Only Living Boy in SF
I am determined. I am not going to sit at home and watch another movie. Thursday's screening of "Assault on Precinct 13" was adequate, but back-to-back, with one night being Friday, is unacceptable. So I scheme. I sit at my part-time job and wonder: who can I call? Is there anyone left in my life that I can call up for a spontaneous evening?
But I remain determined. I live in San Francisco. To step out of your home on a Friday night is to breathe deeply the sweet smell of possibilities. Endless possibilities. What can happen tonight? I remember running up Haight Street at 4 a.m. one morning in 1987, breathing in that smell. What is it? A combination of restaurants piled on top of each other, ocean air and the slow decay of wood framed Victorians. Tonight, I will do something.
I will begin with culture. I will go to see Beth Lisick, a woman I find hilarious, read at Booksmith on Haight. And to show how urban I am, I will take public transportation. Following this, I will draw on my sporting side. I will catch a rare Friday night San Francisco Pro City League basketball game at Kezar Pavilion. Though I am 41 years old, and bald, I will mix freely with the hipsters and homeless of Haight Street, and then with the hoopsters and bling-draped neighborhood heros of Kezar. When I return home, I will be duly impressed with my ambition and taste. Well rounded will I be, so cool that my peers' envy will be subtle and nagging. They will know they've missed out on something, but they won't be able to put their finger on what exactly it was.
And all of this does happen -- except the envy part. That was a pipe dream. Beth Lisick is hilarious and inspiring. She passes out cookies. After she reads, I shed myself of all intellectual pretensions and watch struggling pro basketball players, home for the summer from exotic leagues in Portugal, New Zealand and the Philippines, run and gun. At every time out, a mob of kids dashes onto the court to slip in as many jumpers as possible before the buzzer sounds to end the time out.
But I only last a half. Sure, this night looks great on paper, and being the kind of guy who will go out and do stuff when his wife and child are fishing for sharks in Washington State is something I am proud of. I kept getting flashes that this was going to be a memorable night, the kind where San Francisco looks like a place people actually come from, not just a way station for loud young activists and their moneyed, equally young antagonists.
It's about the wind, and the weird light that comes from fog and streetlights, filtered through the trees, and the old houses, the guy shouting out of the window of his apartment to his friend down on the street. It's in the air -- something great is going to happen tonight. Anything can happen. For the other people on the street, but not for the 41-year-old guy heading home to watch another movie.
I stand at the corner of Cole and Carl, remembering that I spent my first night in the city in the apartment building behind me, not sleeping because I was totally jacked up on the idea of living in a city. Now there's a wine bar on the ground floor, and it's completely packed. There's a cool-looking Japanese place across the street, so I mentally note it in the vain hope that the next time we have a babysitter, I'll remember to suggest this place, instead of Luna Park, where we usually end up every time we have a babysitter.
I look in the windows of the wine bar, actually look in like a kid with his nose pressed against the window. I am the loneliest person in San Francisco.
But it's not that bad. Sometimes lonely is okay. When we were in our early 20s, my more dramatic friends and I used to talk about "really pulling down a good melancholy." Sometimes, the situation just demands that you pretend you're a character in a Tom Waits song.
A half-hour later, the night fading toward 10 pm as I stood eating a Milky Way, waiting for a Muni connection in the Castro, my phone rang. It was the Jawa, on his way back to the hotel after a day spent fishing on Camano Island.
"Dad, you're not going to believe this, but something great happened to me today."
"I caught...a shark!"
Now you can be in the middle of yanking down a blue-ribbon melancholy, but if your kid calls you and, completely without warning, tells you he caught a shark (a two foot long sand shark, actually), it's very difficult to keep your grip on your blues. You go from Tom Waits to Steve Martin in "Parenthood" almost instantly. A shark. Seriously.
"And you're not going to like this, but there are 20 crabs in our trunk."
Absurd. I wish I was surrounded by people I knew, instead of the bored attractive young woman to my left, the drunk gay couple to my right and the guy cranking Rage Against the Machine from his Mercedes SUV.
It's an okay night. I'm home by 10:30, in front of the TV watching "The Grudge," eating tortilla chips. Organic ones, okay? Each day that they've been gone, I've stayed up a little bit later. On this night I hit the rack at 1:30. I wake up Saturday morning at 10, hang around the house for a few hours, then walk the length of Mission Street to buy a wireless router at Best Buy. This post comes to your courtesy of linksys. Like Pinocchio, there are no strings.