From San Francisco to Fort Bragg
by Nicholas Heller, July 7, 2010
We waited 13 minutes for the 33 line at Castro and Market Monday afternoon. On the opposite corner, a naked man with a large penis stood—or sometimes paced—while a handful of impressed on-lookers, smiling and nodding in approval, huddled around him in the brilliant San Francisco sun.
The man seemed to be jacked up. He strutted and bounced as he stepped with determination, as if he were getting ready for a football game. The Castro was still buzzing with excitement from Gay Pride festivities, which had recently come to a conclusion Sunday. The streets were alive and colorful, the place was hopping, and the commotion was vibrant. Men sauntered down the sidewalks hand-in-hand, tourists snapped photos and looked at maps, and the motorists roared their engines.
Nobody at the bus stop wanted to give the impression they noticed the naked man across the street, as they focused attention on people walking by, traffic, or their cell phones. The bus pulled up and we all boarded, leaving the commotion and the naked man in the Castro behind.
The 33 line curled up Market Street through Twin Peaks and over to the Upper Haight, where Katie and I got off at Cole and walked a few blocks north across the Panhandle to Fell, where her car was stationed. By this time it was late afternoon. The sun was still shinning brilliantly in the Panhandle, and pleasant breezes carried Eucalyptus scents. We were tired, dirty, dusty, sore, sun-burnt, and dehydrated. It seemed uncharacteristically hot that weekend. Our getaway to San Francisco was complete. There were mixed feelings about coming back to the Coast—Mendocino. The excitement was over.
We maneuvered steadily through some thick evening rush hour traffic then crossed a fog cloaked Golden Gate Bridge. We shot north, out of San Francisco, and slowed just south of Santa Rosa. Pushing north past Cloverdale on the 101, the temperatures were hot, and the sun burst through the car windows, punctuating the dehydrated, sun-stroked symptoms. I was also tired of squinting.
We stopped into a grocery in Hopland, where we refueled with apple juice and where a boy and his little sister repeatedly opened and closed the storefront door—all the while the boy claiming, “My sister is really strong.”
Our car negotiated the turns of a desolate Highway 20 near sunset, orange glowing against the silhouetted pine trees and “This American Life” on the radio. The ease at which we traveled was stunning and free, almost poetic—no cars rearing behind me, none in front slowing me down.
Now I’m in Fort Bragg. It’s the early morning and I’m listening to some drug-fueled domestic disputing across the street. Next door, a man has left his parked truck running with county music blasting.
Maybe it is just as interesting here. Perhaps I will go stand, or maybe pace, naked on the sidewalk.