Funny. Now in the middle of the new book, going back to 93, the other time machines are coming to me. Other books are presenting themselves in grand fashion, but it’s these damn vampires that everyone wants to hear more and more about. I found pictures of them the other day on a blog – which I don’t think I’ll keep in the final product. Let’s get away from that. I needed another job, one that paid a steady check and wasn’t going to vanish over a bar stool.
The girlfriend of good friend of ours worked in Loehmans in downtown and was always telling us that she had work if we wanted it. I came by for an interview – I think I interviewed though I really don’t remember actually talking to anyone about the job – only the job itself. That’ strange. The job was pretty simple. Loehman’s was a high end store in that it sold brand name woman’s clothes at discount prices to high end women who could only afford their wants at discount prices.
In each of the dressing rooms, when the women were done trying on their clothes, there was a conveyor belt that was in constant motion. The women would put the clothes they didn’t want on the belt, which would send it back to the very back room – which is where I was now working along with a a few others, taking the dresses off the moving belt and putting them onto smaller racks that corresponded to the correct size. It’s why to this day I still know so much about dress sizes. The job may sound boring, but I loved it. I was high most of the time – We’d smoke when we went up top to through the boxes and plastic wraps away.
The people I worked with were fantastic. This one kid – what was his name. If I think, really think on it, he may not have been a kid at all. Romy or something like that. He was this guy with a mullet and this mustache – but he was short and it’s didn’t look right on him He was some kind of martial arts expert. When we tossed the boxes outside, I remember he would do these amazing spin kicks and send the cardboard flying. He brought his lunch to work with him and was married. In the middle of the day, he’d do this stretching and tell me that until I could do the same thing, I’d never be in shape.
Walter was the other person I remember. There must of have been others that worked with us in that room, but I only remember these two. Walter lived in Oakland and this job was too easy for him. He ran the room and we all knew it. He was the youngest – had a big gap between his two front teeth and rarely smiled but when he did the place lit up. He didn’t smoke herb too much – only beedi’s.
“Those are enough for me,” he say. “Any more and I’d be acting the fool like you – and since everyone is already going to put that on me, I’m not playing to that. Ya heard?”
When he left the store each night, he wore this cap that fit perfectly on his head and came down just right over his eyes. I could search the world for a piece like that but never really find one.
The women who worked there were mostly older, but they dressed very well. I always liked those suits that women wore – the nice skirt suits with a big belt or something like the separating them. It was fun to watch them all walk around. The job paid well enough for that time and didn’t take up too much of my days – though looking back, I remember going there early on a Sunday morning, when the streets were pretty empty after long nights of who knows what.
I dressed different back then. Wing tip shoes, button down shirts with a tie and vest. A fedora. A long chain that hung low. I think the walk to work, the styling through the early morning streets of San Francisco – I was conscious then of the time I was moving through and the speed at which I was moving through it. The world and what it was supposed to be was very clear back then. What made sense was easy and what turned my stomach was not that difficult to identify either. It’s the glory of that age – the first taste of self -definition that unfolds before you where the job you do has little to do with who you are. Something happens when you age. These things become more important and the traveling part seems to fall away. You are only thinking of what’s ahead instead of what’s being presented on the journey to it.
I remember once having a cigarette in front while taking a break. It was early on for me in smoking – one of the things from those days I no longer do and am glad about – some wisdom comes with age – but I was just starting then and it was still glorious to me. This girl walked by sporting a short haircut – sightly punk but not punk enough to to be punk – wearing nice pine stripped slacks that hung baggy and a pure white shirt. She wasn’t my styl eat all to tell you the truth but she stood out among the rest of the folks down there walking by and I think she thought I did to.
There were a bunch of us downtown, crazies trying to fit in among the regular folks – though I guess there were no such thing as regular folks at all. But she stopped and asked me why I was smoking. It was the second time in not so long that somebody had asked. She squatted down next to me – very naturally, and just started talking.
“I work up there,” she pointed towards a top floor of a building I hadn’t noticed before. “It’s a hair styling school. That’s a good living, though it has its hazards, see?”
She ran her hand back and forth over her too short hair and smiled.
“It’ll grow back,” I said.
“You don’t think I know that? Man, you’re a little slow. Here I am trying to start up a conversation with you and all you can say is ‘It’ll grow back!’ You’re going to have to do better than that if you want to be the cool guy on the street who knows how to pick up girls walking by. She stood up and started to walk away, but did it slow so I could check her out and try just one more time.
“How about you let me take you out,” I asked, jumping up and tossing my smoke into the street. “I’ll pick you up after work.”
“Well well, now you’re making up for lost time. It’s only Tuesday though, so let’s wait until Friday night – it’ll give us some time for the tension to mount. Sound okay?”
“You going to tell me you’re name,” I asked.
“I’ll tell you when we meet again on Friday. I’m liking the mystery of this whole situation. Meet me in front of that building at 7 on Friday.”
She walked away, vanishing into the see of folks going to and from work in downtown San Francisco. My break was over and I went inside, but the rest of the week would be a fantastic amount of anticipation.
Life was like that back then.