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Smells like San Francisco

When my mother visited, I tried to explain to her (and to myself) why I moved to San Francisco. She didn't, doesn't, and probably never will understand, and I barely understand it myself. You'll forgive me (or maybe you won't, in which case, fuck you), but I'm still thinking about it, so I'm going to think it through right now, at the typewriter.

Stream of consciousness, baby. From mind to fingers to the zine, and let's see if any of it makes sense:

In Seattle, I was low-level management at my job, so a few people on the organizational chart reported to me. But I don't want people reporting to me, and I'd fit better on a disorganizational chart. Here in San Francisco, I have an 'entry-level' job, which is a nice way to say that with a few days of training, any non-retard and non-stoner off the street could do what I do. The change adds up to less stress. Happier me.

In Seattle, there was an apartment full of 'apartment things' — a sofa, dinette set, a kitchen, a toilet, a bathtub, and a whole lot of things left behind. In San Francisco, there's just a room with a chair and a bed, but no kitchen, and the bathroom is down the hall. Also, for companionship, there are roaches and suspicions of mice. Fewer possessions. Much lower rent. Happier me.

In Seattle, there were people who knew me (or more accurately, knew certain sides of me). Any of those people might call me up, and ask me to babysit, or come for dinner, or want to borrow me and my truck to help them move. In San Francisco, my phone doesn't ring, and anyway, I don't have a phone, just an automated message-taking service where almost no-one ever leaves an automated message. Fewer calls. Fewer expectations. Happier me.

And let me tell you about San Francisco, which is not what you see on post cards and travel brochures about the Golden Gate Bridge. Just about anywhere in San Francisco, if you walk down an alleyway, you'll smell pee. Urine is the city's official scent, because they've closed all the public restrooms to keep out the drunks and homeless, so where can the drunks and homeless pee and poop? The sidewalk, of course. Watch your step.

We got problems here, no doubt, and the mayor's program of 'helping the homeless' is brutal: arrests and fines for sleeping in public, arrests and jail for feeding the poor, and the ongoing confiscation of shopping carts, and the seizure and destruction of whatever's in them, everything a homeless person can claim to own.

So what is there to love about San Francisco?

The city's most interesting parts aren't on any post cards. I like the Mission, and the Tenderloin, and all the other trashy neighborhoods that have no particular name, where visitors who wander off the travel agent's itinerary might find crackheads and homeless by the thousands, syringes and used condoms on the sidewalk, and people wandering the streets in a daze because they have nowhere else to exist.

But you know what? Those vagabonds and addicts are actually people, and most of them aren't scary. Most of them are looking for someone to talk to, not someone to stab. When I'm in the right mood, I sometimes chat with the wanderers, and every time so far, I've lived though the experience and enjoyed it. They're kinda like you and me. They just want a word, or maybe a meal.

And beyond the street life, there are wacky and interesting people everywhere — from flamboyant queers in the Castro, to hippies in the Haight, to all the well-tailored zombies in the financial district, and all the other labels we stick onto people, and lots and lots of people who resist the labels. I'm never going to fit in anywhere, but San Francisco is where I come closest. Almost nothing is strange enough to turn heads, in a town where strangeness is so commonplace. You're free to do what you want here, and that's beautiful (usually).

It makes perfect sense that Mom is worried about me — when I see myself in the mirror, I worry about me too. I'm fat, ugly, aggressively alone, don't wear deodorant, need a dentist, and this room is a mess just like me.

But, shrug. Maybe it looks pathetic, this life of mine, and maybe it is pathetic, but you know what makes it great? It's this life of mine — mine, and nobody else's.

From Pathetic Life #2
Tuesday, July 12, 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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