Chapter 5 if you’re following. These are the tough times. The bleak middle passage of the novel. Your characters are hanging on for water. There are other ships that look much more attractive. Other stories are calling out for you. If I did outlines like all of those other writers I read about interviews – if I did it like they do it, would I be as lost as I am now? In the middle of a park somewhere in 1993 San Francisco with a poser vampire, goat faced book junky prostitute and myself, or a character of myself. Damn that firs person narration.
I saw two familiar figures walk up towards me. 3 familiar figures? One. Familiar figure. It was Douglas. Yes. I thought it was still summer to tell you the truth. School had already started and I wasn’t aware of it. Perhaps I was aware, but I didn’t care. The city had taken me and wanted it’s story written, but in order to do that, you had to stay inside and then, perhaps, if you can, get away from it. If you do that, it unfolds like a map and you can walk through your outline. You can scope it through that.
It was Douglas sporting a heavy backpack filled with books which he didn’t take off when he flopped down next to us. He seemed tired but satisfied. Can you say what people seem or should you show how people look. Let me try it again.
He flopped down, weighed down by his books but not overwhelmed. Yes, I like that much better.
“Where have you been?” he asked, cracking open his Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda. Loved that drink. “This is the last semester kid, you better keep yourself going.”
I need to insert some part of school back in there. That’s the editing. Just let’s push through.
Douglas got along with most people – he had the knack for just talking to people and listening to what they said before he reacted. Most people don’t listen and only waited for a breath. He picked up little pieces of information from everyone he spoke with and then used that to speak with the next person. The future for him was promising and was one of those people who never leaned to far either way with the drugs or fun times to be had. He’s dip his foot in but that was quite enough for him. I envied that. I think there was that piece of envy inside me with everyone. Can one be attracted to things such as envy? Can you desire not the things that other people have but the way they act? I would like to expose that. First, in myself. I don’t care much about what people see inside as far as how I feel. I think that for me, the writer now, not the narrator, you can’t create perception. I can’t create perception. It just needs to be what you really are.
So then, Douglas joined me as the goat faced boy and Carolina played keep away from the wolf dog.
“You seen anyone lately?” he asked. “Cause nobody has seen you at all.”
“I’m good,” I told him. “Just working a bunch and looking for a place. I’ll be good once I get settled in.”
“Come on over to the East Bay. Thing are mellow over there. More family. City life here, well, it’s going to grind on you. Believe that.”
He looked over at my roommates talking with a couple of guys trying to strike up a deal. His point was made without him having to make one.
“I need to stay in the city Douglas. It’s calling for me to write about it. There are stories that need to be told.”
“That’s a bunch of bullshit,” he said. “How many people have written about San Francisco. Why don’t you check out what’s going on beyond these streets. Give the world something to look at other than what they know. I read your story you know. Shit was solid. A dude takes his father to a baseball game to tell him he has AIDS. Made me think about my dad.”
“Not about AIDS?” I asked.
“Naw. I was thinking about my pops and how hard it was to talk to him. How I would have to set something up special just to deliver him news. Can’t ever talk to the man like I want to. That piece made me think differently on it – that’s all. Anyway, you should roll through tonight. See your people. Will do you some good.”
“Yeah, i’m trying to get out of this right now – tough though once you’re in something to crawl your way out of it.”
“Come crash with me in the Oakland man – there’s room for you. Always.”
“I’m going to get through this – working on a plan right now. Steady gig. Decent cash. No girl to stop me. Everything should be fine.”
He got up to go and wanted me to go with him – I could tell that. Looking back, which you shouldn’t ever do – but looking back, perhaps I should have. It would have been easier to take help from someone instead of trying to do it all myself. That’s one of the things in life that we learn a little too late.
Carolina – man, I have got to get a new name for these characters = Dorothy Parker used to use the phone book, perhaps I’ll do the same. Spend a decent amount of the day looking towards the phone book for how to name things. I’m talking to ghosts once again to get through this thing. It’s summer now and people are yelling out of their windows having the same conversations their parents had with them 20 years ago. I’m trying to go back to 1993.
Douglas agreed to stay in the city with me if I’d help him out. He had gotten his hand on a sheet of comedy club tickets. Bought the whole sheet for 30 dollars. There were 10 tickets on the sheet with a face value of 20 dollars a pop. 170 dollar profit was to be made. Kid always had a head for business and doing it right. He talked me in to going to North Beach and standing on the corner selling tickets. Figured that there’d be close to 500 people walking by that corner and we’d only have to get 5% of them to buy a ticket and we’d be sitting well. We started right in on everyone walking up and down that Friday evening street.
You like comedy? You need to laugh? Take your lady to laugh! Take your man to laugh. Have a laugh. Buy a laugh. Give us a laugh.
Over and over we went non stop like Mikah 9 lyrics falling all over themselves. I think we unloaded the entire sheet in about an hour and a half. When it was done, I wish we’d had more. Selling was addictive. That first sale just kept us both going – amazing. The city gave us amazing cash – for us that was amazing cash. It was more than I made in two days of working stacking dresses on moving racks. We went to the pay phone and called up our boys and told them to meet us at Tsoa’s.
Now Tsao’s wasn’t the name of the place so don’t go looking for it. Tsao’s was a chinese food spot on the edge of North Beach before it turned into Chinatown. They had lunch specials there that never ended, so you could get a plate of General Tsao’s Chicken, side of rice and bowl of soup of 3.95. No joke. The guy waited tables there – knew us. Michael his name was. Yes. On the odd days of the week he sweet and sour soup and on the even ones was egg drop. Never got the egg drop. We got a few beers from the liquor store across the street and waited for the rest of the crew to meet up.
Sitting on the steps that went up forever, just drinking beers and watching the people go by with cash in our pockets – it was really all we needed in the world. We could see the other side of North Beach from there. The sign for Big Al’s Sex shop stood in front of The Garden of Eden. The Lusty Lady was around the other corner. An arcade was somewhere in between. Thinking back on those streets now – how everything was so much a part of my eyesight for those years, I smile inside of my chest now when thinking about it. I guess this novel is just my thoughts about it.
That moment, I remember it well – was a feeling of being a champion. I don’t think adult life, with all of it’s expectations, can hold anything like that. No. It’s pure.
We finished our beers and met up with (to tell you the truth I forgot the names I was using – so yes, I should have some sort of cheat sheet at this part). We sat down at the gray marble like table with the lazy susan in the middle and ordered up 4 different lunch specials at 9 o’clock in the evening. Michael always hooked us up. We feasted without thoughts of money. Michael let us bring our beers in and we left him one for when he closed down. We talked about everything – whether the new Tribe Album was better than the last. Wether the Wu Tang album was going to change rap. We talked about what our wives were doing right then and there, wherever they were in the world, then tried as hard as we could to picture them.
After the grand feast, we paid up and left a nice tip. Standing in front on Columbus, looking for something else to get into. The lusty lady was one way, City Lights was another. I tried my hardest, but the lure of naked women and a pocket full of loot won the day for t he most part. Douglas was on the fence about it because he loved girls as much as any of us, and the alcohol in side of him was starting to sway his vision, but he didn’t like paying for that kind of stuff. He’s rather take his chances at a bar – but we were underage at that time for such things, and on the street, looking the way we did – we could for sure sell a bunch of comedy tickets, but there’s no way we’d be able to pull women in this part of town looking like this. I argued that City Lights would have the women we were looking for and the feeling I was looking for, but Mike, well, he put that out.
“You want to read poetry and I want to look at naked chicks,” he said, looking around for a response from the rest of them. “What the hell are we going to do in a bookstore?”
He grabbed a smoke and headed down towards the Lusty Lady. Franklin looked at me like he wanted to stay, but followed mike down the street. Douglas rubbed his belly and looked at his watching.
“I think that’s it for me man,” he yawned. “That was one for the ages though. We did it. Cleaned up and ate well.”
He put both hands on either strap of his backpack and headed out down the last slope of the incline of Columbus. Alone again. San Francisco made you feel like that despite the romance of it all. I need to be careful here not to get too much into the romance of the story of the city – if it’s even a story at all. I think it is. Parts of it at least.