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

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.

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