Sunday, September 23, 2007

Claw Hammer

Gun on the mantel.

Anyway, woke up late again this morning (8:30), breakfasted here in the Sunset, took the N with a rather agitated Muni driver (he was yelling into the intercom at about every 50 feet), got off at Steiner and Duboce. I walked up the hill on Steiner, quietly filling my lungs with air and letting it all out again, finding new cafes to try later, as I was on a quest: to see the Ladies at Alamo Square and revisit Cafe Abir on Divisadero to view the renovations. One of my fans on Yelp saw my review and told me to go see it. The weather was sprinkling but produced the Michelangelo clouds that I love. I stood under a tree and looked north a good long while, drinking in the tourist view like I was taking a picture with my mind.

Always there.

Then I walked down the other side of the park, past Heleno's old place, and to Abir. WHAT A CHANGE, and one I feel for the better. They no longer have the newsstand, but 90% of those magazines weren't appealing to me anyway--the older I get the more I seem to gravitate to three favorites: Oprah (not so much for her but for her contributors), Vanity Fair, and the New Yorker (although these last two couldn't get more blue if they held their breath, really, but if I get tired of it I skip those pieces and read the history or slice of life stuff). The wood is rich and simple and warm, and there are three levels--a lounge sort of place in the right side next to the bar, and a series of highboys with a high couch behind them across from the bar. I wrote in there for an hour and a half.

Then my ex-roommate called.

That's not a typo.


If you don't know R, you should probably stop here and go back to my former Yahoo! blog to familiarize yourself with my adventures with her and CT. It wasn't R that called me was CT. Can you guess what the conversation was about?


So I listened to her fret and come unglued and all the roller coaster of emotions that I went through as I walked from Abir to Hayes Valley (sue me; if I'm in the mood, I love Hayes Valley). Pretty soon, in typical California fashion, she did the "Hey, thanks for listening to me but I gotta go" thing, and I was completely agreeable. Suits me. I'm not a therapist, and gave up the amateur version with the last batch of friends. Tuck the phone away, stop at the Green on Octavia, watch a toddler chase a golden retriever around and over a park bench.

God I have a boring life and God I love this kind of stuff.

Once the dog and the boy went home (they belonged to two different people), I continued my crawl toward downtown. "I'll give the Civic Center a chance," I thought. "I haven't given it a chance." It was good that I did--surrounded by symphony and opera halls and the Center itself and the Asian Art museum and the Library. I actually walked into the library.

It's been three years since I have been in a library.

I touched the book spines and walked through the children's section and looked for a wooden bowl like Francie's...but that would be Brooklyn, a century ago. I imagined writing there. I imagined visiting books there, not to check out (I am REALLY dragging my heels on a CA driver's license), but to read at a desk. I watched others write and read. The library seemed to separate a series of Californians and transform them from all looking so damn alike to persuing independent dreams. I could have sat in there for hours.

But I was getting hungry.

I should have turned back to Hayes Valley.

But instead I walked Market Street toward Westfield. I figured I get my soup, eat it at Yerba Buena, and then see a movie.

I should have taken the underground at Civic Center. But I was feeling so good, getting outside and walking.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, the closer it gets to the end of the month the squirrel-y-er the homeless get. Some of them sleep in laundrimats or move from the one line of asking for change to repetitive and aggressive begging. (I know, I know. These parts of the entries I look Republican.) This is the part of town where there are no street performers, where the guys drift the full width of the sidewalks in diagonal sweeps, and where I realize that I am holding my breath and have to remember to breathe at intersections. Once, my brother was with me in a neighborhood like this, and he turned to say something to me and jumped. "What?" I asked. "I thought you were going to kill me," he said. "Oh, THAT," I said. "That's so they don't kill me."

About 6th Street I had to walk past two real winners--a prostitute trying to solicit another homeless guy. She was blind and couldn't see him, so she was following him around Marco Polo style. He finally got away from her and was behind me somewhere as I approached the crosswalk. Before long I heard his voice behind me, singing some nonsensical song and running with a rustle to his steps--I thought he was tripping on pigeons or dancing. Then he flew past me, brushing my elbow on my left with his black, poofed parka, running fast. Two seconds later I was brushed again on the same side by a guy chasing him with a claw hammer. He swung it at the guy five feet from me.

Never doing that again.

I made it to Westfield. I got my soup. I went to the gardens, and I sat at a bench and thanked God for sparing me and giving me good soup and no rain and stunning clouds. I opened up the bag and my phone buzzed.

My boss. Texting to tell me that I would be short a guy tomorrow because she forgot to put it on the calendar and the guy who will be absent forgot to tell me too. He has court. He has had either court or doctors' visits once a week for the last 8 months. I have yet to see him work a full week, and when he is there he talks on his cell phone the whole time. My boss won't let me fire him, but I have to live with his mistakes and absences. He has been in jail twice. While I am texting my confirmation of receiving the texts, CT calls again, wants to talk some more. I listen patiently to her, then text my boss, and then eat my soup, now cold. I write a little. I look to the church across from me. Here is the prayer:

"God, the odds are incredibly high that I will die here. My life is in your hands. Thanks for sending me the claw hammer, to remind me to slow down, live despite my employer's and my former roommate's lack of boundaries, to nurture my desires. God, I know that if I am killed here it won't matter to the killer and it won't matter to the courts. I accept this, God. I realize that the killer may even be employed after killing me, and may be given multiple chances to shape up that he won't take. I know that if I am killed here, I will have died in vain. God, this is a lawless, thoughtless land. God, deliver me to embrace it anyway."

I'd like to say the sun came out...nope. But I did find peace. My boss continued to text me through the movie about less-urgent but work-related crap and I ignored the phone. The homeless hounded me up the rest of Market to the Embie after the movie, I set "the face" and walked on. The starlight touched the Bay Bridge in lamps, and the water was alive with seals and plunging, feeding birds.

I'm alive. Be happy for me or don't, but I'm less and less afraid when I should be. Yay, though I walk through the valley of porn and brutality I fear no evil...for if no one else shall save me, You and my death will.

I thought the day a tremendous success.

Selah, and sleep well.


dkearns72 said...

i think u should transfer some of these entries straight to a novel of California-- Tom Wolfe social-epic style: "A Woman in Full" :)

I'm sorry ive been son incommunicado, but im in my own lost california as well......

Jo Jardin said...

Do not fret, dear DK...I know you're there.

Actually, I am working on a book of overcoming and embracing California in spite of myself, which I have titled for now "Mountain Out Of A Moraga Hill." The only problem is organizing it to make it interesting; like California, my writing has many frayed and flying ends that fly in the wind with no service to it's existance.


Be strong, and good to hear from you...