Had one of my moments tonight, the kind that make me wonder if I'm nuts, but not as fierce, as high and thin, as some in the past. Could be PMS, could be restlessness. It's a good thing I no longer have a car, because if I did I'd be out in it driving around. Getting myself even more worked up. Out at Ocean Beach staring at the dark water and getting all existential. Instead I stayed in the Mission after Nomad's birthday dinner, trying to find a place to land, coffeeshops closed, wandering through bookstores, sitting with Hans the cat in my lap for a while at Abandoned Planet, admiring the boy behind the counter at Adobe, with his high hair. Feeling shy, which is...uncharacteristic. I bought an Iris Murdoch novel in honor of MonkeyScientist, and Nin's “Little Birds” in honor of me, and eavesdropped on a Russian fella who was apparently trying to hypnotize a boy I thought might be gay.
The Russian guy had hair like mine, including the length—actually longer, so more like AX's--and a humongous black shearling-looking hat with a silver brooch. A ring on each finger and a big red shirt and a rosary of amber beads. Five foods, he intoned, holding up one hand and staring hard into the other man's eyes. Five liquids. He interlaced his fingers. Three meals, he continued, here, here, and here, mental, physical, spiritual and now he was touching the yellow-shirted boy with the tips of his interlaced fingers, forehead, chest. Behind them, people were sitting around as though there had been a reading, or a party, and I'd missed it. The aisles at Adobe are so narrow and so packed with books you can barely walk one abreast, let alone two. Near the counter, a selection of spray bottles, a bowl of dry cat food, a bowl of wet, but no cat to be seen.
There were copies of Watchword 7 for sale at the counter. That's good, you should buy it, said High Hair. I thumbed through it. Saw a name I recognized on a prose poemy thing. Checked the bio, and yes, it was my old housemate, the gentle haiku writer with back pain so debilitating he was on disability. It was good to see that he was experimenting with a new form, and I started to feel a little more cheerful. But I couldn't stand around any more without looking like a dweeb, so I headed over to the 16th Street BART station.
Where, wonder of wonders, there was an open mic going on. Right there in the plaza, a space I usually move through as fast as possible so I don't get my feet peed on. Hipsters sitting around on the gum-plastered concrete drinking out of paper-bagged bottles, and a guy with a drum kit, and a white guy rapping backed by a stand-up bass and a violin. It was amazing. Here are some of the notes I took at the scene:
Guy stands up and does some spoken word about how much he loves the ocean, because landlocked places are hell. Some of the group know the piece and chant that line along with him. He's followed by a very leggy man who talks about going to Planned Parenthood for an STD check, and getting a swab up his urethra for a chlamydia screen—and then learning from a friend that you can pee in a cup for that now. So guys, he tells the group, if your girlfriend tells you to go get tested tomorrow, hand them a mason jar full of piss and say, 'why don't you drop that off when you go by there?'
A homeless-looking woman borrows a guitar from the handsome dark-haired guy who sang before her. She levers herself awkwardly to the ground, legs straight as a Barbie, and begins strumming simple, repetitive chords. Green plaid button-down over a black shirt with a line of pink hearts across the breasts. Lumpy face, lumpy brown hair, gym shoes. And then she cuts loose with this voice, this great voice, the voice Joplin would have had had she lived, but not quite as harsh, not as acidic. She sings It takes a whole lot of medicine to pretend I'm someone and the crowd falls silent. She's amazing. When she's done, two men help her up and she limps off into the dark. Everything seems a little shallow after her. Good, but shallow.
A man begins some stand-up about his lesbian ex-wife. Bitter, but funny in places. He says he hates going back to dating because I have to go back to faking an interest in astrology, which gets a good response. He says he likes watching “Blue's Clues” with his two daughters because he always guesses the clues first. Also mentions later that he likes to give them a little coffee and sugar just before he returns them to their mom. My problem is that I'm attracted to tough women with tattoos who like to spit, wrestle, and roll their own tampons. Then he goes off on how if he were a woman, he'd be a lesbian, because men are ugly. Very funny bit about testicles--wrinkly reptilian sacs with hair dangling off them. If that's not ugly, he rants, ugly has no meaning.
And a big burly inked guy named Jake, who borrowed his girlfriend's sketchbook and my purloined Nordstrom's pencil to whip out a poem, reads it aloud to the group while it's still hot from the oven. A black guy with crutches and dreds and a bottle of gin swings into the center while the bassist and a guitarist are singing about roommates and pot, and starts improvising right along—mostly I'm black and I'm proud, over and over, but still, he's on beat. The girl sitting next to me, who wears a fake tiara in honor of her birthday, gets up to sing something bluesy and good, swaying a bit drunkenly. Then the group breaks up and heads to Zeitgeist.
Me, I headed home. Got the last train, too.