Now back then there were no cell phones or internet hooks ups. We were connected to the world in analog. I never thought I’d be talking about the times I lived in with such nostalgia or any thoughts of how things were different when I lived this way, but they were. I remember the smell of markers and spray paint. Two of my good friends, we’ll call them Mac and Phil, though that wasn’t really their names, were big into graph writing. They went to school with me sure, but class was never really of any interest to them.
They had a very small place up in Pacific Heights – a bunk bed I think was pretty much all that fit in the room. They liked the location and cities like SF, kind of like New York, mean that you had to sacrifice one thing for another. There were a bunch of yuppies and flower shops around them. The apartment, or studio – I guess it was a studio, was pretty much alway covered in marker of some kind. Mac was an amazing artist – he would constantly have his head buried in some book where he’d draw different super hero cartoon characters of himself with thought bubbles that always thought in hip hop lines from songs that were going to be classics at one point but, at that time, were just what we all listened to.
It was the summer after Black Sheep, just before the first Wu was to come out. Nas was on his way. The Pharcyde tape played in all of our yellow Sony Walkmen where you had to hold the bottom piece of the headphones, the one that plugged into the yellow base of the walkman – you had to hold it down so that the music would play out of both sides. Those two would usually be rolling together, though Mac would go off by himself at times and just be in his head with whatever he was drawing. Found out later all of the memories he was escaping from. He would smile great, but as soon as it faded, there was a terrible sadness on his face. He was the main graph writer to be sure. None of us could really do it that well, but he was the one who everyone recognized in the city.
When he went out at night, we we with him. I didn’t really much like writing on walls or trucks, though shoe polish on bus stops in the Fillmore was kind of fun. I liked being out that late at night though. Just until all hours. The city slowed down and the true life started. Back then, when you worked, you did so to have enough in your pocket to enjoy the night. Who cares what anyone in the city was doing in the daytime. That was all for tourists anyway.
Down on Lower Height (and I hope that this isn’t jumping around to much, but I’m just trying to jump start my memory of everything that happened) – but down on lower Height, it was a great mix. Before they tore down the public housing around there, it was pretty grimy. All of the graph writers would hang out in this cafe’ called – oh man, what was the name of that spot? The Horseshoe. Yes. The bathroom there was legendary. People would hang out and talk bullshit all day long. Smoke cigarettes or whatever you wanted to smoke and talk bullshit. Ben Davis shirts and other gear like that was pretty much the standard uniform. Thinking about it now, it wasn’t really that far from the new place I was living, but when you’re inside of a city, when you’re living inside of it, proximity means very little. I never slept in that late, even if we had been out late the night before. There was something about the morning time that I really enjoyed.
Mac and Phil were handing outside the Horseshoe when I came up on them. They were anything but daytime people. Phil was an enigma to me. He seemed to be like the walking dead during the daytime, lost in a cloud of smoke and restless inside of his own body when the sun was out or there wasn’t anyone looking at him. He had just been kicked out of school for failing to take any of his final classes, but didn’t seem to upset about it. He never showed being upset or at least, if he was, he made some type of excuse for it. He was always on the go and asking you to go with him but whenever you got somewhere with him, he’d make sure there was enough space between the two of you so he’s stand out.
“What’s up with your new roommates,” he asked. “I heard they drink blood and shit.”
“No, they don’t drink it,” I told him. “They take it out of other people and feed it back to them.”
He played out the vision in his head and laughed. “I wouldn’t mind checking that out. I’m good with crazy people. Anything for a good show, you know?”
“Well just roll through whenever the suns down – they get off work late.”
“I’m too busy to come through. There’s tons to do.”
Mac looked up a second from his sketching and commented to himself, while phil perked up when a few girls walked by.
Our days were like that. Well, I would join up with them and my nights were kind of like that. I remember just rolling up on a bus and stumbling upon people back then in SF. Even then though, my days were filled with school and working. The daytimes – I really don’t have too much memory of them.
Damn it. The sun is starting to rise in full against the buildings across the street. Time to get to work. More to come. The memories are coming back and I have a canvass for the story. Remembering it all is tough.