, by the way.

Wait for the rental.

——–

“Religion is the opiate of dumbasses.”

“What?”

“Religion is the opiate of dumbasses.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“Haven’t you heard that?”

“Heard what?”

“Religion is the opiate of the masses? Karl Marx?”

“…”

“He said that.”

“…”

“And I changed it. To dumbasses.”

“…”

“That’s good.” I said, proud.

“…Sure.”

“Now you see motherfucker this is the problem.”

“What?”

“I spend all this time hanging out with you lowbrow assholes who can’t sustain the kind elevated educated dialogue a person like me needs on a regular basis. You drag me down with your provincial uninspired jabbering. You’re dulling my wit by the second.”

“‘Opium for dumbasses’ does not sound particularly brilliant or enlightened, Trevor.”

“The Opiate of Dumbasses.  And screw you, that’s clever as shit.”

“And I can guarantee you aren’t the first person to have thought of that little idiot play on words.”

“So what?”

“So what? That means that not only is it stupid, it’s unoriginal.”

“Fucker I came up with it.  Even if somebody else came up with it first, I came up with it independently, so it’s original. And clever.”

“And who talks about religion anyway? Who cares?”

“Who cares?!”

“Yes, who cares?”

“Aren’t you Jewish?”

“On paper, yeah.  That just means I don’t eat hot dogs.  Doesn’t mean I want to discuss religion or opium or whatever other random crap floats around in your weird head all day, dude.”

I sighed, exasperated.

“God I fucking hate you.”

“You want another beer?”

“Yeah.”

We drank a bit of our fresh beers before I continued.

“First of all, it’s an inspired comment, whether you can appreciate it or not.  Besides, after what you said yesterday, I’m forced to take everything you say with the tiniest, most pathetic grain of salt imagineable.”

“Remind me what I said yesterday again?”

“That you like Rush.”

“What the hell does that have to do with anything? Lots of people like Rush.”

“NO. No. Rush is so unforgiveably fucking terrible that I’m now forced to question everything you say.  I have to treat your every statement as suspect.”

“Listen asshole, it’s just a matter of personal taste…”

“Fuck that…”

“Don’t interrupt.  The fact that I like Rush has no bearing on anything else.”

“Wrong.  This is so far beyond the boundaries of ‘opinion’ or ‘personal taste’.  Liking the Eagles is just poor taste.  Liking Rush is like enjoying the taste of human flesh.  Yes, one could argue that it’s just a matter of personal preference.  But in reality it’s so fucked up that it’s almost certainly a sign of deep-seated, fucked up psychological issues.”

“Please do not compare liking Rush to cannibalism.”

“I will.  They are that fucking terrible.”

“Shut up.”

“I don’t mean to be rude, it’s just that, since you like Rush, I’m forced to assume that you’re deaf, retarded and crazy.”

“Asshole.”

———

It takes a certain amount of bravado to make a life in a modern metropolis.  A certain adaptability, some small measure of fortitude.

It is not for the faint of heart.  You learn to much about yourself and your fellows in a cramped, oppressive place like this.

You get a sharper, more substantive perspective on humanity in all its folly and vileness.  One cannot help it.  Proximity to criminals and junkies and psychos and generally aberrant weirdos forces a certain understanding of the human animal upon you.  Some find this a terrible burden, and retreat to the relative safety of the suburbs, surrounding themselves with manicured lawns and Decent Folk.  Far removed from the city’s savage and ugly denizens, it’s easy to forget that such people exist, that the lesser and crazier walk the same world as the rest of us.

I go outside sometimes and see the past.  I see new clothes, I see nylon and plastic and aluminum, but underneath it the people are the same, completely interchangeable with any other person in history from medieval peasants to bronze age primitives.

All that distinguishes the average crackhead from a Norman Invasion-era village drunk is a pair of filthy Nikes and a stolen Orlando Magic parka.

And who’s to say the same doesn’t apply to the rest of us, in all well-groomed technologically-inclined contact-lensed glory?  I walk the streets.  I see the men in ties and blazers trudging along behind lumbering oxen in some muddy field.  I see the women in cafes adorned with feathers and wooden beads rather than overpriced makeup and little white headphones, discussing trivialities over a rock for grinding cornmeal rather than a cup of French Roast.  I see Bill O’Reilly dressed in heavy black, burning an old woman alive for her knowledge of herbs and folk medicine, his eyes red with the wrath of a puritan god.  I see Mandy Moore dead of tuberculosis.  I see Serena Williams slapping her husband in front of the entire tribe for bringing back a sickly and disappointing antelope.  I see the heads of the U.S. Department of the Treasury in loinclothes dancing under an uncaring sun, praying for rain and respite.  As if they could dance their way back to prosperity.

I see people unchanged by the progress of their world.  Sucking as they have always sucked, consumed with their own petty triumphs and tribulations, pretentious savages with impressive toys.  Killers and beggars and slaves, smart enough to imagine a utopia but stupid and self-serving enough to keep it endlessly out of reach.

It makes me think less of us, though it should probably beget forgiveness as readily as contempt.

Fuck it.

It’s just the shit-kickin’ speed-takin’ truck-drivin’ neighbors downstairs.

Posted in Blog with tags , , , on March 19, 2009 by trevorgregg

Music – The Clash – I Fought The Law

There exists an unspoken code between men in their twenties.  It’s an expansive, often uncompromising set of rules that we all know and abide by, often without realizing it. It’s a Bushido-like combination of law, etiquette and convention that permeates our lives and decisions.

Few can articulate its particulars, fewer still speculate on its origins.  Perhaps it formed naturally, a product of societal and cultural norms and expectations.  Perhaps it was carved in hieroglyphs on some basalt obelisk in ancient times by those who tired of having their bros hit on their girlfriends or take the last cup of mead without making a run to the liquor store.

The important thing is that the code exists, and must be obeyed.

Thus when Alcorn texted me late Friday in need of a wingman, though exhausted and bleeding from a particularly rough night of capoeira, I accepted.  Of course.

The wingman’s duties are sacrosanct.  To shirk my duty would mean (rightful) disgrace.  Being asked to wingman is like being asked to be a pallbearer, or best man.  Though trying and difficult, one must remember it’s as much an honor as an obligation.

I washed the blood off my hands, and called Ellie and told her not to wait up.

——–

I headed for Pac Heights, praying for parking, steeling myself for the task ahead.  One never knows what to expect when entering a situation like this, blind and ill-informed.

I often wingmanned in college, and have been asked to jump on some serious fucking grenades.  When you befriend people like Couevas, Peter, even Paul, that’s the risk you take.  I’ve charmed and distracted ghastly, snaggle-toothed hambeasts for hours, monstrous troll-women with personalities like angry boars and voices like chainsmoking banshees.

I threw my back out once on Halloween wingmanning for Quint, trying to boost his girl’s friend (we called her the Green Machine, ala Scoobie Doo’s van) up through a window at the Establishment.  Felt like a midget trying to lift a dumpster, she was goddamn huge.

I once danced with a girl that was a dead ringer for Kevin from The Office, but with less hair, so Mark could talk to her friend in peace at Carissa’s wedding.

At a house party in the Grand St Casa, I listened to some chick talk about how great her Campus Crusade for Christ retreat was.  Even blackout drunk as I was, it was the longest fifteen minutes of my life.

Come to think of it, Shak you still owes me a beer for that shit.

I have done my duty, unflinching.

A consummate brofessional.

I found the bar and pushed my way into the noisy dark, expecting the worst.

——-

Her name was not Betty, though that’s how she was introduced.  Her name was undoubtedly some unpronounceable polysyllabic trainwreck she’d given up after finding Americans totally unable to master its Eastern European strangeness.  So she was Betty.

In the crowded haze of the bar, I pounded two beers to put that extra polish on my charming personality and chatted her up for twenty minutes before her friend Annette, Alcorn’s target and the object of this evening’s work, leaned in and told me she didn’t speak much English.

I smiled and thanked her graciously, adding inaudibly amidst the bar’s din “Thanks for the fucking heads up.  Regular-looking fucking brownhaired girl named Betty and I’m supposed to know she doesn’t speak English, thanks, great, I’m a tool. Appreciate it.”

Annette nodded and smiled.

“So you don’t speak English, Betty?”

She nodded, unsmiling, and said “Yes, thanks.”

Awesome.

“Do you want another drink?” I asked, noticing her glass of whatever girly pink shit was fairly untouched.

“No.”

No. Sweet.

“Ok.”

“I don’t like ze taste of drinks.”

Great.  Doesn’t drink or speak English.  And I have to entertain her indefinitely so Alcorn can work his game uninterrupted.

Gonna be a long night.

I ordered another beer and put on my friendliest smile.

She looked at her watch again. Always a good sign. Not.

“So how do you like San Francisco?”

“Vhat?”

“HOW DO YOU LIKE SAN FRANCISCO?!”

———

We talked about her job as a nanny.  She and Annette (a French-Canadian) were both live-in nannies, hired from abroad essentially as servants for obscenely rich families here in Pac Heights.

We talked about what she did for fun, which as far as I could tell was nothing.

She told me she liked San Francisco because of the nice weather.

“What vile fucking backwater hellhole are you from that you think San Francisco has nice weather?  Unless you grew up riding behind huskies and eating raw seal for breakfast, you must understand how shitty our weather is?”

“Vhat?”

“I said WHAT’S SUMMER LIKE IN LATVIA?”

“Is ok. Is like spring here.”

I smiled genially and nodded, saying “Well that fucking sucks for you guys!”

She nodded.  “Yes, thanks.”

I looked over to Alcorn and gave him a thumbs up, giving him the “she totally digs me” nod.

“So I guess you guys have a lot of vampire problems out there? In Budapest and shit?”  I asked.

“Vhat?”

———

I am a good wingman.  Not to toot my own horn.

I am employed, informed about current events, not fat, and can when required use my powers of evil wit for good.

I am pessimistic, and have a general contempt and disdain for my fellow man that members of the opposite sex often mistake for confidence and maturity, much like imaginitive children think every mossy log they see floating in a lake is the fucking Loch Ness Monster.

I am an accomplished liar and a moral vacuum, and can be endlessly politely attentive.

I have what it takes.

But holy shit, Betty was a challenge.

——–

Rule number one: when in doubt, ask questions.  Not to generalize or be sexist, but all chicks love to talk a lot.

I asked about everything from fashion to her family to her views on the European Union.

My own responses, mostly unintelligible to her anyway, were in a sincere and friendly tone.  Whether I said “Wow, that’s really interesting!” or “One time I ran over a homeless guy and didn’t stop to call the police” didn’t really matter as long as I said it with a kind, amicable inflection.

———-

We ended up at Annette’s house, or at least the house she lived in with her employer family.

I spend so much time in the back alleys and filthy downtown streets of SF that I often forget that such breathtaking opulence exists within the confines of our city.  The family was out of town, kids and all, off to their second home in Tahoe for a week of fresh powder and steam baths.

The house was warm; not eye-drying lip-chapping 1950’s central heating warm, but the kind of welcoming, storybook warmth one can only get with heated floors and the Very Best in Climate Control Systems.

The paintings were authentic, not prints.  The sinks were gilded Romanesque basins.  The dinner table was an ancient oak door from China, solid and heavy despite being old before my great-grandparents were born.

The view from their roof, where we sat drinking their fancy beer, was like a mural.  The entirety of the Golden Gate Bridge.

“What, no hot tub up here?” Alcorn asked, laughing.

“They haven’t been able to get a permit for it yet.” Annette answered.

“Such trials those poor people must face.” I said, sneering.

I asked Annette what the parents did that they could afford imported furniture and heated floors and live-in nannies in spite of the economic apocalypse.

She wasn’t sure exactly, or wouldn’t say, but said not to feel guilty about drinking their beer as my tax dollars had probably paid for it via government bailouts.

Motherfuckers.  I drank up and took two more just on principle.

——-

We insisted on dropping Betty off at her place rather than letting her walk home.

She was going home, but had stayed out long enough for Annette to let her go without feeling guilty or abandoned.

Mission accomplished, bitches.

“Is not dangerous up here, I am not a child, I can walk.”

“I know, but this way Trevor can show off his car to you.” Alcorn said.

Right.

I laughed as the girls walked up to the BMW stationwagon parked behind my dented, rusty truck.

“Nope, this one’s mine.”

Emptying my back seat to make room, I threw the football, shorted-out car stereo, first-aid kit, hammer, empty box of wine, dirty laundry and bag of Ellie’s knitting supplies into the truckbed.

“Your chariot awaits, ladies.”

——–

My obligations fulfilled, I left Alcorn and his girl at a bar on Washington, ostensibly heading off to meet up with Matt and them at that place on Taylor, whatever the fuck that means.

Instead I went home, collapsed in bed, waking Ellie up long enough to inform her that “her man still got it, can still pimp strong” and that I am “charming as a mother.”

She took a half-hearted, eyes-closed swing at me and told me to shut the hell up and go to sleep, which I did.