blurry photo of a neon signage

Fade Into The Darkness

It has been hot today, but night has brought a cool breeze, a welcome shiver, as the headlights and the riders and the drivers fade into the night, and are born again into the darkness as they slip downhill into the shadows that lead out into the city and the roads and the highways and the ghosts of North Beach, and the imprint of a time when San Francisco was the place to be if you wrote. Words are in the very fabric of the soul of this city. They bled in there along with Hunter’s spilled 25 year old Chivas Royal, Kerouac’s tears, Cassady’s Owsley acid habit, and every Ginsburg-following acolyte of the path of beat and it’s sacred back fence hopping into the rooms where notes and joints were shared and connections rebuilt, before everybody hopped back off to Mexico, or New York, or New Orleans to go visit Billy Faier, or Colorado to go hang out stealing cars to sell to fund a trip to where the world moves more slowly, as if through melted molasses, bittersweet and sticking to memories leaving traces of sugarcane and shoofly pie: an American madeleine. A moment of remembrance of times past.

No one wants shoofly pie no more, with it’s sticky dark brown intensely rich filling. They are all eating air. Key Lime air from Hemmingway. Banana creme pie from Charlie Chaplin. Sweet Cherry pie from George Washington in honor of the fall of democracy. I can’t tell no lies, I don’t like pie. Not apple. Not peach. No pear, no plum, no chocolate, nor pecan. Wrap it in graham cracker crust, bake it in pastry, short the cake of the butter and make it with lard, I don’t care. I long to mix up the mental medicine, not bake a pie with birds black or blue letting out the steam to stop that crust from crumbling. Keef refused to play because someone bust his crust on some meat and potato confection from the other side of the pond. A man’s obsessions are sacrosanct. You gotta draw the line somewhere. Can’t have some roadie eating the King of the Underground’s ransom before he has taken his first bite.

The trucks careen downhill recklessly. Dog walkers. Short wearers. Strangers. I almost feel as if I can reach into their heads with my hands, into that secret space between thought and action. Expression and insanity, pluck out the thought that says to the young man wearing a blanket to shout “Not likely!” to the shadows of the past and the murmurs of the future, and put it on a pedestal prettily. Stick it on a plinth. Add a label that says ‘The Denial of a Possible Future. The Destruction of a Probable Past’. Slap on a $30,000 dollar price tag, and sell the hard won schitzophrenic expression to the highest bidder. Some grey suited futures trader who can never dream of being as alive and complicated as that producer of that thought in a million long dull years.

Electric scooter gliders without helmets challenge gravity and fate, serenly gliding towards Nob Hill. A small dog puts trash in his mouth. Owner squeals. Visions of used spikes. Dessicated human turds. Cigarette butts. Pee jugs. Poop bags. I discretely peer down to see what it is the little creampuff has picked up. Cream Puff has a discarded shoe. He is delighted in the disgusting smell. “DROP IT!” his poor owner yells horrified. The dog looks up at her in disgust. “Drop it right now…please…darling…” The dog drops it on her left foot. She yelps and picks the dog up in her arms. He tries to lick her. He is not getting treats tonight. The city walks by disgusted, blinded by the headlights, pulling into the garages, longing for cool breezes. I do not like this heat, nor do the left right arm swingers, time keepers, direction changers, Tenderloin trotters trying to get out of Dodge before the night falls and heaven closes its pearly doors, leaving them deep in the depths of dubiousness.

It is not so bad here really. People overstate the dangers most of the time. Admittedly this is a nicer block, but there is a nice community feeling of solidarity, camaraderie, something only achieved when a group of people dream alike. Dream of more trees. Dream of safer playgrounds and wide open spaces. Dream of a bag. Dream of a bottle. Dream of a future. Dream of something brighter, like they have uphill, over the Franklin borderlands into the hallowed halls of Noe Valley and Anza Vista.

These are not the wild aspirations of the Presidio or the Marina nor the middle income techdreams of Russian Hill. This is not the cool industrial loft living buzz of the Mission. Lives of quiet frustration are lived out without making eye contact just in case it triggers an attack. Lady Midnight in a black bob wig, Solitude Standing in a fake fur jacket and Carmen in Rags are standing in a triumvirate huddle laughing at the johns as they drive by slowly. A man sits playing with himself in a white car. I long to run down there and join the party, giggling with the girls, but instead I am, as usual shut off from the crowds, maddening or not, and peering down from my room in the Tower of Song. I have hallowed company. I am not worthy. I hear them coughing all night. Leonard hasn’t answered me yet. He is probably enjoying the break from lust and longing.

John Conqueroo and J.W. Hardin’ are on the opposite corner talking about mixing up the word-medicine I presume, while I am here alone in my wakefulness feeling lonely and longing for touch in a world that keeps trying to kill me and cannot get close for fear of disease. We are like ailing rabbits shut in their hutches.

The taxi driver was a good drummer. He kept the beat en pointe through A-Ha and Heart, Rolling Stones and Led Zep, using the wheel and the dash to provide a variety of textures of sound. When he clinked on the window like a high hat, I almost gave him a round of applause. I almost asked him if he wanted to be the drummer in a band I will never have. As the birds flew off the roof of the gas station on Van Ness in a swooping formation, leaving their perch in a flock of at least fifty flying rats, sweeping down and around and landing back up there in one graceful motion, coming up slowly like a heart beat, settling, and then taking a beat before they repeated the move in a natural punctuation of time and motion, the radio asked me “what about love?” What about love? I never truly possessed Eros. I captured Storge. I lassoed agape but it ran away screaming and I had to drop the rope. Philia rises as Ludus leaves me in the ashes of my lost youth. What about love? You lookin’ at me? You lookin’ at me?

There is not time left for love. The endless loop of searching and finding searching and losing has been broken. Take on Me fades out as we pull into ____ St. The driver finishes with a flourish. Take me on, I sing along quietly. Take me home.

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