From My Window: Smoke Grey Days of Summer

Phones not being answered. Housing is a nightmare. $2000 dollars a month doesn’t get you much in San Francisco, if anything at all. The idea of being on a ground floor apartment doesn’t thrill me: it is too dangerous, and I would never be able to open a window. Being above the city is a basic requirement. Still, I will go look, apply, and be turned down. The frustrating merrygoround of having a housing subsidy available for a year, but no one wanting to rent to us.

Standing out on the headlands yesterday, looking out over a grey sea smothered by grey skies, with white-grey foam being kicked up by the winds and the tides, a grey and cold darkness hanging over San Francisco like a pall, watching the ships go by, I felt suddenly infinitesimally small and useless against the vastness of the world and the problems caused by the rich in pursuit of money and power. A large shipping vessel and a smaller schooner bounced about on the rough seas. The larger boat appeared rusted out and abandoned, on its last sea legs, a skelton crew manning the bent rigging which scratched the skies and poked muddled through the clouds.

Sea-squalls had swept all the trees eastwards, pushed branches and leaves, trunks and vegetation towards the land away from the sea. The ghostly ship still bounced along the waves, top heavy, lurching and listing this way and that. Lines of colorful block houses, paint peeling from the salty air, railings rusted, windows smeared, stood facing the coastline defying the possibility of one day a tsunami taking them out to join the other detritus bobbing on the great and lonely pacific. How do the people living in these low lying coastal conurbations sleep peacefully knowing that the sea could turn on them at any given moment, and wash them out to sea. I would rather live on a hill.

Passing by the Golden Gate Park windmill, it’s long arms still and silent, I thought how much I would like to live in there. One high window, above the city’s problems. I wonder if all the apartments were filled, all the empty buildings and apartments, offices and windmills repurposed and shelter given to those that need it, without rules and regulations, without these controlling types insisting on invading privacy and lives, I wonder if San Francisco could house everybody humanely and adequately. I bet it could. The greed is overwhelming. The streets are deserted today: it is too cold, the sky grey with wildfire smoke, the sun blocked out.

A man in shorts and a heavy jacket, in the typical schizophrenic clothing choices of the typical San Franciscan walker who cannot decide if they will freeze or boil in the brutal changes in weather throughout the course of the day, walks a husky puppy. A homeless man, his face grimy with being outside, his mask over his nose in a curious dedication to protecting other people from a man whom no one seems to want to protect in turn, stands looking down towards the Tenderloin. I want to tell him to go north, to the parks, the windswept headlands, the beaches. Nothing good happens downtown. Nothing that will keep him truckin’. Two large girls with perfect brazillian blowouts head into the liquor store, maskless and laughing. The world turns as usual for them. The world will not turn for me or the man with the grimy face and bloodied white teeshirt. Junkies are hell on carpets, forever leading blood smears and nod-out accidental burn marks, stains from spilt drinks and vomit, pissed pants and the devotion to dereliction that only is bought by those who worship dead things.

Man in blue scrubs and an N95 heads uphill towards the hospital. The blow-out girls have walked up and down the road three times already. Something is up. Maybe they are waiting for their man, a little nose-candy for the party at the end of the world as we know it, Jim. I would ask what goes on in their mind, but Lou got there first. He never got a straight answer either. A smart gay couple in matching puffa vests hold hands as they head uphill, they look so content and well adjusted. San Francisco is good for something I suppose, even if the techies have killed the art scene. There go the blow out twins, again. Something is definitely up. And down. And up again. Before the end of the night they will be pulling each other’s hair out and scratching faces in a coked out binge. The world needs party girls. Party girls make the night go around and turn into morning again Without the blow out twins life would be dull.

A young woman stalks down the street. I know that walk. That walk says confident and aggressive, feeling good. Feeling alive. Feeling strong. Feeling young. I have not felt that way for years. I slip by unnoticed. I pass by invisible. Some things stay the same, like the white plastic bag that has been caught on the tree on ____ St for over three weeks now. It is a fixture. A permanence. A given. Until one day it gets dislodged, Please don’t let it be my head it falls upon. Runners with no masks. Hustlers with no dough. Blow out twins with no blow. Speed freaks with no go go go. And cars. Endless cars. Always cars heading this way or that. Cars taking my highway. Cars headed to the freeway. Cars and rubber. Cars and tired faces.

A man walked up the street slowly, missing one shoe, limping and wincing with every step. Life had kicked him and brought him low. When there is nowhere to live and nowhere left to go.

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