Welcome to Aquatic Park.

I'm a sap, yup, but today I'm going to write about Margaret again. My apologies. I woke up with her on my mind, and a letter I've put off for weeks is now fresh finished scribbling.

What I've written to her is not completely honest, but it's close. I didn't quite say this, but I want her to either come see me and stay, or fade away. Either or. I am tired of our in-between "just friends" bull. Give me something to believe in and believe in me, Maggie, or let's not bother.

What I wrote and didn't write, I guess, reveals something about my character or lack, so it belongs in the zine. Here it comes.

But first, for new readers and anyone who's forgotten, a recap of who Maggie is, since I haven't mentioned her much lately...

I've known her for ten years or so, and during that time we evolved from flatmates to friends to more than friends, then lovers, then back to friends again. Lately, even saying we're friends seems less than the truth.

We were in Seattle when we were together, but now I'm here in Frisco and she's in a rural nowhere, twenty miles outside of some small farming town in eastern Washington. When we cranked our romance down three notches, she said she couldn't handle city life without me, and I couldn't live in the middle of all the wheat fields or whatever's home to her now.

It's not being so far away that's the problem, it's being so far apart. When we're together we argue. There's nothing between us beyond a sense of humor that's sometimes shared, sometimes not. Our senses of everything else are opposites, and her sanity comes and goes with the wind, even when she's taken her Prozac. 

That's not merely a wisecrack. Her mood swings are dangerous. An innocent twitch of my eyebrow might make her furious, or on a different afternoon the same twitch might charm her. Gandhi couldn't be cordial enough to keep Maggie in a good mood for an hour.

When she visited last summer, I had just moved out of the slums (the slums I've now moved back to) and into a roach-infested rez hotel downtown. Maggie hated that hotel, and almost hated me. I wanted to show her my life and see what we could rekindle, but she wasn't much interested, and beat me up one afternoon. Not a figure of speech. Bruises. 

Now she's coming to San Francisco to visit me again, and to visit her young daughter, who's being raised by Maggie's sister in suburban Livermore.

That's our background, and here's the letter I wrote her this morning…

Dear Maggie,

Maybe you wondered where I've gone. Haven't written much lately, and haven't called, but I'm still here, Mags, in beautiful San Francisco.

You should know that my situation isn't so swank as last summer when you came. I quit Macy's a month or so ago, to try surviving on odd jobs, moving strangers, wearing a ridiculous costume to hand out flyers on the sidewalk, and whatever comes up. Anything legal. It pays lots less than Macy's, and it's not stable work.

I moved out of that elegant hotel you hated so much. Currently I'm sleeping on dirty laundry in a shitty apartment on a beer-bottled street, shared with some guy I barely know, and maybe with his girlfriend. 

It's simple, uncomplicated, scary sometimes, and I like it. What I don't like is working, especially meaningless work for some company I hate, like Macy's, so I am not looking for another job like that. Also not looking for a better apartment. Or a better life. This one suits me.

Maggie, I'm poor, and it's my plan to remain poor, maybe get poorer. Dumpster-diving? Not yet, but I'm not ruling it out. If you visit, I'm not taking you to dinner. That's beyond my budget. Just a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, a package of ramen, and I can make us a good lunch from that.

There are rarely movies, and I gave away my TV. Fun is a bare-bones bus ride to a park, or a stroll at sunset. The city's zoo is free one day every month.

Don't expect more than that when you come to California this summer. Don't expect much from me. I haven't much to offer, except me.

Having no money would be a workable excuse for not calling. Long distance is expensive. A letter is only 32¢ and even I can afford that, so why haven't I written in a month? Well…

You didn't like my low-life lifestyle back when I had a real job, and now it won't surprise me if you're even less interested. So yeah, I've put off writing this letter, but you deserve to know, so there it is.

When you come in June, if you're still coming, things have gotten worse, is my point. I live in a slum. You're welcome to spend the night, but it won't be like a night you've spent anywhere else.

I do hope you're coming, though, and I will show you a low-priced good time. You mean a lot to me, Maggie.

In the middle of all that wheat and peace and quiet where you are, I hope you're doing well.

Your friend, 

♦ ♦ ♦

A day off ought to be nice and it is, but it's also a worry if I let myself think too much. I never know more than a day or two in advance whether I'm working for someone or sitting on my butt, and most 'days off' I spend flyering the city for more work. 

Today was one of those days off, so I rode the #19 northbound with a backpack full of sticky-back "anything legal" flyers, but I got distracted and the sunshine was too tempting, so fuck the flyers.

Gave myself the day off after all, and rode the next bus to the end of the line, behind godawful Ghirardelli Square, to the Maritime Museum, which sucks same as the Square, make no mistake — but nestled next to it, mere footsteps from the tackiest tourist traps, is one of my favorite quiet spots in the city. Welcome to Aquatic Park.

I love the bleak concrete steps at the shore, where there's so much solitude — my drug of choice. Closed my eyes, the better to listen to the waves, the gulls, and the huff and puff of passing joggers, the mechanical rumblings of the Sausalito ferry, and a young couple talking loveydovey several steps up and behind me.

When I opened my eyes again, even the beautiful women in halters and short shorts (everpresent in the city on any sunny day) couldn't compare to the fog-free view across the water, across the bay, to the mountains beyond. On a clear day, as they say, you can see forever. Two tall ships with their sails stashed away were docked across the ring-shaped pier, and even without my glasses, I could see tourists walking on Alcatraz Island.

At the shore, in front a "No pets on beach" sign, two families' dogs were fetching sticks tossed into the ceaseless surf. Children built illusions in the sand. One lone man swam slowly from the near side of the pier to the distant, then back again, and I mentally tacked a note to next week, to put on shorts and test those waters myself. Looks cold, though.

For today, I skipped some stones into the Bay, then walked to an ever quieter are west of the museum. Aquatic Park is so serene. So mesmerizing. So gloriously unknown or uninteresting to the city's too many visitors, all swarming like ants over the trinket shops a block away, unaware and uninterested in what makes San Francisco beautiful. Time slipped away, until twilight surprised me.

♦ ♦ ♦

"People are always saying things like, 'I want to go on a big road trip, but I need to save up more money first', or 'As soon as I move away from this town, things'll be better' — always ignoring the present, putting off their dreams for some future Promised Land, a future that gets further and further away."

—Iggy Scam of Scam 

From Pathetic Life #10
Tuesday, March 28, 1995

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.

Addendum, 2022: Back then Iggy Scam was the writer and publisher behind Scam, a very good zine of punk rock and politics. Now she's Erica Dawn Lyle, an artist and author, and the guitarist for Bikini Kill.

Pathetic Life 

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