With all my recent bitching about being chased by crackheads down San Franciscan streets, stepping over human shit and needles, complaining that the tent city outside has got too large and loud and shitty and pallet-fire-y and discarded spike-y, and wanting to call up Chesa Boudin and tell him that stepping over the prone and passed out body of a drunk whilst his piss covers the bottom of my shoe is not compassion, but instead ignoring suffering without providing solution, with all this you would be wondering if this undocumented runner from unfair laws of the patriarchy, rejecter of society and feminist firebrand was about to join the Republican party, deport herself whilst clutching her pearls and whining in a fragile white nervous middle aged female way exclaiming quelle horreur and putting on some nice relaxing Michael Bublé.
I can assure you that this is not the case. It is just that when you are chased by mentally ill men on stimulants more than twice in one day, and this occurrence is increasing on a daily basis, and you have to run on a leg which never healed properly from being broken by a man who kicked it until it snapped, that you tend to get a little bit grouchy. You might, if you have survived torture, wince at men lurching at you calling you a bitch and a ‘boy’ because you look like the dyke you are, or waving their genitals at you belching “suck it” as you hurry past, and you don’t bother calling the cops, because one you are not a rat, and two you are illegal, and three, who has the fucking time for that then, and if you did, Boudin would only throw them back out onto the fucking street again anyway – there is simply no point.
As a bum waved his diseased prick at me a few days ago I couldn’t help but hear the dulcet (sarcasm) tones of Lou Reed drone “she’s sucking on my ding dong….I’m searching for my mainline, I c-c-c-c-c-couldn’t hit it sideways.” My hair gets shorter and shorter the more these instances increase. I run the clippers over the back of my head until I feel scalp. Some part of me wants to signal to these men that I am so far not interested as to feel physically sick, part of me wants to make myself ugly. Part of me likes the feeling of the air on my scalp and to be freed of the trappings of beauty.
If I were to be a song, I would be Sister Ray – unfettered by confines of polite society. I would be drone and ostrich tuned guitars and metallic speed for 14 minutes. I would be Lou’s cool sardonic drawling about the dirt and the underground, the street life and the sketchy reality. I slide into the song and feel my way around like a tongue finds the socket of a tooth that has been spat out after someone hit you so hard it went flying into your lip. You know you shouldn’t, you know it is bad, it doesn’t feel good, but you just can’t help yourself.
When the Velvet Underground started Lou and Cale were heard to say that they would rather try to be evil than be nothing at all. Bad over bland. The song kicks like a six month bundle a day habit of New York China White circa 1992 at 7am in the morning. It shakes your brain and rattles your bones. It pulls you up by the scruff of your neck and demands you move on pain of extreme punishment: to stay still is to die, to move is to have the possibility of relief. The melody and counter anti-melodic grind push you into that tender spot of dope sickness and bodily desperation and agony, when you want to lay there, barely moving, head in the bucket as you puke and rattle, but to find what you need to be well, you have to drag yourself onto the street where people cross the road to get away from you.
I have been that woman you cross the road to get away from. That was me. I never hassled or threatened, but I puked and I lost control of my bodily functions as I trod the streets trying to find a bag or the money to soothe my need. I picked cigarette butts off the floor and smoked ’em as they were. Lou is playing with frequencies and feedback as I find myself back in the Village with my Aussie Jazz Sax partner in drug-crime. The kid couldn’t hit it sideways, couldn’t slide needle into vein and pull back and flag, baby, he was screwed. All the veins, one by one, used up and traced their way down his arm and groin….He stands in front of a mirror, takes a breath and says “I can’t hit my neck. This is just….this is just…” I tell him about rotating veins, damnit, and put my finger on his pulse. Lou might not be able to find his mainline…nor could my poor lost jazz boy….and I slide it in and I pull back red…as he looks at me in gratitude. The plunger goes down and so does he, sliding into the stoop of a comforted junkie on the nod. Smooth. Just like Lou. “Whip it on me, Jim.” Just like Sister Ray said….don’t stain the carpet.
You see I am not clutching pearls. I am not distasteful of stepping over rivers of piss. I am more concerned with true compassion. You gotta mess the carpet, you gotta break some eggs to make an omlette. Revolution is not pretty. There will be casualties. Sure? But, does there need to be so many?
So, don’t throw the junkies and the crackheads in jail, but how about some safe injection sites with nurses? How about Sister Ray gives people a hand, instead of the carnage on the streets? How about some real adequate help and compassion for the victims? How about we learn and move on and love and care and it seems like we c-c-c-c-c-c-c-can’t hit a solution to the problem fucking sideways, but does that mean we should cease to try? Should we just give up?
There has to be censure for hurting innocents. There has to be relief for the victims and the junkies, for the drunks and the homeless. This compassion does not need to mean that Rosie and Miss Rayon need to whore themselves out, eternally waiting for their sailor out of no other option while the slaving pimps destroy their lives inside out? It doesnt mean that when Cecil has a new piece that we allow him to go Bang and kill some kid in the ‘Loin over a pair of Air Jordans. It doesn’t mean that anyone has the time to let the po po take em for a ride down to the station, but sometimes man, if you do the crime you need to give the damn time, because people are dying out here on the streets. They are dying all at once, red blood on grey concrete. They are dying piece by piece as life chops a bit off them every minute they breathe. They get chopped down smaller every time some Asian grandma gets her head kicked in, and no one goes to jail. They get chopped down every time that we fail to find a good decent way to deal with addiction and drugs.
For what it is worth, Lou was wrong: being evil is not better than being nothing at all. We can no longer indulge ourselves in youthful philosophical poses. Trust me, I took a good look around hell, and there ain’t nothing there worth dying or killing for….Just like Sister Ray Said…