The Tenderloin at midnight

Some people are fat because of a medical condition — something’s wrong in their metabolism. Other people say it’s hereditary, and maybe there’s some truth in that — my dad was fat like me. If you’re jumbo-size I won’t judge, and it’s none of my business why.

I’ll tell you why I’m fat, though. I’m fat because I eat too much.

I'm trying to be better about this, but I've always eaten too much. One Filet-O-Fish sandwich is good, so four Filet-O-Fish sandwiches must be four times as good, right? It’s math. And a large order of fries, please.

Want to probe the deep psychological issues? I’m damaged, like most people, maybe more so. I don’t get much human contact, and my few interactions with other people don’t usually go well. There’s an emptiness inside, which I fill with Twinkies and Spam.

For a few days I’ve been feeling blue, and there are things you’re supposed to do when that happens.

Talk to someone? I have no-one to talk to.

Get counseling? Not covered under my insurance.

Take a long walk? Never unless I have to. (Tonight I had to. We’ll get to that later.)

Eat an entire banana cream pie and an entire coconut cream pie and call it dinner? Yeah, that might work.

♦ ♦ ♦

The human capacity for inhumanity and insanity is limitless. You’d think it might make an easy and obvious target for filmmakers who want to make a statement, but it’s not a happy topic so it’s rare when movies delve deep into such things. Stanley Kubrick did it at least twice, with Paths of Glory and Full Metal Jacket.

They’re war movies, and I hate war movies. Everything military makes me uncomfortable — uniforms, barracks, and the loss of individuality; following orders, keeping your shoes shined, and the willingness to kill people on command, etc. No, no, no, no, no, no, and no. If the name Kubrick wasn’t attached, I wouldn’t have been at the Castro Theater tonight, but Kubrick does good work so I went. Both movies were great, of course.

Paths of Glory is about French soldiers in World War I, sent on a suicide assault against the Germans. When the French soldiers are slaughtered, their military high command needs someone other than themselves to blame, so three survivors are selected at random to face trial for cowardice. It’s a true story, impossible to watch without being infuriated, so the movie was banned by the French government.

It’s excellent, right up until the ending, which is my only complaint. Skip to the next paragraph if you don’t want to know. The trial is over, and now we’re in a bar, where a German woman is pushed and shoved and forced to stand in front of a rowdy crowd of generally obnoxious French soldiers. From everything I know about war and rowdy drunken men in a bar, something horrible is about to happen. But instead she sings a little song, and all the soldiers cry. The End. Great movie, but it should’ve ended five minutes earlier, without the bullshit final scene.

Full Metal Jacket follows a bunch of Marine recruits through boot camp, as the USMC turns them from boys into killers. In training, they’re shaved bald, insulted, embarrassed, indoctrinated, and brutalized, and then they’re soldiers. Well, except for one of them. Then they’re sent off to kill and die in Vietnam for no particular reason. It’s a very good movie about that very stupid and pointless war.

With all the on-screen death and cruelty, this was the perfect double feature for someone battling depression. It lifted my spirits. Seriously, I was whistling as I left the theater.

♦ ♦ ♦

Muni screwed up the trip home, as they sometimes do. It should’ve been a quick subway ride from the Castro Station to Powell Street, but our train stopped at Van Ness Station — about halfway home — and a mumbling P.A. announcement said, basically, Surprise! Subway service ended early tonight.

Everyone on the train traipsed upstairs to find surface buses, but there were none, so as midnight approached I was walking through the Tenderloin, a/k/a Crack City.

But this might be the start of a beautiful friendship. Me and some older guy started grumbling about Muni as we walked toward downtown, and it turned out he was coming home from the same show at the Castro. I’ve seen him at theaters before, and he said, yeah, he’s seen me, too.

This could only happen in San Francisco, perhaps. The city has several theaters that mostly show old movies — the Roxie, the Red Vic, the Castro, and more in the suburbs — and me and this old man must have similar tastes. We go to some of the same movies. He’s the bald guy who sits up front on the left, and I’m the fat slob who sits farther back, on the right. I’ve seen the back of this guy’s shiny head, often enough to remember it.

We walked between the needles and condoms and bums on the sidewalk, and talked about old movies, and the beauty of the Castro Theater, and what makes two films work well as a double feature, and why popcorn is God’s perfect nutrient.

Our conversation was cut short when we reached his turning point, and he had to walk down a different street. We shook hands and said our names, and of course I instantly forgot his. Should I have given him my phone number? Nah, it seemed too soon, but we said we’d probably bump into each other again at the movies. Maybe we will.

And then I walked on, past the men sleeping in doorways, the darkened storefronts and the trash in the street, down Market and then up Powell Street. From Van Ness to my rez hotel is, I think, about eight blocks — that's not climbing Everest, but it's a longer distance than I’d usually walk by choice, especially late at night.

Then I turned my key in the front door, rode the elevator up, and the mumbling man was waiting for me. I let him into his room, and went into mine. Tuckered and tired from all that walking and talking, I slept better than the last few nights.

From Pathetic Life #3
Tuesday, August 9, 1994

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.



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