Monday, August 26, 2002
in every man's life, he must be a tourist. lost. semi-adventurous. a slow-walking jackass.
this is my tourist day in tiny font and coded onto a webpage.
woke up early and i took a look at my laundry. it was hot and steaming, still, just begging to be folded into temporary thirds until i can next put 'em on. and it was early, the day full of possibilities and energy. out side was warm (for once) and the sky was clear.
i asked for a map and mr clute handed me the lonely planet guide. thank you, mr clute, that was the single most handy thing i have read, maybe even on this trip. i was in awe. lots of stuff, lots of commentary. i couldn't digest it all.
i mixed it with the quick info give to me by kid a from the old employer a/k/a the grizzly taskmaster. i put it into my supercomputer, which, like in the '60's, takes up a whole room-- but i call this one "the shower"-- and i came out with this--
"the palace of fine arts." close to the upscale area where i was promised good looking people-- what didn't you know i was a vapid houndog leering for a peek of female finery?-- and also the palace was very pretty in photos. also, i thought i might find postcards there. i could take a cable car to a nearby location, which is also proximate to the pier 39 where the sea lions play. for no good reason. the shower never gives me the wrong answer.
packed my shit up. asked directions to the bay area rapid transit, or BART. i looked like a nimrod alien who was new to the planet as i slowly picked up that i buy the ticket from the machine not the clerk, and i stick in the side not the top, and i take it back and then repeat when leaving to be charged. the repeat when leaving... well, i looked like a human in planet of the apes there too.
the leaving took place 20 minutes later at powell street. i wandered, trying to look like i knew what i was doing. in a tourist area. how obnoxious am i? then i found my way. after whipping out the lonely planet on the street. man, i would have robbed me right there if i was in new york. i found the cable car line. two bucks. and an hour wait? almost said fuck it, but a man from modesto, bringing his grandkids to the city, even though he hates it (prefers the open space of mid-california cowtowns and probably the conservative politics that go with it-- go him).
line moved fast. took the cable car upwards. and upwards. and upwards. this shit is ridiculous. people walk this? cars can drive this? yikes. and down hills. a little freaky. and up hills. and down to fisherman's wharf. cute place. nautical stuff. was fun to look at. an old boat house, sparse and dark; shipbuilding and knot tying information on palacards, ships to visit at the end of the pier.
walked onwards, towards the golden gate bridge in the far and hazy distance. photographed alcatraz in the distance from a couple of angles. up into a hill and back down, next a fort (mason? like anthony?!) over to some flat land. by a marina. walked and walked and walked and walked and never wanted a bike more in my life. open stretches that seem to take forever to cover, like oases in deserts or like you when your parents busted in on you bustin' a nut.
finally, i checked lonely planet to see how many more of these pretty but pretty useless streets would i have to cover. and there i was. one left. and there it was. the palace of fine arts, more beautiful than i could have imaged it; hearkening to classical greek architecture with more than a nod to japanese pond/ parks-- i forget if they have a name. yes, i'm an ignorant new yorker. pigeons flew in circular low patterns over me on a sunny grassy plot; i watched the geese and ducks relaxing amidst the people tossing bread in their faces, the palace casting shadows over their 2 pm sun.
left the palace and the nearby exploratorium; walked onto a stret which i figued had to have shops, since the lonely planet said so. and there was every yuppie shop from 5th-madison avenues. i stifled the urge to go into the banana republic... or to ask if there was a nearby benneton so i could touch a very pale white person... but i did stop in ben & jerry's. and walked some more.
and i saw fisherman's wharf again.
and more walking.
yes there is a theme.
i am walking.
i am walking past you right now.
please wipe that dollop of sauce from below your lip.
i continue walking by your window.
and there i am, pier 39. the sea lions smell like sea water and shit rolled in grease and baked lightly in alfredo sauce. tourists are everywhere. i can't avoid them. they're fat and they walk slow and they're in my way.
the walking has made me tired.
i stop in the in & out burger.
it was too big for me going in so i threw 1/8th of it out. there were very attractive women there for me to leer at, though. hotness. i had a short conversation with one of them, nothing of note. there is a man on a walk who has two pieces of shrubbery masking his presence, and shaking on when passerby come too close, for the amusement of anyone on the other side of the street and privy to the joke. very reality TV of him. some man actually has a crowd in fornt of his 3-card monty game.
back home, i think to myself.
but the cable car line is longer than the one i took over to the wharf. and it's moving s-l-o-w-l-y. it's about 5pm and the sun is still high. a street musician is calmly playing tunes and then gives way to an older man with shorter hair and a more calming voice. he also plays puff the magic dragon. some tourist, perhaps german, or belgian, keeps violating my personal space. he has a large belly. i know this because he keeps walking it into my arm or my back or my outstretched conveniently elbow. his wife is also a little close. but i can feel the rounded curve of his yellow breasted gut.
the cable car is what it was on the way up-- crowded and scary. yikes.
the BART is slow but i listen to music.
berkeley is quiet and not so berzerk.
the walk is long yet uneventful.
the evening will be the same and pleasantly so.
this typing is creating aches but building rewards.
i have now been officially edited by the eliza. and i can catch you up on the past couple of days. what the hell did i do on sunday? oh. an electronic music party in the back of a clothing store/ bike shop. good times. loud times too. but good times. i ran on the streets of the mission looking for a liquor store and nothing more can make my day... after the hugest quesadilla i have ever had.
incidentally, that quesadilla was huge coming out the back end, too. thought you might like to know.
man. i'm never going to get to tell you about oakland. so you get the truncated goodness. oakland had that grimy feel of a town where you're not sure what's coming up from over that hill; you're not sure what's going on in the houses; and you're not sure why the blocks are so dark and why there are only liquor stores open.
maybe it wasn't that bad. that bodega had chips in it too, i'm sure. and those 8-12 kids standing in front of a car, bleeding out into the street, looking at our car hard, they were just some neighborhood fellas. it is cold enough that you wear your hoods for warmth and not just for a fashion statement. and hearing about a guy who was killed for yeling back at some kids whom he told to get out of the street while he was driving, that doesn't play with your head either.
the party we went to... well, i don't know of many communities that would put up with an all night art commune hippie fest in a backyard. so take that for what it's worth. we stopped by a diner with okay (i guess) food; its only real claim to fame was that it's open all night. and the midnight menu reflects the lack of other options.
even the golden state warriors' basketball stadium looms up on you on a downtown street with the "w" unlit, bulbs blown. take that for what you will also.
Sunday, August 25, 2002
the Shev thinks I am about to write rude and raw things about bezerkely. i can't even spell the shit right.
last night included a hippie band called the wild buds; an outdoor party in 50 degree summer weather; poetry readings including a man who overdramatically told us about how he, well... i don't know what he was saying but i think he was talking about how the throbbing waves are trying to fuck the sky.
i think i am countering bezerkely with crass lingo. anyway. so, oakland also has a lot of sketchy blocks. more to come....
Saturday, August 24, 2002
I am coming to the end of my Chicago trip with very few regrets. I have been tired in the past few days, which I believe is my liver trying to tell me to get off of the freeway and cruise the side streets for a day or two. This isn’t the Fast and the Furious, after all.
Before I go into the wide blue western yonder, over the Rockies and over the Plains and into the Mediterranean climes of the northern west coast, I will tell you about Vance “Guitar” Kelly. The south side guitarist, who plays in the same Checkerboard Lounge that Muddy Waters played in so many years ago, is a legend. A local legend, but a legend just the same. And some of the things he’s legendary for are almost—and I say ALMOST—the most unnerving things I saw this week.
I’ll set it up for you. Thursday night Jess Fe. Invites us down to the Checkerboard Lounge, on Chicago’s south side. Hosts Nate and Marta have been there before, and have been telling me about this lunacy for weeks. It’s near IIT where some of these people went to college. But I haven’t been there. We drive out of the hipster neighborhoods and out of the yuppified places into neighborhoods that look like the worst of the Bronx and Brooklyn went to war and the scrawled all over their homes when they were finished.
It’s dark and the streets are empty. We pass Comiskey Park. We pass empty lots, and nice houses next to empty lots. We approach the Checkerboard, and I’d swear we were in a different city. A man with a flash light and perhaps some teeth—I couldn’t see for sure—directs us to park on the corner. Where we were going to park. But it’s okay, the man’s working for his money.
Inside, it looks like Frank’s Lounge for you New Yorker/ Brooklynites out there. Wood paneling. The 3rd grade party atmosphere you would have had in 1980. Long tables wrapped in some imitation formica. Small stage, black man with straightened gray hair pulled back into a little rabbit-ponytail, wearing a gray suit with some shimmer on it is announcing the band and cracking jokes, like a real host.
There are older men in this place. And some large women. I mean large. I mean, if this one woman’s tit popped out I might have tripped on it. There are some college-looking boys in the corner, a little uncomfortable looking but no one’s bothering them.
A crew of kids come in, who’ve been going “since high school,” they say, from nearby Hyde Park. And they all come to see Vance “Guitar” Kelly.
Vance is not the prettiest man, but what he lacks in pretty he makes up in slick. He’s five foot five, perhaps, wide brimmed hat, Jackson guitar, gap in the middle of his teeth. I should have a picture or two of him. He plays with some skill, he’s pretty impressive, especially during the medley of soul/ Motown songs from Al Green to the Temptations to the Commodores.
But he’s best known for the “Candy Licker” song. I have no idea whether the song is an original or not, but he sure makes it his own. Just like his version of “she’ll be coming ‘round the mountain when she *pause to slowly lick out towards nose, then retract tongue about four inches* COMES.” So this Candy Licker song is an opportunity for crowd involvement.
In this case, after he’s done telling you (while looking at Marta and Jess) how he can lick it, and tales about how he learned how to lick the candy—and if you can’t figure out what the candy is by now, please go to your favorite anatomy book and get to know it better—Vance finds the time to call up some of the men from the audience to show off their technique.
What follows is a string of tongue licking and exuberance I haven’t seen since my last naked Kiss concert.
Oh, and then he takes a young lady from the crowd and places him in front of her. He’s short, she’s tall, you can’t see him behind her ass. Her hands go over his, he plays; but it looks like she’s playing, and reaching back, and playing some more, and reaching back—and you KNOW he’s having some fun with that.
So, that’s the Checkerboard.
More events to come!
Wednesday, August 21, 2002
because i am so cool, i just spent the last couple of hours finishing my fantasy football draft. it was actually kind of fun, doing it from afar, chatting online with a silvery friend and some other... characters... and now it's high time i get my suction cupped ass up off the plastic and out into the streets.
last night i was in a bar singing old country and pop songs. a la patsy cline and such. the bartender starts singing. and you feel wierd if she's singing my way to you and you don't reply in kind. so i sang my hoarse voice out.
we (nate + marta + mark + jess feiser) roamed to some cockamamie bar which looked like a rejected set from sanford & son. there was a lot of orange and a lot of paint streaks everywhere like a child imitating jackson pollock . it was called Life's Too Short and they were playing heavy metal. no poison. but multiple skid row songs. kick ass. we were feeling our oats so we had four pitchers amd i tried to jump to the top of a roof. my crazy hops having failed me, we yelled at passing barges on the chicago river, just beyond the back fence of the outdoor area where we drank. the men on the barges could make us out in the dark night, against the streetlights and the glow of the mostly-empty bar, and they waved. or yelled show us your tits. i'm not so sure.
feeling inspired, mark and nathan and myself went down some steps to a floating deck/ dock, where mark had fallen into the polluted chicago river a couple of years back (nathan got pink eye from that experience). we were talking about mooning the next passing barge. ah, for the good times.
nathan got sick to the point of... "role reversal." meanwhile, i dreamt that terrorists imploded the empire state building but nyc'ers were so half in shock and so jaded that they were half laughing, in a frightened way, about the whole ordeal.
have i mentioned that i slowed down my drinking because it adversely affects my emotional state? probably not, i can't say that five times fast.
Tuesday, August 20, 2002
not in that typical way, where you are hiding from some undesirables, or slinking away for your life, or slipping stinkbombs in barroom bathrooms. i was dubbed a ninja by jen something-or-other who is from rhode island. i walked onto the roof of my friend's apartment. with my friends, mind you. there was a birthday party for a woman named liz and they were hard drinking on this roof with a solid view of the chicago skyline, in a pleasant non-yuppified neighborhood. a lot of spanish signs, mexican neighbors. that sort of thing. i don't know why chicago has a lot of mexicans either.
i didn't know the people. i only had my one drink in hand; and i said hello to the birthday girl. they were conversant. and then jen came over and we talked somehow about her "guns." her "pythons." her biceps, that would be. now, whe went on to talk about how she was learning pilades-- from a tape she'd bought-- and how she was to be able to walk on her ass muscles by tape ten. perhaps that was my invention. i couldn't say. it was night on a rooftop and oftentimes, the details are forgotten.
she went on to say that by tape twenty she was going to be unstoppable. not in all seriousness. i told her she already was. after all, she snuck up on us like a ninja. then she admitted being a ninja. as, of course did i.
i heard pilades and i vaguely remember that a pixellated friend of mine was doing/ had done this mystery workout. and so we talked about it; and i berated her for breaking the ninja code # 2, admitting she was a ninja. so if you meet jen seratelli, let her know the ninja council is coming for her. not today and maybe not tomorrow, but soon enough.
that's my vacation. how's yours?
Monday, August 19, 2002
i met a british woman named zoe *stop* she had chosen to work at a camp for a second summer in potosi missouri *stop* if you don't know, potosi is where men have three teeth + two of them are green *stop* and the women are as scary *stop* and she chose to work there *stop* from england *stop* she is coming to new york, i gave her restaurants and hotel suggestions and places to see with her family and places to avoid *stop* like the upper east side *stop*
drank with hipsters in chicago and i like them more than new york city's hipsters *stop* and today we biked around chicago *stop* there will be some details, including a bar called the manhole, 1 dolla burgers, tacos, to come *stop* sleep well--
Friday, August 16, 2002
I am in St. Louis, big city of dreams. Oh, it's the hotness. I noticed two things on the flight this morning:
On my way down through the clouds and down towards the earth, I marveled at the gently ripped tufts of clouds visible beyond the shifting wing flaps; the tree/ grass covered squares had square houses at the corners, like postcard stamps.
Also, at 6.00 AM, there are a lot of people who look like they can straight party. I mean, it's early and they're like troupers, bleary-eyed, a little greasy in the face, lifting their legs to stretch to show me her thong-like black underwear... I mean, "their." I'm not talking about anyone in particular, who wasn't quite pretty, but was mad fantastic...
Wednesday, August 07, 2002
And in a metal tub, raised to about waist high on a table, encased in melting ice water, was smooth black stomach-corrosive coffee. Darker than any coffee I have seen. Calling to me like the Devil to Eve in Paradise Lost. Yeah, I took the apple, like a permed-out Crip grabs the clip. Also next to the coffee was a coffee-flavored cupcake with mocha icing and two coffee beans atop the treat.
So I got that too. And shit, it be workin’! I was flying like a kite. I was literally bouncing off the walls, baby! I was jumping up and down, moving stuff around, writing manic emails to people, making plans that would never come to fruition. Someone said hello and I jumped, bringing laughter and amusement to people.
Later that evening I went to a dinner with the camp I volunteered with—a good reunion with good people. And I calmed down enough to talk logically with adults. Good times. I barely made a fool of myself!
Tomorrow we will talk about my final softball game of the season.
Tuesday, August 06, 2002
Outside of my window is a picture postcard view of the Empire State Building, pointed skyward, erect, strong, and much less silver than I always picture it. In fact the exterior is brown and—brick? Much like the buildings surrounding it to the south, or even here in the midtown-40s.
Meanwhile, I am caffeinating myself with iced coffee with half & half, and a mocha cupcake with mocha icing and two coffee beans to adorn the top. This should be the good life, I suppose, with me at work but not doing so much, waiting for a replacement to be assigned to me for me then to train.
And I have no problem with it, but I am anticipating what’s next, without the view of the Empire State or the easy access to coffee that won’t burn and pillage my stomach. But the sun will still be up, and there will be other days where the skies will be a pale version of that imperial blue in paint cans and the Hudson River will still stretch over to New Jersey, dotted with boats and twinkling with reflected sunlight.
After an aborted trip to find the Lemon Ice King of Corona—and I know you’re out there, you trick, I’m-a find you, and when I do I’m ordering two lemon ices and one in mango. Knuckle up!!—Ellen Hoobler and I ventured even farther west into Queens, towards Shea Stadium.
This is the part of Queens that is greasy with auto shops and guys with tire irons in their hands, held at angles that make you think that, perhaps, they’re not using them for lugnuts on tires. Maybe they’ll use them to beat your nuts until they’re tired. And there were shady shops, people driving on sidewalks, and one house per block for a span of four blocks. Looked like a great place to be late at night.
We walked up to the stadium and were immediately accosted to buy tickets by scalpers. I was surprised when the first guy offered box seats, and I said no. The second scalper offered us Loge Seats at a loss—20 bones for the pair. It was the fourth inning of a hot, humid day. Made for the ballpark. We bought them, headed inside—
When I was informed that security measures dictate that I leave my bag in a trailer. “The one with the American flag on it,” the officer said. I grunted. I was wearing the boots from the night before. But I picked up my feet/ hauled ass/ jogged over to the tent, trying not to miss any more game. It was fine, and pleasant, out in the parking lot hinterlands, with a red headed kid giving a quick look in my bag for nail bombs or a bottle that said “small pox + anthrax cocktail.” But I don’t carry such things on me.
Inside the game, there was a loud whistler in the enclosed space—we were separated from the Mezzanine deck by an overhang—and the three frat boys who’d sold the tix, who immediately ask me if I think the beer vendor, an androgynous sort, was a man or a woman. The mullets in front of me commented on how he/ she (he) looked like Pat. The frat boys repeated that over and over again. There were wildly screaming children, and Diamondbacks’ fans.
On the field, the Mets spat in the face of my blind fan faith, repeatedly giving up leads until they lost in the 10th, 8-5.
The Friday game had been rained out. So it would be replayed as the second game on this Saturday. Good fortune. Most people cleared out and I stayed to spend the early evening at the ballpark. I met some guys, a fellow named Jason, and a pleasant family who watched the Mets lackluster their way through a second game, highlighted by Jeromy Burnitz’ horrendous play. “We’d better check for the suicide note,” Jason said. “How can you go home after playing like this?”
That’s what I have to ask, also.