At Marion's apartment

Toothache better, backache gone, my plan was to post "I'll do anything" flyers all day, but instead I had to do one of the anythings.

A woman called, said she'd seen my flyers, and she needed me as soon as possible for some cleaning work. Mold and mildew, she said, and she wanted me right away. The address was way out in the Avenues in San Francisco, so I told her it would take a while to get there from Berkeley, but that I'd get dressed and be there ASAP.

ASAP took about as long as you'd expect, and finding her apartment was a cinch, and she buzzed me in and I went up the stairs and — oh my.

Her name is Marion, and that's a middle-aged, matronly name, or at least that's what I'd expected. In person, though, she was in her early 20s, with a friendly smile and great eyes and mildew in her closet and mold on her bathroom walls.

It's a job so I do whatever I'm told and nothing I'm not, but it struck me as naïve that she'd invite a strange man, and I'm certainly strange, into her very small apartment, and into her bedroom.

I'm not dangerous, but how could she know? Then again, maybe she's Ms 45, and how could I know?

Before starting the work I'd come to do, she asked me to run an errand to the hardware store, a walk of about five blocks. "Here's a list of the things we need, and here's twenty bucks," she said. So I took her money and walked away, but again it seemed naïve.

She'd told me on the phone that the work would take 2-3 hours, and I'd told her my minimum was four hours pay, so twenty dollars was what I'd come for, and she'd handed it to me. I could've simply gone home and played with the dog.

Again, that's not something I'd do or consider doing, but lots of people would. Was she a character from Tales of The City — fresh from some town someplace where people are nice?

I did the shopping, brought her the change, and scrubbed her walls with the cleaner and scubbers she'd sent me to buy. Lying flat on my back in her bedroom closet, the cleaning fluid may have ruined my jeans. Does tri-sodium phosphate wash out?

Her apartment was just a few blocks from the ocean, close enough to smell the waves and hear the gulls when I opened her window to dissipate the fumes and some of my sweat.

Got the closet de-mildewed, and then went to work on the mold in her shower. Two of (presumably) her pubic hairs were on the porcelain at the drain, which I shouldn't have noticed and maybe I should've flushed them away, but I did and didn't, respectively.

After I'd worked on the moldy shower for an hour, Marion came into the bathroom and complimented me on my work. I said I'd need another half an hour to finish, but she said nope, she had to leave, so my work was done.

She gave me the twenty bucks we'd agreed plus a five-dollar tip, and asked me to sweep the deck after she'd left. She was locking me out as she left, of course, but her building had an unusual layout, with a back deck shared by everyone on her floor, and accessible from out in the world without a key. And a broom was leaning on the outside wall.

So after she'd left, I swept the leaves from her deck. Also spent some unpaid time sweeping the walkway out to the sidewalk, not because of my marvelous work ethic but because I wouldn't mind another call from Marion.

She's an interesting dame. In addition to being fine-looking, her tiny apartment had some radical political posters, books about feminism and freeing Tibet, and movie calendars from the Roxie and Castro. She seemed like someone I might like to talk with, not just work for... but in addition to my shyness, saying anything seemed improper. I said almost nothing the whole time I was there.

As a free-lance one-day worker, I need a reputation as a guy who does the work, not someone who comes to your house and hits on you if he thinks you're cute. And she was cute. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Riding the N train to downtown, the driver should've been nominated as Operator of the Month. He was Absolute Muni.

Yeah, I knew my transfer from this morning had expired but ya gotta try, and he barked at me like a pit bull. When a couple of tourists asked how to get to The Cannery, he said, "Never heard of it," and when they said it's at Fisherman's Wharf he said, "Never heard of that, either."

Rude drivers aren't uncommon on Muni. Seems like a dream job to me, driving around in a beautiful city, but there are plenty of asswipes riding, and the asswipery eventually rubs off on the drivers.

This driver had a real talent for it, though. Three times he lingered at a stop long enough to make people jog or run, sometimes waving a bag or a briefcase to be sure they had his attention, and I'm sure they did. He'd wait until they were almost at the platform, and then accelerate away. A couple of would-be passengers slapped and banged at the train's side panels as we rolled off, but by the third time the driver had left people behind, it went from outrageous to amusing. At least from inside the train.

And I wasn't exactly a Visitor's Bureau brochure for the city myself. My pants were dotted with residue of the cleaning fluid, my t-shirt was wet with my stinky sweat, and the train was uncomfortably warm so what the hell, I was topless by Ashbury Street. Utterly untanned, flabby and nipply and bouncier than an episode of Baywatch, I told those tourists where to catch the #30 bus to The Cannery.

♦ ♦ ♦

Off the train and walking through the Tenderloin toward my maildrop, I put my shirt on again, because a cool breeze was hardening my nipples. Waiting at a bus stop with my backpack full of letters and zines, I noticed an old man wearing a dozen large, wordy pins on his shirt. "Mind if I read you?" I asked.

It took him longer than it should've to comprehend the question, and when he answered "OK" he continued talking. Soon it was obvious that he was bordering on dementia, or there already, or just a lonely old man, but I liked his pins. "Outlaw the government," said one. "Smash the state," said another. Reading the chest of that old-time anarchist, I wondered whether he'd ever been in the thick of anything, or if he was just another complainer like me.

I hadn't said anything more, still reading the extensive collection of radical slogans pinned to his shirt, when the old man said to me, "The only difference between the FBI and the Mafia is that the Mafia wear better suits, but they're all criminals out to steal whatever they can get their grubby hands into."

To that I didn't say anything, again, but yeah, what he said sounds like reality to me. Maybe that old man could've maybe been my new best buddy, but like I said, I didn't say anything. Usually I don't say anything.

We were both waiting for the #38 bus, but when it came it was completely packed with what looked like a hundred yuppies and yuppettes and other idiots. The old anarchist got in line to climb aboard and be squished, but I said I'd wait for the next bus, and that was our entire conversation.

♦ ♦ ♦

BARTed back under the Bay, and at home I ate half a loaf of peanut butter toast as dinner. My toothache is gone, but my back hurts a bit, and my shoulder is throbbing from so much scrubbing on Marion's walls.

It doesn't hurt enough to merit any of my illegal pain pills, so I took two dozen aspirin, six at a time, and went to sleep, with no plans for tomorrow, and no dreams.

From Pathetic Life #17
Tuesday, October 10, 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.

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