Wednesday, July 18, 2007

People pushing by, they're walking off into the night

EDIT (10/25/08): Hi. You probably found this by googling "people pushing by, they're walking off into the night." Was that because you're wondering what song that line is from? It's The Streets, "Blinded by Lights," from the album "A Grand Don't Come For Free."

As it happened, I had scheduled some time off work months ago. No reason, but sometimes it's a good idea to leave doors open. You never know, am I right?

As it happened, I badly needed a quick getaway, and as it happened an airline was offering some crazy cheap airfare to San Francisco, and I have some friends there so it seemed like a good idea.

I dilly-dallied a little too much before my flight and ended up short on time. Halfway to the airport I'd realized I'd forgotten my hoodie and got really upset. It was 106 degrees in the Valley that day, so a naturally a hoodie was far from my mind, but I was going to need it in San Francisco.

Business at the airport went smoothly, but when I got on the plane there was some dude in my seat. I mentioned it, but he was in my seat because some lady was in his seat because some guy was in her seat because some people were in his seat because they were idiots. It caused a lengthy delay and a bottleneck in the aisle. The Amy Sedaris looking flight attendent did her best to straighten it all out, but ultimately failed.

I ended up not in my own seat but in some random aisle next to an older Dracula woman.


Pleasent view outside, but this was the shittiest flight I've ever been on. Literally. The air smelled very fecal.

In the airport I spot one of those scary dead horse things from the Harry Potter movie.



Uneventful shuttle ride from the airport. Last time I was in SF I listened the The Streets "A Grand Don't Come For Free" the whole time, and now whenever I listen to that album I think of that trip. This time I listened exclusively to The New Pornographers, but I don't think it will stick. I know this music too well and I already have many memories associated with it.

I check into the hotel and they put me in a disabled access room with a hissing air vent on the street level across from the housekeeping closet. Oh well. A grand don't come for free.

A couple of my Bay Area associates, Shawn and Wayne, come to pick me up to hang out with the rest of the gang.


Crossing the street is awkward because the light seems to be broken. I wait forever because the last thing I want is to be destroyed by an out of control cable car. (you can kind of see Wayne standing to the left of that little booth thing).

It was great to see everybody. I don't want to be a name-dropper or anything but noted rock band Love is Chemicals were there. That's right, I'm friends with them. That's who I roll with.

Also appearing at the gathering: fresh baked cookies, an argument about the merits of the last song on The Smiths "The Queen is Dead," talk of Dodgers and Giants, a sad report about a lost Mini Cooper, and a tiny dog. Guitar Hero 2 did not appear due to a cable miscommunication.

The gathering ends and Shawn n' Wayne n' Robyn take me back to the hotel.

Barely 11:30. Good thing I’m nocturnal. I don’t even step into the hotel. With no idea and no purpose, I walk. I see lights and I head for them.


Down the hill. Left, right, straight, left. I see crowds. I walk toward some, I avoid others. I’m lost now, which was my intent.


What am I looking for? I’ll know it when I find it. The City envelopes me as I disappear into the fog. No hoodie, that’s okay. The cool spray of the fog and rain feels too good.


Crowds. Guys with New Yawk accents and neckties. Persians in shiny silk club shirts. Beautiful women in mini-skirts pulling their jackets tight. Homeless bearded men selling newspapers. No familiar face, no stranger that I can identify as an ally. T-shirt and Jeans and Glasses Guy must hang out in a different part of town.


I see a girl I like, and I see her many different times. Ipod and Backpack Girl. Walks fast, arms folded. She makes this walk every night. Can’t stand the crowd of drunks and yuppies, but the homeless don’t frighten her anymore. The city has affixed on her a scowl, She misses her car and her cat and shopping with her mom, but on Thursday nights when she’s having her second beer at Rye surrounded by her classmates she thinks to herself “I am living it.”



I keep walking, much slower than her. I stop at every bar and peek in the window, wind bringing me second hand smoke and just as quickly taking it away. The bars are too crowded, the people aren’t my friends.


I stand at the corner, the light changing from walk to don’t walk and back again. I can’t decide where to go. Sensual massage awaits to my right. All night curry to my left.

It’s getting later, and colder. I stand on a new corner and I watch. The crowd is thinning. A girl in a patched up hoodie leans against a railing. She asks me what time it is and dashes across the street to a payphone. She comes back.



Probably my age, but her tired eyes make her look older. Her ethnicity is vague.

We stand beside each other, staring at the street. I lose this game of chicken and ask “Waiting for something?”

Turns out she was eager to talk. Not to me, but at me. I am more than happy to listen, for no reason other than to write about it later. Maybe this is what I was looking for.

Her friend borrowed her keys and her cell phone and is forty-five minutes late returning them. She works as a bartender at a Pan-Asian California Fusion restaurant. It’s a corporate gig and might look good on a resume, but the money is weak. She rattles off a list of bars in the area, listing the pros and cons of each. Blow is not her scene. She’s a student at FILNA or some place that sounds like that. Grew up in Sunset, lives in the Tenderloin now. She doesn’t understand why people that live near bars complain about the noise. Sometimes her neighbors play house music at 3am but she just tosses a ball at the ceiling. Her and her boyfriend have an open relationship. She has a temper, she’ll admit it. More hipsters need to move into this neighborhood. It needs to be cleaned up. It needs more artists and students and young people. The city is no place to raise a family, but a lot of immigrants try. Bars should stay open later. This ain’t New York. Her name is Quila, like Tequila, that makes it easy to remember.

She takes off, says it was nice to meet me.

More walking, find another corner to stand on. The clubs just closed and there are crowds everywhere, people trying in vain to grab a Taxi. If any of them had bothered to ask I would have told them that their were a ton of cabs at the hotels one block over, but I guess these fools would rather play in traffic.


Frenchie asks me where the after hours clubs are. I tell him I have no idea, but he presses. Poor guy is drunk and desperate. He hasn’t hooked up. He’s hoping there’s a lonely girl waiting for him at an all night rave. I wish him a “bonne nuit.”


It’s late. I know that in my travels I had passed a 24 hour diner. Trying to remember where… More walking and I find it, situated across from the Walgreens. It takes me far too long to decide if I want diner food or drug store snacks. The diner wins. I sit at the counter and realize that I have nothing to read and no one to talk to. Time to delete some old texts, I suppose. Little Fella in the Paper Hat announces that they are no longer serving beer. Alma comes to take my order and I make a wisecrack about the beer. Not my best work, but it gets the job done. Alma cracks a smile and Lou Diamond Phillips at the end of the bar has a laugh. That guy’s alright. He’s Alma’s boyfriend. Nice of him to hang out while she wraps up her shift. After much deliberation, I decide on the New York Steak Sandwich. Not something I would normally choose, but it sounds good. I’m joined at the counter now. Horseteeth sits to my right, and the Boston Retahds sit to my left. Boston Retahd #1 says he would order the Steak Sandwich is only it was called the Boston Steak Sandwich instead of New York. Boston Retahd #2 hassles Alma. He wants her to guess his name. Both guys confide in me that they are so fuckin’ wasted.

Horseteeth complains about the lousy service while BR#1 reaches over the counter and grabs the aerosol whip cream for the milkshakes. He politely offers it to me first. “Hey buddy, wanna do some whipits?” I decline. The guys take turns inhaling from the can. I pray that the Little Fella in the Paper Hat doesn’t come back and put whip cream on some innocent’s milkshake. Little Fella does come back, and the guys offer to buy a can of whip cream. They pay $20 and he happily obliges. By night’s end they have six empty cans lined up. They won’t shut up about how they need some nitrous, this shit’s weak. Horseteeth tries a whippit and ends up with cream all over his face. He did it wrong.

Steak Sandwich hits the spot, but the long uphill walk back to the hotel does not.




7 comments:

  1. This sounds different then how you normaly write. You sound like you were in a dreamy sort of mood.

    I like the bit about the girl asking for the time and the Boston guys with the whipped cream cans. Interesting night. Good work.

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  2. Thanks! I actually wrote that as soon as I got back to the hotel. I was deliberately trying out a new style.

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  3. my last flight smelt of fecal too

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  4. My last hotel room smelled like a diaper.

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  5. People pushing by, they're walking off into the night.

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