Chapter 81

“Nothing voodoo or

crazy here, see, just the dark
side of the moon.”

“He’s for the unions, that’s why…”

“You think that’s a good thing?”

“Plus he’s always been for jacking up the minimum wage.”

“And taxes along with it. Just ask the Downtown Association how that’s going over down there.”

Built in the Sixties, the place looked like a glassy airplane hangar, and hosted more lift-offs and happy landings than the Mile-High Club. I was in for an orange juice and more cereal, expecting to blow through the express line then chow down back at the Volvo. Glued to the Safeway’s massive window front and a Marina Green panorama, I was planning a swift exit and moves across the teeming boulevard back to the parking lot before the dinnertime grocery rush. Only two ahead of me, the first woman breezing through on her way back to Corte Madera, was already grabbing her change and Trader Joe’s tote bag, tanned and hidebound for the bridge. Which brought me to the on-deck hole, already guesstimating my tab and fingering open a Cocoa Krispies box, when came this difference of political opinion dead ahead.

“No, the mayor’s still a man of the people,” said a store clerk, methodically packing a plastic shopping bag. “In fact, he grew up right around this neighborhood…”

Left it behind for the limo lib crowd. He’s just another one of the party boys, kissing Phil Burton’s statue up there like Milk and the rest of them.”

A retired contractor, he apparently collected rents and clipped coupons over in his orgeat two-story casa on Mallorca Way. Giants and drought-related small talk promised to keep things moving, from Jack ‘Dude’ Clark’s 27-game hit streak to Candlestick Park finally stripping out the artificial turf. At least until the red and gold Puma suited Marina landlord scanned his receipt for overcharges, grousing about assessments and dunnage emanating from City Hall. On the other side of the conveyor stood a bookish, robotic checker who apparently went way back with this particular customer, and a cheery roving bag man who packed cans, cartons and produce from line to line. Sweaty, heavy breathing singles just in from the jogging trail pressed tightly behind me, carving out their roller belt territory with rubber divider sticks, impatiently pushing my box and bottle forward as though I had no say in this matter. What widened the political divide before me was the reality that grown folks in matching uniforms were still working supermarket jobs that I’d left behind in high school. On the other hand, their union scale and package had to be a whole lot better than my bennies about now.

“C’mon, where would we be with a Mayor Barbegelata?” drolled the checker, clearing his register and replacing his receipt tape roll.

“Where would be without Prop. 13,” countered the portly Paisano, hoisting his doubled shopping bags on his way out the door. Wouldn’t trust Moscone with a voting machine.

“Thank you for shopping at Safeway, Mister Giacomo,” the bagger smiled, before shifting over to a full-cart order two lines over. “Happy Halloween weekend to you!”

“Don’t go reminding me…”

I departed The City’s ‘largest singles scene’ with a small sack of cheap, easy munchies and no versed position on its political machinations. Weeks had passed, but nothing much had changed besides the weather, Indian summerly so. Telemarketing assignments came and went, including several survey forays up to Marin and Sonoma, Petaluma mainly, where I stuck to ringing doorbells and staying well away from the Rallimores’ law offices downtown. But the eagle dump every Friday helped, as did Ready Temps’ mileage allowance, even though it never totaled enough to get me off the streets.

Nevertheless, holiday clear-outs did ease the daily crush, leaving the Marina and Cow Hollow to minority minions, the shadow and paste people and the relatively immobile such as us. Ostensibly First World, sun people evacuations of Labor and Columbus Days did afford me more idle time—still lazy sunny days, with darker hours spent on the patrol or prowl. Not even Mister October crushing the Dodgers again in the World Series finale could significantly lift my gloom. Nor could that raucous Blues Festival up in Fort Mason’s Great Meadow headlining everybody from Mark Naftalin to Johnny Otis to Buddy Guy and Jules Broussard. Yet it did get me to where I was today, crossing Marina Boulevard on the brink of All Hallows, noticing as how Eric had moved his blue Porsche over here to the Iranians’ service station apron.

“It’s the fuckin’ end of October—and it’s hotter than hell…”

“It’s California, fool, what do you expect?”

“Not summer in The City this late in the year, that’s for goddamn sure.”

“So you’d rather have snow and ice?”

“Hell, no—but a little rain wouldn’t hurt…it’s cold enough at night as it is.”

I had rejoined them over at our fractured compound, hearing speedy briefcase hornswagglers, speed shifting through Marina Boulevard’s snake turns toward the bridge and their pipedreams up in Marin, as well as echoes of old-timers proclaiming it ‘earthquake weather’ up and down Safeway’s beverage aisles. Still another brilliantly clear sky was easing into a deeper blue on this shorter autumn day, touched with the rose hints of a dramatic Pacific sunset. The crew had gathered around our steadfastly clustered vehicles, ostensibly primed all Halloween weekend for the big night itself. Those stiff afternoon winds had dropped along with the inland temperatures, coastal-Central Valley Fahrenheit back in balance, becalming a summer-long choppy San Francisco Bay. Not that it made for any smoother going in this corner of Marina Green’s parking lot, where nobody seemed to be giving up the footloose scene, going anywhere constructively for very long.

“So go into some kinda shelter, or something,” Gary cracked, going at it with Crabber again, the latter staying safe distance between Gary’s Futura and bread truck.

“I ain’t goin’ into no goddamn place like that!” Crabber toasted and taunted with the starter fluid can, as if cocking to lob a grenade, screwing and unscrewing the cap with insurgent provocation. Rather than that, he just snorted himself a whiff. “I need my freedom…”

“Freedom to what?” Gary ducked in battle scarred reaction, righting himself against a stack of file boxes to keep from tumbling off his driver’s stool.

“Freedom to go, freedom to do, to be me, on my own fuckin’ terms…”

“Lotta good that’s doin’ you, fool.”

A little nap/snack in the Volvo’s front seat, and I was braced for whatever this quintessential holiday evening might bring in such a costume dramatic town. Blue skies had deepened, the rose pink turning redder, casting more assertively against scattered, streaky cloud puffs about the late-day cityscape. Mt. Tamalpais and nearer, nestled Marin hills, shadowed gradually in the sidelight of a sinking sun. Between those darkening, open-arm layers sliced a slender band of madder orange, retreating top to bottom minute by minute, starkly silhouetting the bridge’s south tower into opposing orchestral harps. The dusky sun brushed the glassine bay in broad strokes of tangerine and raspberry red, searing the lawns, radiating Fort Mason’s sagging piers, firing up Alcatraz Island’s cell blocks like a Greek acropolis. Beyond them, white and beige Russian Hill buildings were going Sierra gold. Made me feel vitamin and fibre starved just soaking in the vesper display.

“Think I’m throwin’ all this away? For what—a flea-bitten cot and cold fuckin’ shower with a buncha fags? Fugetbboutittt…”

“Better than sleepin’ under a pet rock, ain’t it?”

“Hell, I got my yacht over there, don’t you fret your ass,” Crabber Don peeled off and stormed toward the East Harbor berths in his sooty lime leisure suit and flip-flops, tossing the aerosol fluid can he’d lifted from my trunk into a colorful island garden of rosettes, spiked statice/agave, red hot pokers and lilac aeonium. “And don’t you be callin’ me no fool, fool!”

The sun had dropped halfway to Gardner Pinnacles by now, wedged itself out of local existence, so that sky and bay melded into an unrelenting sea of black. I turned painfully to watch a jumbo Toyota car carrier slip out high tide between Alcatraz and Angel Islands past Marin’s lower hills, Tiburon to Belvedere to hillside Sausalito’s lights behind it like the slow-speed time-exposure sweep of a camera shutter. The momentary lull snapped more sharply with the drone of an ocean-bound seaplane splitting the shadowy bridge towers. Passing high above the Piper was an SFO-London 747 with a well-lit red TWA tail, as though the Golden Gate was the nexus for the world writ large.

“All right, boys, break it up already,” Sherry bellowed, as she and Clifford emerged from their Econoline van, wrapped in Mission thrift store Halloween finery, aligning buttons, tying up loose, dangling laces. “Don’t you go messin’ with my mellow on!”

“Really, just check out that moon, it’s almost full,” Clifford pointed eastward beyond Fort Masonwaxing his mustache into a handlebar as best he could. “Thus tonight, we imbibe and indulge…”

“So who the hell are you?” Gary was not exactly taken with the coronaed lunar orb. He pulled at the collar of his everyday Class A’s khaki shirt shifted his piles in shiny black suit pants.

“The Bandita Queen to you, sucker,” Sherry asserted, in a brocaded black vest, colorful Pampas tirada sarape and bright Mexican falda Ranchera skirt bearing tiny vaqueros and vaqueras, hot branding irons and lassoed steers. She slid along my sedan’s fender, saucily kicking her porker left leg back, revealing a red fluffer and pintafore, which swept across the tops of her black and red Annie Oakley boots. “We’ve been working on our get-ups all week.”

“Just like I’m Juan Wesley Hardin,” Clifford looked more like a cross with Pancho Villa. He snapped up the pearly buttons of a muslin cowboy shirt with denim collar and cuffs, down to a turquoise beaded belt and brown canvas dungarees, beat-up gray suede wrangler boots. A maroon bandana wrapped around his neck and beard, a dented eight-gallon atop his crown-parted mop, he strapped on a surplus bandolero, plugged with Tootsie Pops instead of slugs. “One learned and lethal caballero—killed me 42 desperadoes ‘fore they cut me down El Paso way.”

“You’re headed south, all right,” Gary jeered, “and they’ll cut your asses down in the Gulch.”

“Not on your life,” said Sherry, donning a leather strapped vaquera lid, assuming more of a hefty brush with Frida Kahlo imagery.“We’re off to crash an All Saints-Satanic Social in Hayes Valley, supposed to be the best bash since Coyote’s Hookers Ball. Saw a flyer for it at the laundromat, had a pentangle on it and everything.”

“Yep, pardner, we don’t cotton to them buckaroo bunch nohow,” Clifford mugged and cinched up his britches, albeit a lick defensively, before popping another one of her pills. “We’s straight shooters, ride ’em no cowboys.”

That huge, full enough harvest moon now spiked atop the gilded tip of the Transamerica Pyramid like a beachball on a sea lion’s snout, centered exquisitely over Russian Hill’s bejeweled, bay view lofts and penthouses. I watched the two squeeze into their ‘Vair Monza, then crank over that sad excuse for an Volksy air-cooled rear engine. Clifford ground gears into reverse and Sherry waved a wicked adios as Eric strode over from dusting off his blue Porsche at the gas station, then feeding Bruno a bowl of canned Steakhouse Alpo. He was in no way inclined to wave back amid an oil cloud the Corvair left behind.

“Whatdya expect from a tinhorn like that,” Gary offered up, shouting out of his bread van, leafing through a fresh copy of William Pierce’s ‘Turner Diaries’. “Clifford and his crybaby lib bumperstickers.”

“Tinhorn like what,” I swiped away the Monza’s worn ring and valve squall, me in my slept-in rags.

“A candy-ass tinhorn, that’s what,” Gary snapped, blowing heap more smoke.

“Fuck those two then, they’re just freakin’ fagophobes,” Eric said, filling his Chessie’s bowl with can two. He’d cleaned up his grease monkey act, and slid into a stone washed denim work shirt and brown Dickie canvas pants. “Not me, gay guys don’t scare me none, how about you?”

“Me? No, of course not,” I turned toward the Volvo for some digesting time, or indigesting time of Gary’s baloney.“I know where I…”

“Good, let me dish Bruno another course, then we can mosey over to the main event on Polk…”

“Actually, I think I’ll pass,” I keyed my door lock. “Maybe just go check out Mr. Magic and the jugglers at the Cannery, something saner like that.”

“So you are goin’ phobie yourself, are you,” Eric taunted, as his dog jumped up on him, pawing and begging for a second course. “Feelin’ threatened, ‘fraid it’ll rub off?”

“No, I tell you. It’s just that I’ve been there once already, seen the whole bizarre scene. Besides I wouldn’t even have a decent costume…”

“So come as you are, ’cause you haven’t seen a scene like this,” Eric shifted into overgoad as he set the dog food bowl between his two remaining 912s.“Be a man about it, just for grins, you can study up, get off on the depravity. I hear Polk Street’s balls-out tonight. Wide open, plus its free of charge. Cheap thrills, man, and like Harvey Milk’s sayin’, everybody must get out there…”

“Shit, all right, if only for purely sociological purposes,” I rose above the gauntlet, though barely able to raise my voice.Passing us by was that recent harbor arrival, a fast-walking, fast-talking gladhander in baggy shorts and old Olympic Club sweatshirt, waving to all the other parking lot oddballs, still bearing that shit-eating grin under his beaten Giants ball cap—a regular Mr. Congeniality. “Guess I do owe you one…”

“Two, but who’s countin’? Think of it as AAA road insurance for when your junker breaks down again,” Eric added, as he polished the Porsche emblem on his white trunk lid, like that made the road-spent sports coupe into Pebble Beach d’ Concours material. “We can just hoof it over, stop by to check my blue rig on the way. Bruno will be fed and sassy, so he can guard our wheels—he can handle anything that comes along.”

“What’s the story with that bomb, anyway,” I relented—damned if I would otherwise know how to massage the Volvo’s SU jugs. Really, if I declined, what did that make me?  “Like, with the deposit sucker?”

“Aww, turns out he’s a toot head, pack mule for some big-ass dealer up in the Marin hills named Tony Shy. Anyway, guess he spaced out on the deposit, musta clean forgot about it, never heard from him again. So I moved Mr. Blue over closer to here—the Iranians are cool with it, a corner spot, dirt cheap, as long as I keep a drip pan under the thing.”

“Still and all, what a hassle for you…”

“What hassle? Poof, no deposit, no return,” Eric glanced across Marina Boulevard for reassurance. “Plus I’ve got a new fish on the line, says he’ll pay cash on the barrelhead—double barrel. Loves him some Porsches, all right, loves mine to death…”

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“Dan White tried to put the kibosh on it…”

“Wanted to block Polk Street’s Halloween permits, can you believe that?”

“What kind of person would do that to people?”

Having locked up the Volvo, changed into flannel-denim mountain man and a blue Buffaloes windbreaker in the Marina Green john. I had waited out Eric as he clamped down his other two Porsches with hook-rod steering wheel contraptions, padlocked their trunk lids with stunted bicycle chains. He fed Bruno another course of sirloin Alpo and left his retriever to guard the fleet from atop the white 912, catching up with me past a full parking lot of last-lap highway nags and already rockin’ camper vans. I’d met him halfway, slipping between a household-loaded Winnebago Chieftain and map-muralled Dusseldorf motor home. I couldn’t get past that Pace-Arrow rig with the full hook-ups, the chrome mega-horns and wraparound ladders—the tan and brown job from Arizona with air conditioners on top and twin Kawasakis bikes in tow, everything but a motorized satellite dish.

Appeared that Gary was looking after our compound as well, chain smoking and sorting file boxes in his truck, and I could still hear him ragging us from here, mainly about our sortie to this sordid affair. Nevertheless, Eric and I rounded the Marina promenade past the downramps of Gashouse Cove. Each pier had a flanged iron security gate, effectively sealing off four rows of tightly berthed sailboats and inboard craft. Gashouse wasn’t a cove in the pastoral sense, not some pine-shaded inlet near Bar Harbor, sprigged with summer cottages and buoyed with weathered canoes and rowboats. This was just a man-made marina tucked between the triangle and Fort Mason’s westernmost pier, a simple dredged-out basin with petrol shellac and a used yacht lot. But then what was legit around there anyway; I’d yet to ferret that out, and a stunning nightfall hadn’t brought any greater clarity.

“He oughta take his fat potato head and go home, that’s what…” .

“Oh, his day will come, you just watch. Total bad karma—he’s white, all right, to the pig fascist bone. But think he’d dare show his ugly face here tonight? Don’t bet your spuds on it.”

“You best believe, honey, I’ll drink to that!”

Eric’s blue Porsche secured across Marina Boulevard, we had grabbed a couple of Coronas at the Safeway and legged it across Funston Playground. From there, I fought negative galvanic resistance all the way up Chestnut Street, particularly upon spotting the 450SL out front of Sydney’s, then a Penzance-costumed figure leading her Moulin Rouge character out, arm in arm. So I nudged Eric down Franklin to avoid any mortifying encounters, strangling the neck of my beer bottle, dragging ass up Union, past fern bars from Henry Africa’s to Polk Street’s Royal Oak, window checking every velvet sofa for Syd and her swashbuckling corsair. Was that the storybook couple under that stained glass lampshade on the overstuffed love seat? Whew, no…too much of a strumpet outfit, even for her…she was probably partying up in Pacific Heights by now anyhow…

But beyond Lord Jim’s swinging meatmarket at Broadway, Polk Street singles scene turned more singular…unitary in nature. Before I could back off, we were swept up in a flow of quickening bodies, thickening toward Pacific Avenue, so that motor traffic could barely pass. Radiators overheated, clutch disks scranched through the curb to curb foot stream up Polk Street’s grade. We worked up a powerful enough thirst to kill off our Coronas, Eric hitting a corner Armenian grocery for a sixer of High Life and pint of Cutty on the side, before cutting between these two marginal revelers who stood bad mouthing about the right Honorable Supervisor from District 8.

“Here, for the trip,” Eric re-emerged, digging around his brown bag for a bag of beer nuts. “Stiffen your…resolve…”

“No, later maybe,” I replied, blinders on, yet loath to look straight ahead. “When we head back to Marina Green.”

“This hooch’ll be history by then.”

“Hopefully, so will I…”

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South of Pacific, vehicles froze harder than Doyle Drive traffic on a holiday getaway, lodged like 30-30 caliber dum-dums in the flesh and bone skullduggery of a hell-bent Halloween. Sub compacts stalled, import engines revved, horns wailing, taking merciless hood pounding, bumper thumping abuse from bi-directional schools of bisexual thoughts on a mid-Polk collision course.

Before long, Lower Russian Hill galleries, flea markets and quirky knick-knack shops gave way to even more floral design, hair salons and leatheries than I remembered from my earlier tour of duty here with Syd. From Jackson Street on, this drag was anything but reasonable, and the resulting libidinal prioritizing winnowed out civil eccentricity from growing uncivil disobedience. Step by step, a fully mooned Polk Street seemed bound and determined to separate the men from the boys.

“Trick and treeeeeet!”

“Sorry, have to take a rain check on that…”

“Rain check? What rain? You see any rain?”

This greeting, from a bearded Nureyev in nighty and negligee, pirouetting my way, reaching in to hand me a glowing hash pipe—being heavy on the eye shadow and aboriginal lip gloss, buns and thick rolls bulging at every level. Such distinctions were blurring, the further we got across Broadway: Between doers and be-doers, movers and shakers, gawkers and gawkees, fact finders and freak finders, underdeveloped and overdeveloped frames. Somehow, they had merged their way into express lanes, over by the facial spas, vitamin exchanges and carry-out vegetarian buffets. No logic here, this was no place for decision-making, not here on the fast track to libido liberation.

 I had rationalized drifting up this way to seek out an indy Volvo repair shop near Mario’s Monza Garage on Pacific Avenue, between Van Ness and Polk. I was scouting for aftermarket replacement Solex carb parts. But though VolvoDrome had already closed for the day, Polkstrasse was wide open for business, Eric buying in. By now main drag Halloween flashed by too quickly for even him to absorb. If the Gay Freedom Day parade was over the top, this scene already came in under the bottom: Polk Street just being Poke Street, rainbow and Society of Janus flags flying at full mast from fire escapes and lamp poles, pink balloons floating helium high.

Camellianic Izod couples in tassled Weejuns and tight-seam chinos floated blissfully by, lavender sweaters wrapped so dashingly about their shoulders, cat grinning as if the cameras were rolling on a direct feed back to their horrified hometown evening news. Sergio, sleeveless T-shirt Brads and Bruces pawed one another’s pecs and biceps; Troy Donahue-Freddie Mercury couples paused to preen their corpus perfecti in nail salon mirrors, or feather their dream nests through shop window spreads of bareskin afghans, Tibetan carpets and Tiffany overhead fans. These were the close-cropped Pacific Heights level homebodies in powder blue blazers and cashmere, every thread and follicle in place, out for some cheap and dirty provocation before fondling themselves back up Russian Hill for some mondo condo—maybe glazed ham and pearly little onions and consenting Presto Log fireside encounters in leopardy bikini briefs, as if Polk Street were this real time, X-rated passion play out of the closet and under the stars. A little public sector foreplay courtesy of the San Francisco event permit department.

“Man, what you so ascared of,” Eric asked, handing me the six pack. “This shit don’t rattle me none, I’m sure of myself. Ain’t no scabs on my arse hole, no holes in my lobes. It’s just swingin’ dicks, no chicks—what do I need that for? I got that already…”

“Who’s scared, I…”

“It’s like with that painter bag of yours,” he said, leaning into the crowd, egging me on to fall in line. “Either you’re just plain chickenshit, or you’re beggin’ and crawlin’ after that artist…”

“Oh, I don’t know about that, ” I instead edged toward those preferring to turn away back down to Broadway, in the direction of some guys hooting derisively out their revving Corvette doors. “Or the way you’re barging in on it…”

“C’mon, more field research, doc,” he beckoned me forward, likely confident that our misfit ensembles were costumes enough. “Just think of the raw sosh material you got goin’ here.”

Make that Streets and Sanitation. Up past Pacific Avenue, things were getting so cumulatively trashy even the A-gays were turning in early: clips and pieces of grainy, over-exposed deviance better left in Diane Arbus’s developing trays. Hissing pussy cats, polka dot clown princesses, bouncing turnips, skinny rubber-beaked chickens—all manner of gay abandon and sexual inyourendo paraded up and down Polk Street, climbing about storefronts, shooting between parked cars—like that Lincoln Continental drop-top packed with pot-bellied baldies in Speedos and thongs—pretty boys and butt-ugly gay babes posturing in doorways like mongrels at the pound. Fawns and swans, cuddly little bald-headed birdies and butterflies, just too adorable for words. Orphan Annies and Raggedy Annes, purring Talullah Bankheads with platinum pompadours, menopausal Shirley Temples, arthritic curtsies, liver-spotted dimples: here was virtually anything a gambling man could ask for if he had no interested in dealing straight stud.

Toxic emissions would have been a breath of fresh air from Polk Street’s eau de bouquet. It came with the gardenias and assorted blossoming nosegays. Brut aftershave and Obsession cologne wisped about from sample aerosols from a corner parfumerie—the choking fragrance of free expression, of a Halloween fairyland turning bestially absurd…

VAPORBLOCKED (A truly vivid depiction,  
for imminent VAPORBONUS release)…

…Eventually there were more sirens, wailing in the distance, careening across town like Bullit’s stunt cars to fortify the riot detail. All available police ‘servants’ lined Polk Street’s curb gutters, fixed and stolid as palace guards while Halloween’s booze, blood, urine and semen spilled over their spit-shined boots. Standing there copping as hard asses, dodging and ducking this soft-core civil disturbance, getting played for Gestapo stooges and chump change by every fruit loop in the Gulch. Resigned to keeping everything flowing smoothly, fondling their holstered nightsticks, cursing under their helmet visors at everything they’d seen, seething that they were San Francisco’s finest, hamstrung by the mayor’s office and every other town’s worst, here in the virtual shadow of rainbow flag-waving city hall.

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“We’ll Chowchilla the fucker…”

“Yah, we’ll Chowchill it to hell, if’n you don’t get them out of there!”

“And we mean now, or we’ll bury this sucka in the bay!”

I’d had my fill of it, all of it, the Halloween horrors, the fullish moon freak show—the Polker faces and plumbers’ helpers, manic degeneracy and moral hazards, sybaritism and salaciousness, the intemperance and turpitude, those lewd hangers-on hanging all the way out; the blowhards, hand jobs, assenders and panty wastes, that bizarre parade of strange fruits and fairy tails, the cops in their riot gear, itching to wade in and shut the whole Saturnian bacchanalia down.

There I left Eric again, he still being into the garb and grins. I scooped up a sourdough roll and honey packets at Cala Foods, but not before picking away at its produce bins, broccoli to strawberries, before creeping over to Van Ness Avenue like a milquetoast claims adjuster out of a Market Street stripper matinee. First northbound MUNI bus to come along was a smokey holdover maroon and cream diesel running the 42 Loop. I snuck in the back door at Eddy Street, took a rear seat, figured I was home free toward Fort Mason, bread roll and chocolate milk in hand. Then came Geary Street.

The half capacity, heavily graffitied coach showed little indication this was Halloween, riders no more out of the ordinary than any other evening on this owlish route, wherein asylum status seemed abnormally commonplace, and All Hallows excess was by comparison amateur night. But here across from Tommy’s Joynt, a lumpy Br’er Rabbit and rag-tag Uncle Remus stormed aboard, plopping down on the senior/disabled seating without so much as acknowledging the brother motorman, much less his fare box. Their impasse got us to about Jackson Street, where the costumed pair raised their voices and the ante, everybody else remaining stonily silent or nodding off even deeper, as though they were hip to this gag and not terribly impressed, given what loopy vignettes take stage on the 42’s center aisle night after night. Still, the motorman followed procedure and shut the coach down in the bus stop, phoning in his ‘situation’ to MUNI security, while passengers stayed stonily silent rather than giving these clowns the satisfaction of disrupting their routines: just the 42 being a little Loopier than usual.

“We ain’t diddly shittin’ around, hear,” shouted the bunny, drawing what appeared to be either a cap pistol or full-on .38.

“Yah, you all betta help let our folks go,” Uncle Remus added, foaming desperately at that, standing tall to wave an unsheathed foraging knife.

“We just came from Peoples Temple, they wun’t tell us nuthin’…”

“They got our blood kin down in that goddamn jungle and won’t let ’em get the hell out,” said Uncle Remus, as he wiped the blade on his tattered trousers. “So y’all betta start doin’ somethin’ about it, before somebody starts gettin’ hurt!”

“Or els’n we take over and sink this here bus in that bay…”

The cartoon duo then claimed they were staying put until the 42 delivered them unto their housing projects at Fisherman’s Wharf, but I was in no condition for a stand-off this hopelessly locked and loaded. Sirens converging on the latest MUNItionary dust-up, I scrambled out the coach’s rear doors up Jackson Street, if only to catch a breath before any lead or busloads began flying into San Francisco Bay. Yet by Franklin Street, I fought off a nasty urge toward re-enactments at Lafayette Park, turning instead golemly downhill toward Syd’s place.

Anyway, none of that was my Halloween scene. Besides, at least I hadn’t spotted Syd and her fartsy playmate, Eugene anywhere along Polk Street this time around. She’d no doubt grown totally out of that art school sandbox by now; was just toying with me back then, anyhow. Wait, yeah, of course, that‘s it. Just like she’s toying with me these days. This mini epiphany filled my head like Barbasol out an aerosol can as I drafted down Franklin, past the Lilienthal House and St. Brenda’s School, alongside the light sequenced traffic flow in the general direction of Van Ness Avenue. Onwards of Union Street and Cow Hollow corner groceries, it was, sure, she was only egging me on, drawing me out with the old jealousy ploy all along. I get it, alright—that little sneak, playing her bogus boyfriend game to pull me off the schnide. POOF, just friends…who does she think she’s fooling? Well, how about just neighbors—howdy, neighbor! What if I told you I’m not giving up or in that easily…

Wheels turnin’, round and round: the nearer I came to Lombard Street’s motel row, the more a cavalcade of late-night radio tunes streamed through, ear to ear. Got that right, against the light, no torture, persecution complexes for yours truly, not into solitaire, not me. Yessiree, don’t give up on us, baby, ’cause I’m back from the wars, and back in love again…acknowledge it: a love supreme, a love supreme. Love is like oxygen, alright, feelin’ all shiny and new, and it will be forever, damn straight. Rounding Chestnut, bearing down on her place, I was humming everything from ‘So Into You’ to ‘Just Want to Be Your Everything’, always and forever, for crissake, ’cause we were a real team in there, essentially gliding on a bus-fumed air supply, getting real Greasy physical with your gym-firmed abs and thighs, thinking Love to Love You, Baby’, feeling it, ‘woman, take me in your arms, rock me baby,’to kiss you all over till the night closes in, sister golden hair, ‘the night feels right.  Amen, that was the key, if only I could locate Josh’s cassette box, then it’d be mamma come to pappa, easy like Sunday morningBut scarcity tunneling past her building once again, I wondered if those were her studio lights on and she was earnestly working in there—chance against fat chance, hope against little or none. Reality check: I instead braced for another gauzy nightfall, its auto-reverse replay of more neighborly ups and downs…

sr dingbats

Yet just when I thought that latest brain storm had subsided, in came this unseasonably thick, all-enveloping coastal fog. Must have been last call, coda to the summer machine, one blast and blanket by way of the Farallones and Potato Patch; the ocean reclaiming this peninsula as its beachhead domain, carrying along the aquamarine stench of fish kill and plankton on the float.

Baccarat clear mere hours before, Marina Green’s parking lot was now damn near indiscernible, and with the late marine layer came onshores like a typhoon tsunami—San Francisco Bay and Fort Mason piers nowhere to be seen. From what I could make out, our fleet seemingly present and accounted for—wasn’t that their Corvair there? The only hint of insomnia being Gary in his bread truck, paging through something under light of a Coleman lantern, nevertheless checking me out. A final pit stop and I was wriggling into my Frostline bag fully clothed, the Volvo all but rocking me to sleep in the cradle of the westerlies, to little avail. Nor was my radio in lullaby mode: I punched FM and dialed AM through ‘One Way or Another’ and ‘When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman, It’s Hard’, before flipping the thing off altogether, going it alone, feeling voodoo in the vibe until the night closed in once and for all. Which left me at the mercy of Marina Triangle’s undertones, a twisted, scraggly tree trunk outside my windshield shaped like a wind bent cypress crucifix.

Fine mizzle coated my car windows, yet I could see lime-amber halos around the harbor walkway lights, nearly make out fuzzy figures shuffling and lurking in the coal grey on gray shadows between them, appearing to be far more nefarious than the Monsignor or toolie mechanic, too slipshod to be General Ripcord on patrol. East Harbor masts swayed like VU meter pointers, deck tarps and sail boots flapping like carnival tents or backyard laundry on the line. Floating docks and berths creaked in the wavy tide, tire rubber bumpers squeaking to the raw, wrenching stretch of wet mainsails, spinnakers and mooring cables in the screaming wind. Adding to the low-grade clamor was the clang of guys and roller furling, the rub and moan of metal cleats against tie lines, rigging chiming like a carnival calliope. Anchoring the bass were the quadraphonic foghorns, echoing gate to Alcatraz gangplanks through the overcast: oboe to baritone sax to bassoon, essentially overdubbing an ‘Into the Mystic’ mix.

Yet the muted, sea-keyed symphony only left me tossing and squirming, hearing it, fearing it, cold sweating out the blurred, ghostly contours in costumes unknown, passing by to port and starboard, even more fore and aft. Raucous eight-track country rock and animal noises soon poured in with cheap beer from nearby vehicular dwellers only tightened my cranium, hangover already vising in.

So I eventually managed to pull the sleeping bag over my head, as if to bury my het-up imagination, trying to get a handle on things for a bit, at least until I could have sworn I heard a faint brushing, no tapping at my driver’s door window by a fleeting figure in the heavy poi. I swore all the more upon dead reckoning that it was might have been Sydney Mendel…

Care for more?

Chapter 82. Loggerheads of a 
canine variety come head to head 
with harsh animal inclinations…