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Time Is Not On Our Side

Things are getting weird. My roommate has moved all of his furniture, which is to say, all the furniture in the house, into the middle of the living room. He says that his ex-girlfriend has hired a Tibetan witch to ruin his feng-shui, and the pile of milk crates and plywood tables he’s jumbled in front of the television is a reverse harmony butt-kick move he read about on the internet. He’s also bought the Planet of the Apes DVD collection. He claims that General Urko, the fascist gorilla general based on Ariel Sharon, is his favorite. But last night I snuck up on him, and he was kissing the screen: it was the image of the female chimp that has the hots for Charlton Heston. I asked my roommate if his ex-girlfriend is a monkey, a goddamn tree-swinging baboon with a mean streak, but he went apeshit and started throwing things. 

We’re down to only one TV because I traded mine for a keg of Pabst Blue Ribbon. I figure will last at least through the first month of football season. I know what you’re thinking: wow, that’s really cool, a barrel of your own beer. But take away the plastic ups and bathtub full of ice, and it’s obvious: my life is pathetic. I plan my day around the 49ers game. I know it’s wrong, but vicarious living has its advantages. When your team wins, you do too; but when they lose, it’s their fault alone, the scum-sucking rejects. 

Sunday’s game against St. Louis was particularly galling. Despite a ton of stupid penalties, S.F. significantly outgained the Rams, but still lost in overtime. The critical play was the last play of regulation time with the score tied. Receiver Cedric Wilson caught a pass in the middle of the field that put the Niners within field goal range with a few seconds left. But instead of falling down and calling time out, Wilson tried to take it to the end zone. He was tackled on the Rams 20 yard line as time ran out. Later Wilson said he “didn’t know how much time was left.” How someone in a bun-clencher against hated division rivals can be unaware of the all-important clock is just plain disgusting. And when the Rams won the toss and kicked the winning field goal in OT, I vomited.

This September is having a strange effect on me. It was cold and gray, then brutally hot, and now so foggy again that when I scurry through the dawn streets to the donut store to get the freshest apple fritters in the city, the wet streets have a sentimental bouquet: the anorexic women walking lapdogs, the dying leaves, the ambulance lights bouncing in red silent screams on the shuttered windows and darkened cars. But Monday, as I stood on the threshold of my apartment, in the fog and beneath the mournful bellow of the horn way out on the Bay, with a sack of hot doughnuts tucked beneath my arm, I suddenly became aware of time, and how life, like a custard-filled maple bar, is fleeting. I vowed to take advantage of every moment, but realized I didn’t have any milk. As I ate, I understood that tap water is not the ideal companion to pastries, but I guess that’s a life lesson too. 

I go to a party with a friend. It’s been three years since the last debacle, and I’m almost over the horror. This will be different. I’ll be witty, debonair, a dashing figure in cut-off shorts and white t-shirt with pink splotches. I have a few jokes worked out, though some might call them comic asides, e.g., I’m going to move to Pakistan or India and become a taxi driver. 

But as soon as I walk the door I know I’ve made a big mistake. Not that it’s anything overtly sinister, in fact, that’s the problem: everything looks swell. There are fresh flowers in lavish centerpieces as well as in demure bud vases. Torches light the expansive deck and back patio. The music is Stan Getz’s “The Girl From Ipanema,” which I heard for the first time at a Santa Rosa drive-in during “The Right Stuff,” when a couple of hotshot flyboys are in a Miami bar nursing scotches and watching women in bikinis swim in the glass-bottomed pool. Tall and dark and tan and lovely, and the smell of stale popcorn and warm dirt — time to dream, aka time to get depressed. There are even two drinks tables, a party device a brunette girl in a chocolate bouclé jumper says “encourages mingling.” She saw it on a TV show. 

I have a different strategy. Forget circulating like a bad joke, hoping to exchange business cards or bodily fluids later. Did the Empress Dowager mingle? Did Proust mingle? Ha! Let the game come to me. 

I park myself on a couch with a grand view of the shenanigans, and throw everything that comes within reach down the gullet. My original game plan was to start slow, but once I saw their defensive sets, I decided to go to the no-huddle: pour it on like sugar, baby. I start with a beer, a deviled egg, a handful of spicy peanuts, then two more beers, and a cosmopolitan. A sound if not spectacular start. After a piece of bread slathered with bean salsa and topped with a stinky French curd, I open up the offense: two rum and cokes, three whiskeys, and a menthol cigarette butt a pretty girl left in the ashtray. 

My friend lumbers into view. He gets me a double gin and tonic and a hot dog with the kraut. This is kind of party it is: top shelf booze and kielbasas! I’m moving on up! 

A pleasant couple makes the mistake of sitting on the sofa next to me. It’s stimulating conversation: they ask what I do for a living, where I live, trying to deduce if I have enough money or connections to talk to. I say that I am traveling beyond the space-time continuum, and plan to live interdimensionally, and that I am only at the party to recruit dismal girls in lacquered blacks for Slavic potentates. They smile tightly. When it’s obvious I’m not going to ask them what they do, that I will not give them the satisfaction of saying “we’re anti-SUV neurologists with matching Volvos,” they pretend to see a friend over by the bougainvillea. 

Another small-talker drifts into my crosshairs. He also asks where I work. I wave expansively at the tableau before us and say that in a future life I will be Dr. Minglé, that I read a lot of lurid WWII picture books as a kid and now it’s payback time, and that my nights are haunted by Nazi leather boys goose-stepping on their way to cocktail parties to inflict inhumane experiments on scared humans. 

Soon I’m sweating like a pig. My friend has either passed out somewhere or has abandoned me. I black out, I guess, or maybe I just repressed the memory of the next several hours. When I come to I’m running out of the Happy Donuts on 9th Avenue with two pints of milk and an egg sandwich. Seven blocks later I realize no one’s chasing me, so I stop and wait for the N-Judah. After two hours it occurs to me that maybe I need a new perspective on time. I’ll get a watch and a new attitude. I’ll mingle. I’ll be pleasant. The 49ers will win the Super Bowl and the Pabst will flow like the tears of villagers who have lost everything. Time to fall apart, time to bring out the guns, time to win. Tick tick. God I could use a BLT.

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