Press "Enter" to skip to content

Pale Riders At The Golden Gate

On the way back from downtown San Francisco the bus stops at the KFC-squared stop at Geary and Sixth Avenue. Kentucky Fried Chicken on the north side and Kaiser French Campus just across from it. A tall, 60s-ish man wearing a dark blue t-shirt is crossing the Geary from Kaiser hospital side, limping along with a cane. From my Es Ley seat I see the clear white print on his t-shirt: SPECIMEN OF KAISER MALPRACTICE.

The next morning, Wednesday, at 8am I'm sitting at an outdoor table at the café on Market Street near 3rd, due at my part-time job at Moscone Center by 10:00. Beautiful morning, good coffee, until a jackhammer starts down near 3rd where it crosses Market. It adds a piercing drumroll to the awk-squawk of bus brakes and the hum of cars as they swoosh down Market Street — maybe we are all just filling up the vacuum that nature is said to issue at every opportunity, and maybe that's our human purpose on earth.

Even the fellow strolling up now with no pants on, only jockey undershorts. He's stopped to check the tables out of here for breakfast leftovers — I, a frugal person, am often surprised at how much toast, eggs and taters are left on the plates by people who have breakfast here. And the length of the cigarette butts left in the ashtrays — it's scandalous! And Mr. Nopants couldn't take the time to pull pants on; trying to fill the vacuum? That nature abhors a vacuum is a truism of capitalism; wherever capitalism walks each empty space will be filled with some kind of hustle. This man is taking his pay in pre-ketchuped potatoes and eggs, scooping it all into one paper plate in order to enjoy it somewhere else — perhaps wherever his pants await his return. Requiem for a naked man, this pandemony of electric drills digging up concrete, of busses slamming their way up the street, workers wending their way to work. On the way out, Anti-pants picks up someone's unsmoked cigar butt, perhaps left the day before — gold is gold.

After a while this man brings his assetmobile along with him, bags, bundles and suitcases arrayed in and hanging on the outside of a shopping cart, highly organized. This man in a ragged beard and undershorts could have been a file clerk, lawyer, office manager… because in his own way, though in no way moneymaking people might define it, his pencils are all in a row, he's “together.” But faith alone doesn't cut it — it's resilience that wins the game. A sign carved on a piece of wood hangs on his rig. CAN YOU INVENT TELEVISED TELEPATHY? A common estimate is that in 18 years there's expected to be eight million new residents in California. Four million more in the next nine years. The food harvest people say 25 million people needed food help in America back in the year 2005.

Sail on sail on, Californio.

I live in the Outer Richmond district of the city, on the moors, where rain and wind in winter lashes the casements with a fury, and the cold and fog cuts through bones and blankets like a poison gas in summer. The settlement stores are a few here, near the deep dark sea. The Richmond is on the eponymous Geary bus line that traverses this wide boulevard all the way across the city. Its Rubicon is about three miles in, from there the bus takes a parallel street and plunges into the inner city, hitting Market Street a mile or so later. There it makes a sharp left and heads to the Embarcadero near the Ferry Building. There's water at both ends of the line, one end at the Bay and the other the Pacific Ocean where there are sand dunes and mesas and coffeeshops, hack parlors and other stop offs that hold up the stage line drivers the way Atlas held up the world, so high you can't see it. We are sinners, swimmers in the sea of patience, come to our bus stops, especially before dawn, prepared for bear — forbearing weather changes. We invented the many layered style of dress. Up before dawn and it's humid and cold, at sun-up it might get either colder with fog or rain or some mixture, or it might get sunshiny and warm — no way to know which since the weather reports are all for other parts of California. In early afternoon the weather usually turns again, and again at evening. We peel or umbrellasize or don a watch cap because there's often a heaviness in the early morning. We pack sweaters, flannel shirts, insulated vests in backpacks and carryalls, along with water bottles since the day might just turned muggy and anyway bottled water is a necessity because what if there is an earthquake?

We carry this equipment to be prepared and visitors often remark on how casually we dress, but it's simply self-defense. The microclimes. We're sometimes mistaken for homeless people because of this bundling, especially in summer. And San Francisco summer has been fooling tourists since Gold Rush days. How many times have I seen the scene on a summer day when driving through Golden Gate Park of tourists in their shorts and French cut T-shirts running like crazy to their cars, lugging their coolers of picnic foods because the semi-fog of morning has turned into total overcast with bitter 40- or 50-something degrees instead of blossoming into the full sunshine and summer heat they had expected? These innocents abroad lose body temp dangerously fast — as would any pack of ants or live lobsters thrown into a freezer. Nothing like it. Unless you want to talk Himalayas or Tierra del Fuego. Probably why the Chamber of Commerce talks up the majesties of the Golden Gate Bridge and the coaxial beauties of fog draping soulfully across the shoulders of Twin Peaks, the waterfront views and crabfests at Fisherman's Wharf. Sheer shuck.

Don't come to Frisco for beachy wing-dings in summer. Forget picnics in sylvan Golden Gate Park. Here it's Zummer, not summer — even servers at Ocean Beach are known in Zummer to wear the anti-hypothermia caps and always the black rubber suits. Here we're pale riders at the Golden Gate one and all.

I was just thinking about the Morkie on Sunday morning, about combining the yorkie and the Maltese, and the shih-tzus combined with the yorkie which would make a tzu yorkie, when I ran across a gaggle of interbred dogs in Pacific Heights and not only two kinds by any means. There was at least one Maltipoo teacup.

I went to a special showing of a migratory bird documentary on Upper Fillmore. I was early so I walked down Fillmore Street — Upper Fillmore, not Lower Gilmore, two different melieus. The Sunday morning coffee drinkers filled the open-air tables of the coffeehouse near Pine Street.

Almost every table has a small dog tied up at or nearby, snuggling the sidewalk or snacking on a piece of grand bran muffin or vanilla cranberry scone, or the poirfee croissant.

Some of the pooches have been marooned, tied to an outdoor grill contraption for dog tying. I recognize a Boston terrier, a Russell terrier, and a Bichon Frisee — the black one which is an anomaly here — and it looks just like the one that a road rageful SUVer grabbed from a woman's lap and threw into the oncoming traffic on a South Bay freeway some years ago. The man had stopped to fulminate and the driver wasn't submissive enough, so he snatched the Bichon, tossed it and went back to his SUV and drove off — are these the manners, the show and tell of the 21st century?

Here is Asta-the-second over here; and a Lhasa Apso it looks like at the feet of a young shapely dressed couple. Each of these finely tuned miniature dogs, whether mixed or purebred, is either white or tan — with the Bichon exception — and most are curly-haired. They are clean and groomed and swell, very well behaved, quiet as peas while their human pals sip their lattes and fraps and capps made of exotic artificial contents on a rare sunny café morning in Pacific Heights, Lower not Upper Pacific Heights. Here the currency of the canine human bond is strong, stamped in spades. The cockapoos, the minipoodle, the labrapoodle, the Lhasapoo, the Boogle and the Muggle are cuddling up and nuzzling happily at the lower atmospheres of the faux marble tables here on Fillmore Street. And I'm pleased, I know that blondes have more fun, because I am one.

In the theater later the migrating birds appeared to still be as pure genetically as an Aryan Nazi, but time will tell if they're going to remain safe from the commercially marauding human types. The camera was able to follow them in their migrations via airplanes. I'm skeptical. There are cameras small enough to tuck into tailfeathers after Taser procedures. Am I being paranoid?

There are something like 37 million Californians and chances are good one or two of them will find a way to genetically finglefangle wild birds one day.

It was lovely to look at, though, the cinematography.

We've crossed Van Ness Avenue on O'Farrell, inbound. I'm look up to the left to see a sign: EDG WORT HO EL. A Vietnamese boy of eight or nine, speaking no English, boards the bus with his mother. He's wearing Mickey Mouse thongs of spectacular fluorescent green and yellow. The mouse reigns, he Americanizes the whole world's children, teaching them English “Mee-Kee Mouz” as introduction to the entire American language, a tricky language for almost any foreigner to learn, a fact proven to me by the infamous “Sauna Bath Towel” package I recently found on the floor of the Richmond YMCA locker room. “Brand Sainie” the packaging said, introducing instructions for its use: “Love family love life.” On the package it said: The product is made of natural viscose rayon, without smell & harmless make you skin fidy due to its special construction.

Elements as shine your skin, live in your cell, fasten blood circulation, sainie bath towel, a multifunctional choice for your bathing.

Usage: Apply some soup to body for using. Always dry when not in use.

Opportunity for a cultural consultancy position?

Yesterday I ran into Danielle McCloskie at the library working on her clothing design websites. Recently she got a grant from Wells Fargo Bank to put together fashion shows. At least one small bit of our billions of bank bailout money is going to a good cause. She knows I write short poems. “When are you going to design some clothes with short poems on them?” I kid her. After I left the library I thought, why not? I could envision those wraparound nightlife downs she designs with a short poem on the bosom or hem, perhaps one geared to the seasonal event. For an opera dress something like “Delicate structures of the garlic husk clasp the sweetness of each clove.” Poems for satin, tulle and silk. And for those women strong enough to entertain a low and high fashion concept on their rags, perhaps something like, “Summer in San Francisco — like going to a spa without your face.” Of course each dress would have to be edited if the owner wanted to wear it to another big event.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

-