More Character Dives

In so many ways those early years in San Francisco were so easy. What was important and what was on the line were very different than now. All of this reflection on those times makes these times, this time, seem so far away. There is only peace in the words now. The thumping of the chest late at night trying to fall asleep with the man upstairs yelling through the small passage way in the building is still somewhere in my mind. There is always a haunting. Everything is a ghost story because death, in some way, in every way, is always waiting. There is a stamp of mortality on all of us.

Now slowly, as I remove the “I” from everything and sculpt the actual book, I am looking for peace in the distance that fiction puts between me and reality. It is a tough road no doubt. How can you capture the fog – the dampness of the city. How can you talk about the sun breaking through when you’re already layered in clothes? How can you speak about the pockets of Golden Gate park that refuse to let people go who refuse to let go? The faint sounds of drums. How can you capture the music. The yellow sony walkmen that always lost their batteries too quickly – how you had to hold the bottom end of the earphones to keep the music going in both side. How riding the J Church above ground gave you a feeling of connection to the concrete of the city and how the buildings bent and bowed if you walked by them slowly enough.

But it was a slow crawl through the city and that was reality – so the change is going to have to come through the fiction of everything. Through the speed. I guess we need to have an accident for the messenger. Not a car accident though. I took away the lightning strike in the last book and now have to think of something new. It would nice if some raw materials fell on him. Or perhaps it would be something heroic. Something noble that he did to save someone.

It’s not moving out today. I guess it’s time to revert to the structure of the book to find some base. A base. The construction company. There are just fragments here. Let’s see if we can stitch them together.

Ben Davis Shirts. Taco Hats. Wallet chains. Wu Tang Clan. Del the Funky Homosapien. Cheap rent. Nights that blended into countless mornings when the streets were not yet filled. I don’t think the streets were ever filled in San Francisco. Perhaps that’s what these attempts are for. A real voice. Who knows. The dark times once again. Some people would sneak into the tunnels at night, but we weren’t like that. Their worse air brushed white horses left around the city on walls. What was the through point to it all? Where was everyone trying to go? Perhaps we were all running away from our identities but were pulled back in by calls from home. That would be the connection I guess. The universal theme that no matter how much you tried to reinvent yourself, there was always a phone call that took you back. I’m going to stay away from phone calls for now.

How about a guy who worked in a photo developing store? Yes. That is going work well as a theme I believe. Here was this kid – we’ll make him a skater for now and then blow it out a little more. He was from Venice Beach, CA. Got into some mess with Suicidal, a gang that existed in full force in the late 80s but hitched his way up the coast to reverse Kerouac himself into San Francisco. He was an amazing skater and a very resourceful guy. He wasn’t straight up by any means, but he wasn’t a hard core criminal either. Both things helped him out. He could pick any lock, life any kind of food from the market, and skate or run away from any copy who tried to bust him for tagging. He used a shoelace instead of a chain on his wallet and had eyes that melted most of the girls who looked into them.

He was smart and read books like a mad man – spoke many languages and read books in their original tongue, but never was much for school because it took him awhile to get going and had his own way of doing everything. Whenever he bought a tape, he’d always take the cover out of the plastic and use a sharpie to create his own. His passion, though he never identified himself with it, was his photography. Really it was amazing the way he could capture something. He dated several girls who were taking college photography classes just so he could use the darkroom. I think had he tried, he might have easily became a photojournalist for a number of magazines and gone out there to capture the world, but he was patient and was not interested in such things.

He took a job at a local shop in the Castro and spent hours after closing time developing pictures of people’s vacations, sexual escapades and every day happenings. Usually there was a combination of all on each of the rolls. Soon the shop was bursting with people who appreciated the quality of the development of their memories. There was a connection.

Magazines would come talking about the newest innovations in photography and he would just devour each word. Fame, recognition or prominence in the world meant nothing to him. It was all about his craft and the mastery of it. Perhaps it was the uniqueness of being able to do something magic that everyone wanted but was unable to do. The magic in producing something.

The store owners loved him. Brought him over to their houses and cooked him whatever he liked. He was given the compensation of family. The memories of his Los Angeles troubles started to melt. Until the magazine came announcing something called a digital camera. The headline read:

“The end of Film?”

The story can unravel however you like from here. People no longer needed to develop film with the new devices. The price of actual film rose because of the decrease in customers. The owners had to raise the cost of development. About 30 percent of their customers stopped coming in, and while those loyal to the work done by this young man still came through the shop, it wasn’t enough to keep it all going.

Within a year, he was skating the streets of the city looking for work with a speciality that nobody wanted anymore.

God damn that as tough to come by, but it works well. That should be enough characters to come by, though I would still like to add one more woman to the mix.

We’ll see. Turned out well.


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