road beside buildings

San Francisco, 10am

I woke up to find my milk had spoiled in the fridge, and needed a cup of tea. After a failed experiment with half a sad tired lemon that was sleeping in my fridge, I realized there was only one thing for it: I had to go out and buy more soy milk. The sun streamed in through my window, promising not a totally unpleasant walk, and the sky glittered blue in that way that only a springtime Californian sky can do. Not the deep blue of the hotter European countries, not that exotic bleached out hot tone that promises unbearable heat, but a tiffany hue that glitters and shines and makes everything feel promising. Such an American day. Such a ‘sea to shining sea’ moment spreading across San Francisco Bay.

This used to be a Mexican sky, those Spanish flags flew over the horizon. Now tan legs spread akimbo, sidewalk sleeping, bare footed, weeping listen to a silent trumpet infiltrating that same horizon, keeping American time to the blue sky heartbeat. It is all for shame and ruin over run with the weeds of a crumbling civilization. A growing green hurtling towards a Californian spring time shooting up from wet roots after a long cold winter.

There is a man standing in a parking lot. The City pays him fifteen bucks an hour to paint over the words written on walls. He is a word eraser. Destroyer of Letters. An important man in paint-splattered overalls and a flea-bitten fleece sweater. Some words are allowed reading Poppy Bank, Security Vendors, Bitcoin, Game Face On, Wells and Fargo, cell phones nothing down, advertising all the good things America can bring to the downtrodden masses who strive for bread amongst tesla cars and three million dollar attics. His long roller brush erases the letters that form the names relegated to be forgotten. Mouse and Homesie, Iris and a grinning pot bellied ghostie, sprayed articulate, airborne particulate offerings to the pagan Gods send small prayers upwards and down. They will not be allowed to flower on Polk Street, nor blossom on Van Ness. These words are surplus to official requirements so are laid down to an bureaucratic paperworked death. Rest in peace all you men and women of letters. May you live to fight another day, tag another doorway, and spread a little individuality across this ravaged and civically spruced up Bay.

How can anything be so blue as the sky today, marred by a few lost clouds, fighting to overcome the cold and dark of a winter that chilled us all down to our Californian hearts.

A reliquary of punk bones walks by in a Misfits teeshirt, his slim legged pants pulled up way too high. The price of excitations is written over his seventy something year old face – haggard and worn, pinned and ragged and torn, stumbling in eight eyelet combat boots holding his cane before him like a sword. The children all grew up, snotty nosed and never having read a single book, and now they who have sacrificed themselves upon destruction’s altar are reduced to catholic boys, reciting a broken catechism of needles and pins and fondly bathing in past scenes and sins.

Meanwhile a younger man on a balcony, the first spread of middle age upon him, looking like a butcher’s dog after a bunch of sausages, shakes out a bunch of flowers, in an attempt to force them into some strange arrangement. He smiles down on me, flirtatiously. I scowl in return. What use have I for dogs, tame or wild? The streets are full of old men, women with dark smiles or fixed expressions of discontent, prancing chihuahua who shit in the streets, and occasionally a wise old bird holding a blunt in one hand and strutting to some hidden lost jazz soaked beat.

This City moves in syncopated time. It moves towards the steamy dumpling stores in China Town, and the second hand bookstores, and old Italian cafes where artists pour over their chalks and pastels, notebooks and guitars. It still moves to the beat it found in the early years of the twentieth century and still clings on to its barbary coast soul. The inner life of this place is not destroyed, but damn is it squashed, packed down and threatening to get lost, swallowed up by tech start ups and bro culture. In the distance I can see those ever circling vultures swirling closer and closer. They have been out there for years now. They get to pick, but never to strip the bones clean of its San Franciscan flesh.

Today I never want to leave here. Today I want to sit under its sea-lined skies and throw myself onto the mercy of its bohemian sighs. I want to cling onto its lack of reason and these mostly mild, but chilly seasons. If I were not so tired and didn’t have such a big day ahead tomorrow I would go back out and walk the streets from dusk till dawn, collar up, head down, neckerchief tied round my throat, booted and denim jacketed, and go looking for that lost ace in the holy depleted suit.

I hold open a door for a man grasping a coffee. He looks at me solemnly and says, bold as brass, ‘mercy!’ I have none to give him, as he wanders away speaking French secrets into his telephone. Whole foods, whole life, whole day left to play. Six dollars for a carton of soy milk. I think I would rather have a cigarette but then again…I’ve no time to start up yet another filthy habit that I threw away years ago. The street fills with the scent of roasted meat, hashish and piss. Why is life in the City so foul and delicious at the same time. I don’t know if I need to get out of here or dig in deep and find myself a spot on the sidewalk to listen to those Spanish trumpets that only the broken can hear….here…here….here….


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