A brand new start of it,
New York, New York

Today, at last, a letter from Sarah-Katherine arrived. It's sweet and upbeat, recounting some of the things she did on her visit and planning trip to New York City.

She is nuts for New York, has always wanted to live there, and now she's about to. It's a dream coming true for her, and it's one of the out-and-out happiest letters she's written to me

No, I'm not going to share all of it, but here's the part that isn't too terribly personal:

Oh, it's useless. I've been sitting at this keyboard for half an hour, and I can't begin to tell you about my trip. Sure, I could blather on about the places I visited: Brighton Beach, Coney Island, Victorian Flatbush, Chinatown, the Lower East Side, the Financial District, Fifth Avenue, Central and Prospect Parks, etc, but those would just be names.

The truest thing I could tell you is that I saw absolutely everything I could in the three days I had, revisiting the neighborhoods I love and making the acquaintance of new ones. I got up early every day, had a cup of coffee, and started walking. When I got tired of walking or wanted to go someplace far away, I rode a train. At the beginning of every day, my pockets were full of subway tokens, and by the end of every day all the tokens were gone. I was like an alcoholic on a binge.

Money, though — I need more money. The fact that I'll have to make some sort of temporary living arrangement — probably the hostel, though possibly the YMCA — means that I'll need more money than what I've got. Okay, so I'll get more money somehow. Sheesh, how hard is that? I just wish I could leave for NY now, but it's better, I think, to have a buffer zone just in case I have a harder time finding a place than I anticipate.

Don't be hopeless, dear! We'll both make it there, providing we exercise Patience and Fortitude. And when we're both there, living in that beautiful, filthy city, I'll treat you to a corned beef sandwich at Katz's Deli. (I know you're a vegetarian, but an exception must be made for Katz's.) We will toast each other with egg creams, and marvel at our dumb luck to be finally, finally in the right place.

I had to grin at all her gushing enthusiasm for New York, and also at her pragmatism in thinking, Maybe not quite yet.

I know that feeling of affection for a place that's magical. It's what I feel for San Francisco.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

I bused to Oakland to wash a guy's Cadillac. Exteriors only, and wheels and hub caps, but he didn't want me to tidy the inside. It took about two hours, but I got four hours pay, cuz that's my minimum wage. Twenty bucks for two hours of wet work, and I soaped and sprayed my hair too, so I won't need to take a shower today.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Walking a few miles across Oakland afterward, I thought about Sarah-Katherine and New York, as I stuck my "I'll do anything" flyers to every second telephone pole.

After twenty blocks, still wet and tired of walking, I splurged 90¢ for a BART ticket home, and waiting in the open air at MacArthur Station, I checked my voice mail at a phone booth.

As I held a receiver to my ear listening, a youngish female panhandler asked me, "Do you have a quarter, mister?"

Being a beggar is one thing — times are tough and I can understand it — but interrupting someone who's on the phone is simply rude, and rudeness sometimes sets me off. So I nicely said, "Excuse me" into the mouthpiece (though there was no-one on the other end), and to the woman I screamed, "I'm on the phone here! Do you have no fucking manners at all? What the fuck is your fucking fuck?" (stealing that line from Blue Velvet.)

She screamed back, calling me rude, when of course I'm the kindest, most cordial and polite person imaginable, so I screamed at her some more. We screamed until the train came, and when its doors closed and her shrieking insults faded away, a smile spread across my ugly face, as two thoughts occurred to me.

① I hadn't gotten far enough into the phone call to actually listen to my messages, and ② I really do love living here.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Looking through BART's sooty windows at beautiful Oakland under the elevated rail, and at the lights of San Francisco in the distance across the bay, absolutely I knew that I'm not moving to New York. Or rather, I'll go when I can afford to, which is the same as saying I'm not moving to New York.

After fooling myself for several months, thinking I'd have the money or courage to go with her or follow after, I do hope that I didn't fool Sarah-Katherine, too. That was never my intent. I'll write to her tomorrow and let her know I'm not coming.

She's pretty dang smart, though, and probably figured it out well before I did.

It would be nice to visit New York and try that corned beef sandwich, but if ever I do, it won't be Sarah-Katherine's treat. And it's not going to be soon, or any time in the foreseeable future. To get to New York I'd need to wash a lot of cars, or work a straight job for fifty hours a week, and give up the zine.

But that's not even the point. The point is, as fond as I am of Sarah-Katherine, I'm fonder of San Francisco.

New York is her big move in life, but I've already made mine. I have a life and even have a few friends here in San Francisco. I live here, more than I've ever lived anywhere else, and I marvel at my dumb luck to actually be where it seems I'm supposed to.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

As I walked home from the Berkeley BART station, a line from Casablanca popped into my head: "How extravagant you are, throwing away women like that. Someday they may be scarce."

A high-quality dame like Sarah-Katherine doesn't come along often, and when they do they never, never want anything to do with me.

So writing all this is depressing. The thought that she's too beautiful, too personable, too bright and funny and warm to be alone for long in New York, somehow doesn't cheer me up.

From Pathetic Life #20
Wednesday, January 31, 1996

Addendum, 2023: Staying in San Francisco, eventually I met Stephanie, and she was the love of my life — a much better match for me than Sarah-Katherine or anyone else could've been. 

So big picture, I have no regrets over not moving to New York. Small picture, though, I wish I'd realized earlier that New York wasn't for me, and told Sarah-Katherine I wasn't coming.

And I regret that she and I didn't keep in touch. Same as Margaret and most of the few women I've ever felt anything for, I don't know whether Sarah-Katherine is alive or dead in 2023.

A year ago, I emailed a hello to her last known electronic address. It didn't bounce back undeliverable, but there was never a reply. Once is my limit on such things, as anything further would seem rude.

After all these years, though, I'm curious to know about how it was for her, living in New York. Here's hoping she had a grand time there, and her life has been everything she wanted.

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.


  1. I never met S-K, but did a little googling. Feel free to tell me to go fuck off. But is she the author of a book called "Sex and Bacon?"

    1. Sarah-Katherine wrote at least three books, but apparently nothing over the past ten years or so.

      And since you've invited me, how could I refuse? Go fuck off.


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