I Need To Get Out More

It was sometime between 9 and 9:30 yesterday evening. I had just left Edinburgh Castle after hanging out with a friend and downing the two pints of beer I can have before I consider it a night of drinking. Moderation in beer consumption also made it so I didn’t have to pee every five minutes. I still had a ways to get home and was at the mercy of the Muni bus system.

The walk up Geary to Van Ness was pleasant and nostalgic. I’ve always liked this part of the city where the Tenderloin and Tendernob meet. I never lived in this neighborhood, but it has always been a pleasure to visit.

In some ways, I feel this is the true heart of San Francisco. It has just the right amount of grittiness to it. It’s not as off-puttingly moneyed as Nob Hill and you’re not faced with the kind of urban horror found deeper in the Tenderloin. People here might twitch and lurch, though seldom in a menacing manner. Even shooting up is done more respectably. Here the needle goes in one’s arm within the confines of an SRO hotel room rather than being jabbed into the dick vein while leaning against a dumpster.

Many of my own evenings of debauchery unfolded on these streets. After purchasing my party favors down in the Mission, I’d make my way up here by either bus or taxi and step out of the vehicle gushing coke snot and self-importance. Then I’d pay the cover to get into Divas, knock back one Jameson’s after another, and enjoy a celebration of gender free from the constraints of chromosome pairing.

Those were glory days indeed, but amittedly hard on the system. So I was more than happy to have my night out be one of near sobriety. Besides, my alarm goes off at 5:30 am. Also, I’m old.

So with my two-beer microbuzz, I walked the three blocks to the bus stop on Van Ness. I had to wait maybe 10 minutes before the 49 bus arrived. The wait could have been a lot  worse and frequently was, especially at night.

The 49 Mission is not much like the tech bus I take to and from San Jose. There is more urine and less Wi-Fi. It can also get a lot more crowded though it was not too bad last night. I managed to get a seat way in the back with some solitude except for a homeless guy eating unrecognizable foodstuffs out of a paper cup.

Eventually he got off, but a lot more people boarded and I found myself with someone sitting next to me. She maintained at least basic hygiene and there was no corpulent spillover into my personal space so I didn’t much mind her sitting there. I wouldn’t say I was smitten with her or anything, not like the guy who got on the bus shortly after she did and sat right in front of us in a row of seats perpendicular to ours.

He said hello to her and she either said something or she didn’t before she turned away. Unable to secure eye contact, he stared between her legs for a good, long time. Eventually, the visual bored him so he pulled out a smartphone with an absurdly large screen and watched a video of two women in their underwear thrusting and grinding on a dance floor underneath a  disco ball. It looked like they were having a good time.

The bus pulled up to the 24th Street stop and I said excuse me to the woman so I could get up. She stood up as well and found a seat some distance away from the gentleman in front of us.

I walked home in the cool night air. It felt good to have a night on the town, even a rather subdued one.

*click*

I sometimes think about taking up smoking again. That would be a monumentally stupid move of course, especially since I’ve had a friend drop dead from lung cancer not too long ago. Actually, you don’t really drop dead from that. It’s not like a heart attack. With cancer, you drop first and dead comes when it’s good and ready.

My dead friend smoked like a chimney and drank like a fish, as did I. During our college days, we spent many happy hours embodying these shopworn similes in that bubble existence of frat-boy life. We eventually graduated and stumbled wheezing into our respective futures.

My friend continued boozing whole hog before swearing it off for good around 1999. My own boozing has been half to most hog and continues to this day (though I’ve been more of a light drinker lately). As for smoking, I think he kept at it up to his cancer diagnosis and possibly beyond that because when it’s terminal, fuck it.

I myself quit smoking in 2008 after puffing away off and on for 17 years of my life. Perhaps I quit in time. We shall see.

Fortunately,  whatever death wish I have fails to stand up against smoking’s biggest drawbacks. I’m not talking about the snowballing social stigma associated with the habit. I kind of like feeling alienated. The expense is a major issue, especially now that cigs cost around ten bucks a pack. I also don’t like how addicted I get to them. I envy the hell out of people who only smoke when the mood strikes them. Having a cigarette because you want one is rather nice. Lighting up because you need it is not nearly as much fun. The morning ritual of coughing up lung cookies also leaves a lot to be desired.

Hands down, the biggest pain in the ass when it comes to smoking is quitting. I’ve quit a few times in my life and the experience has gotten progressively worse. The last time was just shy of ten years ago. I took a few days off work so I could quit cold turkey. I avoided most human contact and lay on the couch eating cheap Chinese takeout and cursing the day I was born. I was successful in the end, but it’s not the kind of thing I care to repeat.

So my death wish has its limitations, but it is still there to some degree. Or maybe it isn’t a death wish at all, but more of a need to push my luck and see what happens. A comfortable life can get a little boring and it’s only natural to start taking it for granted. Also, there’s no better way to feel immortal than to knowingly engage in behavior that can shorten your life. This is true whether we’re talking about smoking, booze, drugs, or fucking. It’s not a rational approach, but that’s part of the fun.

I’ve often bragged to Rebecca about the stupid behavior I’ve engaged in over the years. She asked me how I’m still alive even though she knew the answer already. It’s dumb luck of course and nothing more. God does not smile upon me because there is no God and the law of averages simply hasn’t caught up with me yet.

Part of me has learned my lesson. My current brand of stupid is decidedly more subdued than it was in my glory days. Still, the thought of living out my days behaving myself is a dreary prospect.

Smoking is out, but I think I’ll lose my shit if I don’t partake in some kind of risky behavior. It also needs to be something I can lose myself in. I’ve never done heroin and likely never will, but I really am a junkie at heart so I’m always on the lookout for some means of escape.

It can’t be entirely free of risk or at least it needs to feel like it isn’t. Let’s make this interesting, as gamblers often say. It’s funny because I’ve never enjoyed gambling. The rush is not worth the money lost, not compared to what you get when you spend the same amount on an eight ball. Not that I want to do that either. Cocaine failed me and can no longer be trusted.

So what’s left? Russian roulette would be about as big a thrill as I could ever imagine. Just to hear the click of the hammer over an empty chamber just once. That’ll never happen though. I’m too chicken. Also, I might find that I enjoy the rush too much to stop. That’s a dangerous habit to take up. Worse than smoking, I’m told.

Depth out of Scope

Once upon a time, there was a man who took a shit down his grandmother’s throat. Because he had earlier gorged himself not only with raisin bran but also cheese, the bowel movement he delivered was both voluminous and solid.

The grandmother was not on board with this. If she had been able, she might have reacted with some mild, grandmotherly admonishment like “Oh for heaven’s sake” or “In my day…” Alas, the girth and gravity of the bowel movement blocking her windpipe rendered her incapable of anything beyond making seal-like noises as she convulsed on the floor. Even the convulsing didn’t do her much good since he was standing on both her forearms while he squatted down over her.

Eventually, she died as elderly women with a trachea full of feces are wont to do.  For the grandson, it would have been a perfect crime if he had bothered to close the blinds prior to committing the murder. As a result, everything start to finish was observed by the nextdoor neighbor. After it was all over, this neighbor pulled her hand from her pants, tasted herself, and called the police.

The cops arrived promptly because the people who lived in this neighborhood were not poor. When the two black and whites pulled up out front, the grandson walked out the door to face the music.

Because he was not a person of color, the grandson planned ahead and brought a toy gun to wave in front of the police officers. He had also planned to shout “Allahu akbar!” but that turned out to be unnecessary. The cops unloaded their guns into him and he was dead before he hit ground.

Upon writing this, I turned my attention away from my phone and stared out the bus window at the Peninsula bedroom communities passing me by. Suburbanites are stupid, I told myself. I had neither logic nor data to back up this claim, but I had said it often enough that no further justification was needed.

“Is that it?” said a voice next to me. I could have sworn I was sitting alone this time. When someone does sit next to me, I’m usually disliking their proximity enough for them to never be completely out of my thoughts.

When I turned and looked, it wasn’t a real person at all. It was the grandson from my little story. He was semi-transparent and gave off a bluish glow that made the blood from his bullet wounds appear magenta. I found him even more irritating than someone who was flesh and blood because they at least refrain from talking to me during the ride.

“I thought I killed you,” I said.

“If you bothered to pay attention,” he said. “You’d realize that I actually killed myself. Classic suicide by cop. Now why do you suppose I did that?”

“You tell me.”

“That’s the thing. I can’t. I have no idea why I wanted the cops to shoot me. That goes double for killing my grandmother. I had nothing against her. Then again, I might have, but you never supplied that detail. In fact, you never supplied any details that might some light on my motivation for doing what I did.”

“Not my problem,” I said. “You come here with your low-rent Pirandello shit and expect me to put in the work on rewrites until the piece is polished enough to bring you closure. That isn’t going to happen. You see, this is a blog and as such, it’s ephemeral as fuck. I write something. I post it. I forget about it. It’s what I do.”

“Then why do you even bother?” he said.

Good question, I thought. There were a lot of ideas that existed only existed either as hastily scribbled outlines in notebooks or solely inside my head. These ideas were worth the bother. They deserved better than the slapdash kind of writing that goes into blogging and so they never make any progress toward coming to fruition.

They did serve one purpose though. Just thinking of them managed to distract me from the vile grandson and his existential mewlings. After a few moments had passed, I looked back and he was gone, just a creature of the moment that had faded into the blur of others like him.

Chill Time

I took a few days off from work. There was Rebecca’s birthday on Thursday, the following Friday and Monday, and of course the Fourth of July was Tuesday. All this added up to a six-day weekend and I’m happy to report that I didn’t accomplish shit except play this game on my Android called “Adventure League” where you lead a band of medieval mercenaries and cruise around a hexagonal map where you fight a quickly repetitive assortment of foes. My crew was called the “Diarrhea Desperados” and we kicked ass until we all got killed.

Maybe my claim of total sloth is not entirely true. I did write a blog post on Saturday where I at least splashed around in the shallow end of the suicide-ideation pool. I did an OK job with it, good enough to get me some of that social-media validation I crave far more than is healthy. One thing I would have changed if blogging were more conducive to rewrites would be to ease up on the “I won’t go through with it” disclaimers. Some of those are necessary lest some well-meaning but uninformed friend decide to 5150 my weepy ass for my own good. The number of times I did this was, if you can excuse the expression, overkill.

I’ve also walked around the city more. I needed that. My usual workaday existence consists of an alarm clock going off at 5:45 am, a full day down in San Jose, and a long bus ride going to and fro. When I get home, I’m flopped out on the couch with a glass of wine instead of hitting the town.

It’s a comfortable existence albeit an insular one. I enjoy time I get to spend inside my head, but sometimes I feel like I get lost in there. This is partly true even at work. Sure I’m required a lot of focus and some amount of interaction, but the detachment is still there. There is nothing wrong with my coworkers. I’m just too weird to share my thoughts in a job environment and too enamored by my weirdness to shelve it so I can listen to someone else’s mundane crap.

With much of my life differing little from day to day, it’s not all that surprising that my urban strolls quickly fell into a routine of their own. I would head down to Muddy Waters (aka Trash Muddy’s) for my first cup of coffee, which I would drink in the back room. From there, I would head off to Wicked Grounds, a mile and change further along in SoMa.

On the way, I would pass a number of homeless encampments along the sidewalk near Folsom and 16th Street. I didn’t see too many people. They were either in their tents or elsewhere. Of the few who were around, none panhandled me. That was nice. I like a world where people leave each other alone.

Between the upwardly mobile douchebags on Valencia Street and these unfortunate bastards, I started to feel like I was middle class, an average Joe, a water treader. Then I corrected myself. There is no such thing as middle class in San Francisco, not anymore. You’re either privileged or you’re fucked and as much as I’d like to believe otherwise, I’m privileged as hell. I’m just old and less flashy about it.

When I finally get to Wicked Grounds, I would order an Americano because if you just want a cup of coffee, it’s either that or French press and an Americano sounds like it’s less trouble. It probably isn’t though. I’m sure both are a pain in the ass.

Wicked Grounds, as far as I know, is the only kink-friendly coffee place in the city. You have to be at least 18 to go there, there are floggers and other toys available for purchase, and munches are sometimes held in the back room. There is gender fluidity among both the staff and patrons, and the vibe is relaxed overall.

I like it there. Even though my appearance is conspicuously conventional, nobody gives me any attitude. This is probably because I always tip and neither gawk nor talk shit. I don’t know if they assume I’m vanilla. Is there some BDSM version of gaydar and if so, would I set it off? I definitely have my thing, but it’s a little different from most kinksters are into. (Relax, concerned citizens. It’s all consenting adults.)

It hardly matters. I feel somehow validated knowing I’m different, but in a different way from other different folks. Not a bad trick for such a stodgy-looking doofus. I try my best to conceal my smugness as I drink my coffee before the long walk home.

Hazy Landscapes

The sky is the color of drywall. Or perhaps horchata. The sun is up there somewhere doing its thing so I don’t die. Wait. That would imply the sun operates purposefully on my behalf, which is nonsense. There will come a day when the sun doing its thing will be to supernova. That will likely be long after I have died from an unrelated cause, but you never know.

I have been told by people who know about such things that we are all made up of stardust. As such, we are part of this mind-bogglingly vast and wondrous universe we live in. If that gives you a sense of belonging, good for you. You are still going to die.

If it makes you feel any better, I’m going to die too. It is unlikely to be today or tomorrow, but it’s probable I have fewer days ahead than behind me. Death may come suddenly in the form of a road accident or a stray bullet, or I maybe told I have a terminal illness by some doctor who punctuates the bad news with a shrug.

To be honest, I would prefer a shrug over some perfunctory display of commiseration. Finding out I’m going to die soon would be hard enough. Do I also have to feel bad for ruining the day of the bringer of bad news? There has to be a clip on YouTube of Charles Bronson smiling and saying “tough shit.” I just need to find it and send the link to my doctor with the note “If I’m stricken with pancreatic cancer, do that.”

For the foreseeable future, I’m better off assuming that The Life of Dave is not yet in its final act. I have decades of at least intermittent happiness to look forward to, even though suicide ideation is my go-to when I’m feeling pissy.

SI has been longtime companion of mine, but not always the best of friends. Whenever it feels even the slightest bit real, it hurts like a bitch. Even writing about it right now makes me feel a little uneasy, but that could just be the coffee jitters. I’m not terribly in tune with my body. I know I should treat it like a temple, and I do, but like a temple of someone else’s religion where I’m itching for some hate-crime desecration.

At least that was the old me. I’m better behaved now, but the temple walls still carry the stains of bygone stupidity.

Enough with the belabored temple imagery. Now where was I? Ah yes, offing myself. More to the point, thinking about offing myself even though I’m never going to do it.

The thing I’ve learned about my SI is that it is a total drama queen. It needs no serious commitment on my part, but it does like to be romanced. Fortunately for all concerned, its tastes have become subdued with age. I no longer feel the urge to go at my wrist with a razor blade, coyly dancing around major arteries so I could achieve some excellent Ordinary People scars with no real risk of doing myself in.

Now I just have my dying places, secluded spots I have walked by and committed to memory. I never need to go visit them. It is enough to know they’re there. I like to think of them as my Winterwood after the Patrick McCabe novel, but with two major differences. One is that I never even think about killing anyone else. The other is that I never will actually kill myself either.

None of this is healthy, but it is familiar. Over the years, I’ve learned to romanticize the hell out of the darker recesses of my noggin. Now I’m not sure how much I’m coping with extant darkness or how much I’m just going through the motions because I’m a creature of habit. Internally, there’s a certain twisted beauty to it all. But if I dared to step outside myself and watched with an objective eye, I’d see a creature akin to Milton from Office Space mumble-plotting revenge for the loss of his stapler.

It’s a good thing I can tart up my embracing of life as well. I am still putting on a show for myself, but it’s a far happier one than my occasional strolls through Grimville. It’s also a lot more fun for others to be around, provided they’re OK with puns and toilet humor masquerading as genuine wit.