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In a minute

22 Jun

In a minute

The other night, I was waiting for the cable car at Powell. About 15 tourists were ahead of me in line. The wait wasn’t bad, mostly because a man sang Otis Redding songs for change while we waited. The woman in front of me was watching a squirming toddler; she might have been a neighbor or nanny, but she definitely wasn’t the boy’s mother. (OK, maybe she could have been, but very few sixty-something Asian women are adopting Nordic-looking babies these days.)

The rascal was whipping around in joyful little circles, darting in and out of line. If I’d pulled that sort of rowdy behavior at his age, Betty would have doled out a warning, and I would have stopped. This is not what happened. The woman seemed only vaguely engaged in watching him, and when she asked the boy to stop, he ignored her. See, this is why you don’t plead with toddlers to do something; they need to understand that there’s a right way to behave, and part of that involves being a loving dictatorial type when it comes to teaching social norms. It rankles me when I hear adults defer to someone who’s yet to master the art of using a toilet. I’m all for respecting children as individuals, but there’s a reason toddlers need caretakers, you know? (more…)

Excuses galore

16 Jun

Excuses galore

After dinner in Florence, I decided it would be safest to walk home along the river. (Safe route-imagining is one of those things that male travelers might not think about as much as female travelers do, I imagine.) The night was almost warm, and it was around 11pm. I’d had just enough vino bianco (one glass) to feel like Florensh was jush greaaaaat, but not enough to stop me from eyeing every street before turning on to it.

Halfway between Ponte Amerigo Vespucci and Ponte I Never Remembered Its Name, I saw a man about 20 feet in front of me. Here is where I always feel a little bit bad when dealing with strange men on the street. My first thought is defense: What might he want, and if I need to run/kick/hit, where will I go and how will I get scrappy? It always seems unfair, because streets are filled with many non-creepy men. But I have to look at them as possible creeps. Initially, at least. But let us return to our friend. (more…)

Morning Doonan night

5 May

Morning Doonan night

Whenever you see a dapper man on the train, there’s a 50/50 chance that he works at Barneys. San Francisco lads generally dress casually, so when I saw two stylish men board the train at Powell, I assumed they got the Barneys employee discount.

I kept my eye on the one in the suit, mostly because he was standing in front of me and his belt was eye level. (Awkward.) The suit wasn’t by Hedi Slimane*, but it was clearly influenced by him: slim trousers and a matching jacket done up in a subtle gray-on-gray pattern, with a crisp white button-front shirt and a black bow tie. Mr. Suit had rowdy freckles swirled around his face, and a studied scruffy beard. He and his colleague were talking about work, and it took only a minute or two for my employment assumption to be proven correct. (The colleague had been written up for some sort of retailing faux pas.)

Mr. Suit was talking about his style icons, and he was playing it cool at first. Then he started gushing about Sean Young, and it was all over. “I mean, she’s the ultimate nerdy gay boy fantasy,” he said gleefully before rushing into a detailed filmography replete with trivia. His friend smiled politely, but one suspected that he had never seen Dune, much less the sci-fi dork rambling on about cyborg this and Blade Runner that. He couldn’t have been more enthusiastically geeky. For a moment, I glimpsed the little boy hiding inside a $1500 suit, and he made me happy.

*(Did you know that The Jam is one of Hedi Slimane’s favorite bands? It’s true.)

Choose your own adventure

12 Apr

Choose your own adventure

I went to the café tonight. Across the room, a man sat alone with a pot of tea and a glass of water. He had no book, no phone, no newspaper, and a direct view of the door. He sat quietly and patiently and looked toward the entrance with a steady look in his eyes. It was ten to 9; he must be waiting for someone, I thought.

Nine came and went. He remained alone, quiet, looking — not watching, looking. Every so often I’d glance up and he was still doing the same thing, as though waiting for something without knowing what it was. He didn’t look miserable, but his face was slightly melancholy.

So now is the part where you get to guess what happened next! (more…)

From beneath you it devours

5 Apr

From beneath you it devours

Tonight, down in the bowels of Powell Street station, a very skinny woman with wild hair and wilder eyes was talking with a man. Talking at him, more accurately, because he had that polite but uncomfortable “mm-hmm” face. The thought bubble above his head read “Please, god, get me out of here.”

She wanted money and, as you might guess, he did not want to give any to her. “Give me a dollar and I’ll go away,” she bellowed. She had a voice like a dying bullhorn. He tried to reason with her. “Gimme a dollar!” she continued. His train arrived and he darted away.

The woman slowly spun around on her bird-legs, her glazed eyes scanning the crowd of people. The trains were running late (thanks, MUNI) so the platform was more crowded than usual. As she made her way toward the bench where I was sitting, I stood up real casual-like and quietly walked about 10 feet away. It felt like backing off from a puma while wearing a coat made of filet mignon.

The woman accosted two more people before coming my way. She almost didn’t; she walked past me, then turned back to begin her pitch. She stood maybe 18 inches away from me, a little closer than I like most people to be. Up close, her face was even sadder. It was gaunt, deeply wrinkled, and pained. There was an inch-wide gap where four of her bottom teeth should have been. Even covered with a layer of glassiness, the bright blue of her eyes hinted at past beauty.

Here we go, I thought. (more…)