2/22: Getting lost in San Francisco

Well, hell. This is what I get for trusting people, I guess. My messenger bag — notebook, books, iPad and all — got swiped in Dolores Park. What a bummer.

So now I sit at the Uptown and drink coffee from a glass until my Internet Friend shows up, and hope that he feels like giving me a ride home. Not that I’ll actually ask him to, but I’ll mention my hard luck and hope that he offers.

Really though, I’m not terribly broken up about losing the bag. I have my wallet and phone on me, at least, so I was able to stroll back into Dog-Eared Books (one of the more delightful places I have ever walked into) to buy this notebook and a copy of Forbidden Fruit: From the Letters of Abelard and Heloise, and warm up at the bar. I’m kind of upset about losing the copy of The Colossus I was reading, and the pocket knife my brother gave me for Christmas. But they can be replaced. It was kind of nice to not have that weight on my shoulder all afternoon, really.

And now I get to experience the thoroughly Joycean act of writing alone in a bar. I was overly self-conscious about it at first and felt like everybody was staring at me. But I’m starting to settle into it. I remember my old boss telling me, “You should always feel comfortable going to bars and movie theaters alone, so long as you don’t do either every night.” He said something like that, anyway.

I wonder if the person who took my stuff will bother to go through my half-full spiral notebook. There’s an 8-page philosophical screed about the construction of identity in there somewhere. I guess it would be nice to think that somebody might actually read it instead of it languishing in my closet indefinitely, which would be its fate otherwise. How’s that for optimism?

I have been thinking of all the things that have happened to me recently as fate, kind of. As if they signified that I was doing something right. The book auction in Grass Valley, stumbling across the signed Marjane Satrapi book in a bargain bin in the Haight — they all seemed to point to something. It’s magical thinking, but it gave some kind of purpose and direction that I had been lacking before. So that’s alright. I’m going to choose to continue to believe that those were significant, and I’m going to choose to believe that this small misfortune is not. It doesn’t fit in with all the rest of the signs, after all.

There will always be more notebooks to fill and more books to drool over. That, at least, I can put faith in.

The lip on the edge of the bar makes writing difficult. My forearms are angled unnaturally upward, which makes my shoulder hunch up. I have my left hand splayed out to keep the notebook flat while I scribble quickly. I must look like I have something terribly anxious and important to write.

 

Later, on the bus home:

More tired than drunk. I missed the 11:00 bus (it missed me, actually), so I wandered a couple block and found the Brown Jug Saloon. For a beer and a tip the middle-aged bartender buzzed me into the bathroom and let me sit for an hour while I waited for the next bus. I half-heartedly read and listened to him talk with another customer about how much he used to gamble. His big flannel shirt hung open and he seemed to know everyone (as in, the four other people) who was in the bar. It felt good to be somewhere familiar, even if it wasn’t familiar to me.

Earlier, when X— walked up on me at The Uptown I was on the stoop talking with the owner of the bar about Abelard’s castration. Nobody ever seems to talk about his philosophy. Just the castration. I would almost feel sorry for him, if it weren’t for the sleeping with his underage student thing.

X— and I went back inside and got drinks. We sat behind the pool table and I talked to him about books for an hour. About reading them, buying them, holding them. I told him all the books that were in my stolen bag: The Colossus, Books, Snow Falling on Cedars, Nothing to Declare, and a particularly interesting copy of Women in Love with a very Third Reich-ish looking eagle on the front cover. (There, I had to list them just so I could know what I was missing. Now I can officially move on.) Then we walked up Market and he told me about the Mission (there’s actually an old mission there still, but nobody ever goes there) and the Castro District, he showed me where the Center and the GLBT Museum and the Needles & Pens bookshop were. He told me he was an archivist for Slingshot, and I told him that that stuff would be worth thousands of dollars in 200 years. I don’t know if that was the right thing to say.

He’ll be a rich man if he gets enough bionic enhancements to live that long. He’s been keeping all the back issues.

I’m pretty sure I will have forgotten all the San Francisco history and geography that X—- laid on me by morning, that’s to be expected. I did have a small moment of clarity when he traced his finger along the Presidio on the glowing MUNI map of the city, and when he pointed and said, “that’s the Tenderloin. That’s where The Maltese Falcon takes place.” It’s a logicless, spider-legged city, but one does not always have to be lost in it.

The walk from the Tiburon bus stop to the house was cold enough to see my breath. I could also see plenty of stars, though, so I wondered which was Sirius and which was Betelgeuse while I tried not to trip down the dark street. Something warm and comfortable as a blanket settled over me when I saw that M—- had left every light in the house on for me.

The bed always feels a bit softer when you have walked a long way to get to it, doesn’t it? My ears are ringing with the sound of San Francisco, but I don’t think it will keep me awake.

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8 thoughts on “2/22: Getting lost in San Francisco

  1. Well told and sorry that you got your stuff stolen. San Francisco is one of the most street-active cities I’ve ever been in but with that comes more than its fair share of loons. Colorful but perhaps also at times kleptomaniacal. Keep an eye out.

    You mileage may vary but whenever I found myself out after dark and things were getting weird I always felt safer after ducking–and sometimes running–to Castro. That could be because the place I was staying was close and it meant an even safer harbor was a block or two away, but I always liked to think that it was because there was a little magic hidden in the pavement there. Especially at night.

  2. Hey, Robin!

    These blogs are great. I’ve always admired your writing–your pacing, your sure sense of where to use a complicated word and where to keep sentence structure simple and lucid.

    I have started writing up stories I’ve often told from the 17 years I spent going to prisons in NW Indiana to lead zen practice. I would like to send the first three to you for your comments. Do you have an email address? Mine is ronkidd4900@gmail.com.

    Thank you! And keep these pieces coming!

    Ron

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