The Polk(a)

Glitter-queens are celebrating by the cathedral, extravagantly head-dressed, platformed shoed, ru paul-ed and uniformed in layers of souffle viscose and stiff shiny sharp sequined silver, bored out loud, gorgeously proud, hassling the traffic and doing the careful stomp of people in heels that are too high everywhere. Everywhere but here. Nervous hospital waiters, sitting on walls, bedecked in sticky badges that declare them “visitors” not stayers or intruders. Pinched faces, confused and bewildered at how this could have happened, shaking heads, bleary eyed and waiting on a miracle. Perhaps the Glitter-queens have some answers: life looks brighter just up the road.

Dog pushers take walks with their dogs, sad eyes staring safely out of strollers, paws safe from the human shit, the glass and the needles, pampered and protected, pushed by wan faced women with too much botox and pilates bodies. They are about my age, but look uncannily younger, smoother, flat lakes on a windless day: I am not jealous, just curious. They will live longer than me, I think. So will their dogs. My lakes are whipped up wild and foamy. My lakes are free, I suspect theirs cost a pretty penny.

A delicate girl in her late teens stands opposite me over the crossing. We regard each other quietly. I notice she is crying, holding her skateboard vertically, a wall of protection, a weapon, a means of escape. I think I need a skateboard, then come to my senses remembering the hills and my crumbling bones. How I miss being young! I inhabit the preserve of the older woman, and I do not like it. My youth was my treasure, my treasure to be squandered as I saw fit, and I burnt it up wildly. I wrung the juice out of it, like those glassy women and their kale shots, every last green drop, I drank it dry.

Walgreens hit again, shopping cart trip again, sweaters on the sidewalk, passed out, hip digging into sidewalk strip again, face against someone else’s dirt, we drift away.

Ras el Hanout. Za’atar. Turmeric, coriander seeds and fenugreek. My fingers trip over small boxes with tiny envelopes of spice. Chervil and nutmeg. Grains of paradise and saffron. Garlic and basil and common sage. This place smells like dried fish and baby sick. I want to dip my hands in the tub of tiny anchovies and stuff them into my mouth, heads and all! You never get over Asia, it inhabits your soul.

We have to go to a whiter shop. I have a taste for paleo-puffs. They are a yeasty umami mess. I am ashamed of my lack of self control – I could never be a dog pusher, or a static bike peddler. I remain softly slim, my stomach not absorbing nutrients from food, I ruined it years ago. The cashier in the place that sells grotesque things like puffs made of cassava, is performing neurotique. They can take me over here. The dishwashing liquid isn’t full enough. They haven’t had a good day. It is GOING. It could be worse. That’s all! They snap. I take my shopping and get out of their splash zone. That is quite enough for today. In my old age I do not tolerate other’s bullshit because I think I have to. I have nothing left to waste on other people I did not create.

Going down Polk the other way the signs on the barriers read detour this way in black spray paint next to the word Batman. And ‘Mora.’ I wonder what happened to Mora to get her name in black spray paint on a barrier on Van Ness. A man in a suit looks out of place in this city of slacks and jeans and Californian relaxed chic. He looks nervous as he crosses the street to the wrong side of the road. I don’t blame him. The Bank of America mocks him, solidly sitting containing all the secrets of the known world. He spits on the ground and wipes his mouth, mask hanging hang dog from one ear. I feel a rush of pity. He is going out of fashion. He is out of time. I wonder if he can find who he is under the suit. Maybe he is Batman, I think and I walk on by as he baulks at the oncoming traffic pushed close to traffic by road works that are never worked on.

There are whole stories in the messes on the streets. Blood splatters just before the flower shop that is run by a woman who should always have been running a flower shop, she is sweet and flowerly, she takes photos of her blooms and gently chides a man who I presume is her husband. He would be lost without her chiding. The blood drips into a pile of smashed discarded taki chips, their red hot powder mocking the sidewalk. How did this happen, I think. How did someone start bleeding by the flower shop and their blood just stop mingling with some imported hot pepper chips? Did they cut themselves on sharp word that escaped from the florist’s mouth, and drop their chips while trying to stem the flow? I hop over the Great Turd of Polk Street and go on down the road.

The Great Turd of Polk Street. This emission has sprayed itself up the roadworks sign, it has been there for weeks. I keep wondering when it will decompose or we will get enough rain to wash it away. I am starting to think it is permanent, fuck knows what the expeller was eating. Superglue and smack? Fiber pebbles and velcro? I think Polk has put these roadworks and barriers here to shut out Civic Center and Tenderloin travellers, artfully spraying Jackson Pollock-like concrete shite from an all-seeing anus-evil eye to ward off the crack-zombies and the nodders, the tent sleepers and the tweakers.

A single green pea. A scrap of yellow plastic from a child’s toy, a single shoe, a rat-chewed blanket, a neon bag full of human shit, a plunger from a spike, later the barrel..but no spike itself. That is hiding, reading to jam itself into an unsuspecting foot. I see these feet on the streets of San Francisco. Birkenstocked and slidered. Toes vulnerable and painted, or hairy and wiggling, like worms for the birds, ready to slide into a pile of shit, or a piece of glass, or get rubbed out on a hill, or toe jammed into the needle of Sydney the junkie who might live on Fourth if he cared to.

Blood and bird shit. Brazilian waxes and nail kits, wheels and knickknacks and shoes. MDMA painted outside a clothes shop, burst balloons and chalk lines outside places where they used to cut hair and might once again, blankets covering and hands holding, Polk Street passes me by.

I think I want to live in Fillmore, where the pigeons can’t hear me cry fowl things!

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