Thursday, November 24, 2016

Weird In & Weird Out, Still

I arrived in Tennessee two days ago. I tried to produce posts to float in a rapid flow of publications, however after my first post from Hallow's Eve's Eve, I found limited energy to use the plentiful resources available on the streets of San Francisco, and  kept my writing from transcending paper to the screen. Even what I was able to put on paper came in small blips and lacked a sense of completion. Nonetheless, I will pull the words off the pages and put them here, now:

Within twelve hours of publishing my first post on this blog, I traded my laptop for an ounce and a half of chronic pot and sixty federal reserve notes. Looks like I'm back to pen and paper for a little while, but now I've got coffee and cigarette money in my pocket.

 As for now, I'm back at it again, wandering the streets through the latest hours of the city night. The downtown atmosphere is tame tonight, and strolling along the sidewalks is giving me the opportunity to see all the little alcoves alleyways, empty and innocent in appearance, but my mind's eye is resonating with reminiscence as I recall all the strange and bewildering experiences I've had in these places on nights where the same streets are... not so... "tame."
 One day I was walking past one of these places on the street, and a woman threw her arms in the air, and craned her neck to the sky, jaw wide, twitching, until suddenly she reached down to her waist, grabbed her pants by the waistband, dropped them to the ground, and stuck out her bum towards a shiny Beamer parallel parked on the street side. Her cheeks parted as she sent some awful amount of wretched projectile spray all over the car. Some people stood in shocked awe. Some people pulled their phones out. Some, like myself, kept walking but couldn't quite look away. Some seemed to be able to filter the whole incident out from their peripheral vision, impervious even to the smell, and they carried about whatever they were doing with no reflection of the intense weirdness around them.
[72 hours later]
Now I'm sitting in the plaza in front of the embarcadero. Skaters are trying to grind their boards where I'm sitting. There's empty beer cans around, and an old man is collecting them to trade them for cash tomorrow. Another man is yelling at nothing, about everything. Old David Bowie records are playing into my ears through earbuds. I'm going to relocate before someone sneaks up behind me and breaks a bottle over my head, because that's the kind of vibes I'm getting from this place right now. Maybe that's all distorted reasoning and false fear, but I'm going to grab a cup of the cheapest coffee I can find.
A man out there in the people soup of the daytime invited me to his house for coffee and conversation. I went to his house. He offered to rent a cot in his basement to me for 400 dollars per month, and then he made it clear he wanted to suck me off. I decided then it was time to leave. I stood up and his little dog bit on my pants leg. I decided to head down the stairs, but then I remembered there was a gate outside of the door which required a key to open from the inside as well as the out. I was amused at the shades of peril I saw in my imagine. I looked at the man, wondering which way this situation was about to go, and I noticed a stack of porno mags on the floor. He was a gentleman and followed me downstairs to the basement, and unlocked the gate so I may leave. He reminded me of John Waters.
I left that guys house and went to Radioshack, then over to Chinatown, then down to the Mission District. I had already researched everywhere to buy the cheapest parts to build a seemingly useful device I had conjured up-- a USB charger, powered by D batteries. It took me an hour to collect the parts, and another hour to actually build the device. It was a prototype, and it worked well. I traded it for a quarter of ounce an ounce of bud a couple of days later.
 [48 hours later]
I stayed awake all night that night before Halloween. It was a Sunday, and not that much was going on along Market Street, however my favorite late night conversation buddies were in their usual spots. We talked about good times, weird times, hard times, the balance between them all and the beauty of life. Zombies were out, ambling around, twitching, grunting, nearly contemplating unknown absurdities, spun out on the hardest drugs in the world.
 At some point, I smoked a couple joints while watching a man quite literally realize a group of trashcans. One by one he emptied each can of its contents onto the sidewalk and inspected each item, organic and inorganic alike, with the utmost level of respective curiosity before tossing it into a new pile he was making in the street. Once the cans were empty and everything was in the street (including five or six trashcans), the man put it all back together in an unpredictable art form: a strange balancing tower of trashcans stacked in an odd, angular way I had trouble fathoming as physically possible. All the while he yelled unique catchphrases into the night like THE SPACE ALIENS LOVE MADONNA BUT CAN'T UNDERSTAND WHAT TIME THE BUS COMES! and F*ck the queen's vagina! I pre-rolled several joints for later and decided to move on.
I walked along the streets, turning here and there randomly, through Market, SoMa, through the tenderloin, back over past Golden Gate and to Mason for more coffee, all the while carrying everything I conceivably owned at that moment on my back. I gave joints to any lone people of the night who were communicable or any groups who seemed inviting without having too much of that "rapey/stabby" vibe.
I kept this up until the BART opened its gates back up for the new day, at which point I hopped the gate and boarded the longest route I could find and napped along the rails through the Transbay Tube out of and then back into San Francisco. By the time I we arrived back in the city, I had was given a second wind and snuck onto the subway train. I raced the sunrise to Haight Street, and I won.
Apparently I wasn't the only one who stayed up all night. I found a gaggleo f hippies coming down from some ol' Owsley, trolling the street, looking to score some cheap bud  before going to whatever secret crashout spot they had in mind. Beyond encountering them, while crossing a side street, I heard a rumble and a bump from a long dumpster by a renovation site. I saw a head pop up and back down from within. I went over there to see if I could lend a hand in extracting any sweet bounty, and lend a hand I did. A few minutes later we each had a couple of dusty, old street bicycles. Mine was a dark red with yellow racing stripes. It had flat tires. I pushed it along down the street. I found some familiar faces gathering for morning coffee and I joined them for a cup. Before long, I found a bicycle pump to use, and after making a few adjustments here and there, I was comfortably climbing and bombing hills, cruising around wide sidewalks, and mingling with the transient hustle and bustle that is traffic around the city on my new bicycle.
[48 hours later] 
As I said earlier, I later traded my laptop for sixty Federal Reserve Notes and an ounce and a half of nugs. I traded a bunch of those nugs for more Federal Reserve Notes to yuppies, out on the streets at a fair but hefty price for the other party with a great gain for myself. I traded some of those Federal Reserve Notes for a greater deal of nugs than I started with in a reasonably fantastic deal with a familial hippie. I drank shitloads of coffee. I kept my nicotine habit well fixated with high quality tobacco. I ate well. I stayed stoned. I still slept in a bush in the park. At some point I traded some nugs and thirty bucks for one of those hand-held computer phones. I traded that phone for a hand-held didgeridoo, curved in the shape of an "S." I bought a portable 10 watt amplifier with a microphone from a friend who needed money. Suddenly I was peddling a bicycle slowly down the sidewalks of the Financial District in the middle of the day, holding a microphone and a digeridoo with one hand, steering the bicycle with the other, amplifier hanging by a strap around my neck. My smoker's lungs were well exercised as a strange sound came loud through the speaker, with added digital effects from the amplifier, echoing between skyscrapers. People turned their heads completely from curiosity and couldn't help but smile. 
It was 408 hours before I resumed writing this morning, and what an odd 408 hours it has been. The time passed by fast, and not necessarily with ease, however looking through hindsight over the period is like looking back through a five year period. When I actually think about everything I've jam-packed into the last five years, however, I am almost overwhelmed, over taken by a voluminous wave in what I thought was a placid temporal lake. Wait... what?

I walked around with that amplifier for a week or two, playing music, hollering at tourist buses, joining or heckling protesters of various causes, playing fresh beats for people to rap over with the microphone, and even starting amplified, open conversations. When the time and place felt right, I turned up the volume and launched a guerilla talk show right on the streets, where all could come and join the conversation and find an audience of the willing and unwilling alike. Sometimes this drew quite a crowd as political tensions were high and strong opinions were resonating within nearly every body who placed a foot, with or without shoes, onto the sidewalks.

This tension grew until election day. Everybody in San Francisco was shocked and and communal upset began to swell as news came through the television all day: Trump was winning the election. Then, after a day of representatives taking to the streets and airwaves to sway any last minute voters into going to the polls and lending their support for all good promises, the evening came. What a beautiful sunset it was, too.

I stood by a bar near the corner of Haight & Ashbury, conversing with a shirtless man who advertised "25¢ Jokes" via thick painted letters on his bulbous stomach. We watched the television through the bar window, and he used my amplifier to let everyone within 100 yards know he would also tell them five premium jokes for only a dollar. I was frustrated I wasn't able to record or broadcast any audio from the amplifier without the speaker muting itself. It was something I contemplated to resolve for more time than I should have, until it ultimately drove me to trade the heavy amplifier from around my neck for a bunch of pot and THC concentrate from a street musician who will put the amplifier to good use. One day I will figure out a resourceful way to produce or broadcast great media, on location. Until that time comes...

The news gave us word of who will reign from the White House, crafting the next eight years worth of American Statism to be as it shall be. It wasn't official yet, but Trump was going to win. I walked up and down the street. I saw some folks I smoke with some being chased around in tight circles by police on a sidestreet. One of the cops had a shotgun and was pointing it around, but didn't seem to know why. He looked at me. There was a little bit of fear in his eye. He had no idea what was going on. I smiled at him and lit a cigarette. One of the other cops dropped on the ground but took one of the guys he was chasing with him, in an effort to roll him over and subdue her. His girlfriend stood near him and yet another cop stood there trying to figure out what was happening. I asked the cop with the shotgun if the shit was hitting the fan as a result of Trump's victory. He said he didn't think so, my friend was just drunk and having fun again. I bid the cop an interesting warm evening and he the same to me, and I continued walking, occasionally approached by someone who was wanting to trade Federal Reserve Notes for pot. I got a cup of coffee at the end of the street and asked a random girl if she wanted to smoke some pot. She gave me some LSD, and then Trump's win was official, and an uncertain fear really began to sink in around the country.

When I walked back past the cops, they and my friends were smiling and shaking hands and talking about hoping for a calm night the rest of the night. Every bar I passed had a crowd of smokers talking about the election. Everyone was a Hillary Clinton supporter. I saw a few people in a few places make a comment that could be stretched into a defense for Trump, and each person who made such a comment faced three or four people bowing their chest and angrily asking if that person voted for Trump.

Eventually, I made it to the park. I wasn't the only one who had ingested lysergic acid diethylamide around the time I did. Several of us seemed to gravitate toward that place at that time. One of us had the brilliant idea of hopping a bus to the Castro, San Francisco's famous "gentrified gay neighborhood," to see how they were taking the news. It wasn't long before ten of us, including three dogs, were hopping from the shadows near a bus stop through the Muni's back doors in a hustle to board and settle down in seats before the acid had us giggling enough to raise the bus driver's attention to kick our stow-away asses back into the street.

We got to the Castro and walked around in a group. A lot of "normal people" were apparently getting high on meth that night because reality was just a bit too much for them. It was easy to recognize them apart from the rest of the street crowd, for the most part. People on that drug need to be given a special attention in the name of safety.

At one point we came to a candlelight vigil occupying every sidewalk corner of a historic street intersection. The chant called "Out of the bars and into the streets! Out of the bars and into the streets!" Every so often you'd here a voice of random caliber yell "F*ck Donald Trump!"

I found a couple of cops leaning against their car and a light pole, and asked them if there were any extreme incidents yet. They said there hadn't been any there in the Castro, but they heard riots had possibly begun to form across the bay in Oakland. I said something that may or may not have been insightful, and it inspired a lengthy response from one of the officers nonetheless. As he spoke I nonchalantly turned on my amplifier and slowly moved the microphone into position to catch his voice. He continued on like he didn't notice and I turned up the volume. I can't remember what he said, which reinforces my intention to create a device from which I can amplify and record sound simultaneously. The chants of the crowd degraded to hush so they could listen to what he said. By the time he was done talking, I had become distracted by pretty woman and her boyfriend who were crashed out on a blanket near the corner, strung out on heroin and playing guitar and singing songs. Instead of continuing on with the police, I brought my microphone to the couple and amped them up for a little while. The folk music they played was good for the crowd. After a couple of songs, the group I had come with and I all seemed to feel the city's tide pulling us further down the street, and I turned down the volume and we moved on. 

We saw a bunch of strange things and ended up in a bunch of strange situations, and they all eventually led us to hopping a couple of other buses and finding our way back to Haight-Ashbury and back to the park. There were a lot of sped up weirdos in the park between the Castro and the Haight that night.  We started out by the bottom of the hill. One guy came from the shadows and started invading the personal space of the females in our group. We asked and then told him to go away from that area, but he insisted he had the freedom do anything he wanted. He ended up with a certain black eye, rolling down the hill back toward the street. As soon as we were sitting back down from that incident, another man came from the shadows, creeping closer, but remaining visible only as a silhouette. "Are you guys cool?" he kept asking us, whether or not we told him we were. "I need some help, but I just need to hang out for a minute." We tried to get him to tell us about what was going on with him, but he dodged the topic any way possible. Eventually he said "I've got a lot of blood on me." It was then we really became curious. "Yeah, please sit down and hang out," we told him. "Yeah, just let me take a piss first."

As he stepped toward a tree to take a leak, the moon exposed his face to our sight for a moment, and to all of us tripping hippies it looked like half of his face had been burnt off his body, like the villian Two-Face from the Batman Comics. Someone in our group was conscience enough to find the man a damp cloth so he could clean his face. He had only a couple of cuts, but still was in need of stitches. Someone offered to stitch him up with dental floss, but he said he'd find his way to a doctor's office sometime or another. Still curious to find out what happened, we asked questions and he told us about himself. He was a middle school teacher who liked to smoke meth sometimes, and f*ck Donald Trump. By the time he started telling us about what he had been up to that evening to end up with a cut face, a few cop cars pulled up to the bottom of the park with lights already flashing. The man who had recently taken a roll down the hill came out to the street from somewhere unknown. They ordered him to kneel on the ground, and then they all had a pow-wow for a little bit. In the refuge of the trees up the hill, we told the man with the cut face he better beat it and go do his thing somewhere else because the cops were probably going to come snooping around soon. He kicked rocks, and sure enough, cops started climbing the hill with flash lights.

We all scattered deeper into the park in small groups, all in different directions. My night's journey came to a rest way up the hill, under a bunch of trees, in the most natural sliver of woods within the city, with a panoramic view overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge all the way downtown, all those skyscrapers standing in all their glory, all those noises rumbling together from below, city hall's dome lit up red white and blue, and everything in between, all at once. It was a group of three of us, talking about Star Wars and staying awake until just before the sunrise, when we were finally able to drift to sleep. It can be dangerous to sleep in that park without being in a group, unless you have a particularly discreet spot, as this park is one of those particularly "stabby / rapey" parks. We were not in a discreet spot. We unrolled all of our bedrolls right out there in the open and held our ground from any strange approaching tweakers until we had all drifted asleep, and we weren't disturbed until Park Patrol came by and we knew the Rangers would soon be along, too. "You guys can't just crash out right here like it's your bedroom," said one of the members of Park Patrol. "We can sleep where ever the hell we want to, dammit. We don't need nazis roaming around what little bit of woods this city has." Park Patrol gave us the finger and kept driving their golf cart along the foot path. "A Park Ranger will be by in a few minutes, though. We probably should pack our stuff up unless we want to wait around while he writes citations for us." The other two of us already had our bedrolls rolled up and were fixing them to our pack, almost ready to move on and start the new day and experience the bellowing anyone may have in light of America's new President-Elect. A park ranger did come along, while we finished packing up, and he was a nice fellow who answered our curious questions about the San Francisco Park Ranger Service's historic connection to the National Park Ranger Service. The National Park Service, a product of the work of John Muir, is actually predated by the San Francisco Park Ranger Service. History is fascinating when the right person explains it.

At the bottom of the hill, down by the steps to the street, we stopped to smoke some bowls and ask for sips of coffee from those who had hot cups. I ended up sitting next to an old man who was drinking himself to the bottoms of can after can of malt liquor. He turned out to be the drummer of a famous punk band from the nineties. I kept the bowl packed for awhile and we got stoned while we had a good morning. He had some great stories he wanted to share. Eventually I wandered off to get coffee and the rest of everything went downhill from there.

At some point I was walking around, and ran into a couple of folks who somehow heard I would record an interview with them. I could only imagine where they heard that, and obliged. Although I wasn't able to amplify the open ensuing dialogue, we still had others join the discussion as they were passing by the on street. You can listen to that conversation in the video below:

Being in the city eventually wore me down. One month of constant sensory over-stimulation is all I could take while I carried everything I had around with me and spent my nights sleeping outside. I gave my bike away to someone who seemed like they could put it to better use than I, and I gave away or traded a bunch of other stuff I didn't directly need in the immediate future. It felt good to purge these things. I saw a cold, rainy weekend in the forecast. I decided it was time to leave. I got a bus ticket to Tennessee for reasons I'll get into later. I bought some clean pants and a friend gave me a clean, bright green shirt with the words "Marijuana is Safer than Alcohol" printed on the front. It was an appropriate shirt for my journey, considering I was planning on carrying a fair amount of pot and things across several states, including Texas, surely to run into people with badges and pot-sniffing dogs. 

It was nearly a four day trip. There were a couple of hitches in the giddy-up, but overall it went quite well. Let freedom ring.

Now, it's "Thanksgiving" in America, a national holiday established by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. Many Americans are claiming to boycott Thanksgiving celebrations this year, out of respect for what's gone on in Standing Rock regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline. While it is a noble act of solidarity, this Thanksgiving boycott is still negated by the locked doors of civil offices, banks and the like. I wonder what this Thanksgiving Day was like at Standing Rock. Perhaps I should have been there. If the predicament persists, perhaps I'll be able to make it there in the future, at the right time. 

There's much more that could, and probably will be said about my time in San Francisco, or my time proceeding my arrival to San Francisco, or what the future may lead to, but for now, I'm tired, and I'm going to go relish laying on a mattress. The mattress is one of several things I left behind for later the last time I was here. Another thing is a motorcycle. It is almost time to pull that out of storage, as well.

and what the f*ck is #PizzaGate?

Que sera sera, 
ces't la vie

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