The city at night

To fight insomnia at night and the resulting narcolepsy in the daytime, there’s generic Sominex and generic No-Doz on my shelf. Unable to sleep, I took two of the sleeping pills, or thought I did, but soon as I’d swallowed the aftertaste told me something wasn’t right.

Yeah, I’d grabbed the wrong bottle, and taken two caffeine pills instead of diphenhydramines. Both bottles are the same size, dang it, and almost the same shade of green. And they were side-by-side on the same shelf, because I’m an idiot. 

Now it’s 2:00 in the morning and I’ve never been more wide awake. I’ve killed three roaches, read some zines, re-read some zines, and washed the dishes. After typing this I’m going to hunt some more roaches, and tomorrow’s going to be a bad day indeed.

♦ ♦ ♦

Giving up on sleep, I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood in the dark of night. Or as dark as night gets in the city. There are streetlights, after all, and most of the shops leave a light on, or even a sign. And I'm big and male and carrying mace, so I don't much need to worry about being mugged.

During daytime the streets are jammed with cars and trucks and buses, and the sidewalks are crowded with workers and walkers and tourists and bums. In the wee hours the streets are nearly empty, and there's no-one to bump into on the sidewalk. No-one to ask me, “Which way is F.A.O. Schwarz?” while standing directly in front of the doors inscribed “F.A.O. Schwarz.” No-one at the corner pushing heroin or Jesus. No-one at all, except me and a drunk in a doorway.

Everything looks different under moonlight and lamplight. The tiny green leafy things trying desperately to push out from cracks in the concrete have a different, darker, deader color. The big permanent planters on the sidewalk, holding hopeless trees I hope are plastic, look even sadder than in daytime, with streetlights heightening the yellow of hundreds of scattered cigarette butts.

In Union Square the lights are out; walk the walkways at your peril, but I didn’t see any peril so I walked the walkways. Near Maiden Lane, I found a second homeless guy, reading a newspaper under a shop's neon light. He said, “Hello,” and I said, “Hello, neighbor,” because I live two blocks from here so he is my neighbor. But I kept walking.

Everything sounds different at night, and unlike the daytime cacophony, you can separate one sound from the others. You can hear your own footsteps, and someone else’s from around the corner, and someone whistling a block away, and a car door slamming somewhere. You hear traffic, of course, but the sound of a motor approaching and passing and fading away is only occasional, and it’s often the sound of just one car, coming and then going, and then silence until the next.

Things smell different, too, but it’s only the accumulated scent of urine. All the city’s public restrooms are closed, not merely overnight but always, to discourage the bums — and how stupid is that? Lacking any civilized option, the homeless pee on the sidewalk and poop in the bushes. Every morning at daybreak, the first worker at every shop hoses away the pee and the stink, but until then San Francisco smells like what it is — 47 square miles of unflushed toilets.

The electric signs still command when to WALK and DON’T WALK, but screw it, I’m walking here, anywhere I want. I paraded down the middle of Post Street for a block, but politely stepped aside for a truck bringing french rolls for fancy restaurants.

San Francisco is a beautiful city, but it’s prettier without people, I think. Richard Matheson should’ve set I Am Legend here, instead of in ugly old Los Angeles. Nobody would want to be the last soul in L.A., but San Francisco? Yeah, I could live alone here. It’s a city of 750,000, or 4,000,000 if you include the suburbs. And I am alone here. Just not literally.

No birds. No beggars. No traffic. No cops, no lawyers. No open stores or eateries. No hustle-bustle hurry and no place to be, except back in bed, dreaming of sleep.

From Pathetic Life #5
Wednesday, October 5, 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.


Pathetic Life 

← PREVIOUS          NEXT →



← PREVIOUS          NEXT →


  1. I should say I like your blog and read it almost daily.

    So a fella has captured 2 or 3 full body apparitions at the Gettysburg battle field. You can clearly see them rise from the ground, run around the cannons like they are loading them and then they dissapera

    video footage


    1. Color me skeptical, especially of anything from the New York Post, but it's cool.

    2. I live in Gettysburg. The ghost stuff is a major tourist business here.

      It's all horse shit, of course.

    3. Well, people have been seeing ghosts in Gettysburg for a very long time.

      You cannot have that much pain, that much carnaige in one place without it scarring the landscape.

    4. I'm not sure the landscape cares about us. Even other people don't care about us.

    5. Its all energy. Your body generates energy. Living people have energy and when we die its gotta go somewhere.

      Im just saying that Native Americans have long believed in this but they call it something different. I cant remember what, rusty, im rusty on this

      lol but its real.

    6. Nah, it's not real. Even the video you shared looks like an easy special effect.

      Ghosts make for fun movies and there's a few people who died owing me money so I'd like to collect, but I'd probably have to see a ghost with my own eyeballs, and I never will.

  2. Has anyone told you, you write like a noir movie. I was expecting a dame to walk out of the shadows.

    1. Yeah, someone else told me that once. I love old noir movies, so maybe, but if it's noiry it's accidental and subconscious.

  3. One of the best, I think.

    1. I can never judge, but I'll take your word for it. Thanks.


🚨🚨 If you have problems posting a comment, please click here for help. 🚨🚨