Archive for hobo knife fight

Don’t think cuz I’m talking, we’re friends

Posted in Blog with tags , , , on June 30, 2009 by trevorgregg

Music – The Pixies – I’m Amazed (unreleased)

At times I consider myself a collector.  Perhaps not a traditional one, as baseball cards, rare cars and the like do not interest me.  I have no secret horde of porcelain angel figurines or Beanie Babies or exotic stamps stashed behind a false panel in the wall.  It’s no conscious decision that keeps my room spartan and boring, I just don’t seem to accumulate the various tchotchkes and trinkets necessary to decorate appropriately.

There’s a fascination, a deep satisfaction that the dedicated collector feels when amongst his valued possessions.  Each new acquisition is a rare pleasure, a step towards completeness, wholeness.  There’s a sense of achievement, for whatever reason.  Strange that such a trivial thing as a comic book or a dead butterfly can bring such happiness to those who love them.

But not for me.

I prefer an experience to a trophy.  Keep your hand-crafted brass antiques, your first editions, your autographed memorabilia.  I’d rather a memory, a story to tell at a party.  Something that I can say yeah, I was there.  I saw that.  It was nuts.  Life is an opportunity to encounter an endless variety of strange stuff and freaky people.  Better to treat every day as a safari, a fresh chance to see some totally unexpected and whacked out stuff.  Do not underestimate the absolutely fucking bizarre menagerie of shit that exists outside your door.  There’s ball lightning and cage fights and ancient wonders and witty bathroom graffiti, more of it that any one person could see in a lifetime.  There are people in Sri Lanka with four arms, hyenas trained to ride tricycles, secret space stations and undiscovered superfish living under the polar icecaps.  There are fucking oddities the likes of which even my twisted mind cannot conceive.

Fuck toys.  The secret of life is that he who dies having seen the most crazy shit wins.

Not that anyone is keeping score.


Last Friday, down on 19th, one hobo shanked another.  Right in the stomach.  Not a fatal wound as far as I know, but he was bleeding like a stuck pig when the cops got there.  I was a couple minutes behind the cops, and they had subdued the shanker and started patching up the shankee by the time I came around the corner.

I’d encountered these particular hobos before.  There was the Grizzled Old one and a Dirty Young Punk one.  Walking back from dinner a couple days before, Corey and I had passed them.  They were shouting at each other across a street.  Apparently they had a history of antagonism.  As we passed the Dirty Young Punk, he shouted to the Grizzled Old hobo that “Even these New York fags think you’re an asshole.” Referring to us.

I was deeply offended and turned to confront the guy.  Corey held me back.

“Let it go, let it go.”

“Fuck that, I ain’t no fucking Yankee fan.”

There are some insults that even I can’t let stand, and being called a New Yorker is one of them.  However, Corey talked me down and the Young Punk lived to talk shit another day.

Fast forward to Friday, and Young Punk is laid out on the sidewalk being put back together with plastic staples and sterile gauze by two harried EMTs.  Grizzled Old Hobo, a small guy who looks like some political cartoonist’s idea of a Gold Rush prospector, is handcuffed to the back of a cop car, howling gleefully.

I guess Young Punk hobo pushed him too far.  Maybe he tipped over Grizzled’s huge cart, which was the size of a VW microbus and was indeed laying on its side.  Maybe he called him a New Yorker.  As I passed the scene, now crowded with cops and onlookers, Grizzled Hobo looked at me.  I gave him a knowing nod, a conspiratorial little gesture that made him grin triumphantly.

Don’t let those young fuckers mess with you, Grizz.  You do what you gotta do.

Much respect.


Ellie wakes me up at 6:30 every morning, because that’s when she has to get up for work.  It’s hard for me to get up when you’re all sleepy and peaceful, she says.  My alarm is set for 8:55, I tell her.  I don’t need you to get me up.  She apologizes and promises not to do it any more.  Then the next morning rolls around and she’s poking me and talking to me and asking me “Hey, are you awake?”

Well fuck, I am now.  Sweetheart.

Falling asleep in a normal place would not be an issue.  I can fall asleep very quickly, especially at a godforsaken pre-dawn nightmare hour like 6:30.  Oh but not in San Francisco.

In San Francisco, other, louder things than girlfriends are up and about at six fucking thirty.  Namely parrots and cable cars.

Yes there are parrots in San Francisco.  They are green, and loud.  That’s amazing, you say, that a bunch of abandoned / escaped pet parrots have established a thriving colony so far from their natural habitat!  Quaint, quirky things like that give San Francisco such color!  Tourists love them because they’re unexpected, unique.  Liberal natives love them because they’re like illegal immigrants, except smaller and greener and less likely to get the Republicans worked up.

Well, fuck those birds.  If you’d like to know what a parrot sounds like, record yourself hitting a whoopie cushion with a nine iron, then play that sound back through a cheap megaphone.  That’s the fucking parrot noise.  That’s the only noise they make.  They don’t let loose with witty pirate phrases; they never say ‘AHOY!’.  As far as I can tell they don’t even repeat things they hear over and over again.  If they did, the city would be full of parrots saying “SHUT THE FUCK UP YOU GOD DAMN PARROTS”, or “I WILL FUCKING KILL YOU YOU GOD DAMN PARROTS”.  These majestic creatures congregate outside my window early each morning, arguing and berating each other in Parrot and making me miserable.

The green parrots are occasionally drowned out by the only thing louder than they are, which is the goddamn cable car.  The cable itself emits a kind of low, bass hum, like a huge beehive.  It’s obnoxious at first but constant enough to be filed under White Noise by your lower brain.  The cars themselves, however, rattle and crash and roar like an aluminum toolshed dragged behind a tow truck.  And on top of it they ring their loud ass bell CONSTANTLY, as if the fucking deafening roar created by their clunky ass obsolete trolley cars wasn’t warning enough to nearby pedestrians.  If you get snuck up on by a three ton rail car that sounds like sticks of dynamite being set off inside a grand piano, a god damn bell is not going to be of any use to you.

I endure this symphony of horrors every morning.  Even weekends.  I awake and, in the two and a half hours between Ellie getting out of bed and my own alarm going off, I fantasize about all manner of implausible scenarios in which the parrots and the cable car destroy each other utterly.  Maybe the parrots, captured by a terrorist organization and trained to be tiny green suicide bombers, will wait in the trees for the cable car to come by, at which point they divebomb the thing with little cubes of plastique in their talons.  Birds and cablecar erupt in a firestorm, a beautiful holocaust of death and destruction that leaves a smoking crater in the middle of Hyde Street.  I imagine the cablecar out of control, somehow speeding at 50 mph (46 mph faster than its actual top speed) jumping the tracks and crashing into my tree, which in turn hits the powerlines and electrocutes all the green little bastard birds.  Sometimes I imagine more outlandish scenarios, which usually involve aliens or the undead, but the end result is the same.  Nob Hill is cleansed, brutally and with many explosions, of all cable cars and parrots.

Just another of the endless indignities one must endure to live in this awful city, I suppose.