Friday, June 6, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: Mayor Lee Renames Coit Tower, “Twitter Tower”

This just in: San Francisco has been infiltrated by unsuspecting Millennial’s from all corners of the United States who were promised an exorbitant amount of wealth to follow the American corporate technology dream. They may be found standing near municipal transit stops early in the morning waiting to board unmarked busses to undisclosed locations in the suburbs South of the City. They may also have an aura of entitlement surrounding them while they walk their untrained dogs. This is normal so please don’t be alarmed. Or they may be holding so called “Flip Cup” drinking tournaments with Milwaukee’s Best in the Marina District while Google Shopping Express delivers more Frisbees and visors to their parties. One may recognize these people by the phrases that they use such as, “Summer in San Francisco is so cold,” when in reality the thermostat reads 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Or, “I’ve got an app for that,” while shopping for produce and can’t figure out the difference between a potato and a turnip or understand that their food comes from farms or a slaughterhouse. Or even, “My stock options just reached a million today,” whilst signing a lease for a studio apartment that costs $4,000 per month with a view of their neighbor’s kitchen window and thinking that they have gotten a great deal.

Residents of the City are welcoming these innovative new folks with open arms and the local government has taken notice as well. In honor of the influx of new skilled technology workers to the City and with added tax breaks given to new startups, Mayor Edwin Lee dedicates San Francisco landmark Coit Tower in North Beach to technology. From this point forward per the decree of City Hall, the Board of Supervisors and the Mayor’s Office, it will now be referred to as Twitter Tower to acknowledge the sole company that selflessly helped San Francisco get out of the great recession with a move to their new Market Street location. While Twitter Tower sits on what has been known as Telegraph Hill for over a century, named for its telegraph communications during the first Great War, it will now be referred to as AT&T Hill. The company (AT&T) will commence construction of a new, unobtrusive tower above Twitter Tower extending several hundred feet to the sky which will deliver a faster internet and television connection to the citizens of San Francisco. Residents who might be displaced by construction of the new tower have been offered compensation to leave their homes and move to Oakland.

(Disclaimer: This is Satire and should not be regarded as anything other than a silly story that came from me noggin)

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Let's try this again...

I'm trying something new again. I have been writing fervently lately for some reason and wanted to try a short novel again. I wrote 100,000 words of crap several years ago and thought that I would give up when I realized that I didn't like it. But, here I am once again seeing if I can actually finish something that I like. This is an excerpt from the first chapter and thought that I would post here to see if I could get some critique. I met Jenny one Sunday while at brunch with Esther , a friend of mine who lived in the Mission. My friendship with Esther was often circumstantial so we had made a point of trying to meet every Sunday for brunch in a different spot in a different neighborhood in the City to catch up. Sometimes we would even dress differently and speak with accents as if we were tourists. It was our way of trying to be selectively spontaneous. This particular Sunday, however, Esther was running late and asked me to meet her near where she lived. For some reason, I had expected this since I hadn’t heard from her the night before like I usually did as she always called before we met. The thought of being stood up by even a friend terrified her. My mobile phone buzzed on vibrate for what seemed like an eternity as multiple text messages came through. I didn’t have a smartphone so when I got text messages it was a whole process just to read them all. I could never respond fast enough because as soon as I almost finished a response to one text another came faster and usually with less meaning or importance such as a ‘smiley’ or ‘winky’ face. Her texting skills were impeccable (she could text with one hand on the phone while the other hand was applying conditioner to her hair, brushing her teeth and exfoliating the bottoms of her whatever in the shower all at the same time). I didn’t have to read the excuses for her tardiness in the texts as I had already boarded the number 12 bus in Chinatown and was heading her way anyway. Over the years I had learned to multiply the time that she would say that she would be ready by three. So far, my mathematics had checked out and I was right on schedule to get off the bus and meet her outside of her apartment the minute that she was ready. If not and if I had miscalculated, I could grab a 3 dollar drip coffee at the café next door to her place. There were coffee shops on every corner of The Mission now it seemed but the place near her home was particularly inviting. They roasted the beans in-house where you could see and smell them as if on a tour of some quaint micro-brewery off of the 101 freeway up the coast. If one walked towards the long line to the bathroom in the back, one might see several younger looking blokes with leather aprons and mustaches opening up small drawers of godknowswhat, sniff them, make a note on a clipboard and then hurl large bags of hopefully raw coffee beans into a larger, most likely reclaimed (and most likely restored vintage) roaster. Why were hipsters so painfully good at making something as simple as coffee so expensive yet so delicious? And how were they so good at making it look good? I felt as if I was sitting on a little boat on Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean watching mechanical wenches actually make me coffee. I have no idea how this happened but dammit if they didn’t get my 3 bucks again and again. I had calculated wrong and she wasn’t waiting outside when I thought that she would be. I had never been upstairs into her home because it wasn’t allowed. “It’s forbidden,” she had once told me. No one is allowed to enter, not even me. I imagined as I looked up at her five, bay wood windows which were all blocked by Japanese shoji screens, that she had glass bottles on shelves filed with formaldehyde and human brain specimens. Or maybe her old boyfriends were tied up to chairs with handcuffs? They would scream to her when she returned home and would feed them once a day by throwing scraps of Mission Street burritos or a slice of pizza or even better yet, pupusas! (There was a mall with Salvadorian food kiosks sans hipsters nearby as well if one didn't mind eating with pigeons but Esther was afraid of the birds so we never went) Maybe she was just messy, I don’t fucking know but I enjoyed making up reasons for why it was forebode. Either way, no one was allowed inside. It was completely off limits so I stood outside with my hipster coffee and a cigarette as I waited. Cars moved slowly down Valencia Street now because bicycles and pedestrians outnumbered them and with an influx in ridesharing vehicles and other “app” connected entrepreneurial startup businesses, everyone just seemed more cautious these days. Someone was killed recently as they walked through an intersection by a rideshare car. The police report said that the driver was looking at his smartphone while it all happened and before it was too late there was blood on the sidewalks. All of the weekly papers had a field day with the news the next day because the City loves a good pedestrian killing story. It diverts all of the attention from stories about the Mayor’s cohorts paying for Chinatown landlords to fill out election ballots to help him win. “We need to improve our street signals for pedestrians!” decries the Mayor upon hearing the news. I watched the folks walking down the street between drags from my cigarette and sips of my seriously delicious coffee. “Damn you hipsters!” I said to the hipster walking in front of me with his skinny jeans and shook my fist. Was this what Allen Ginsberg talked about, “Angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night?” Did I even really know what that meant? “I have a heavenly connection to this coffee!” I said and gave a ‘high five’ to the same hipster I had previously shook my fist at. He pretended to be amused and hurried away after our awkwardly forced interaction. I also watched a guy get hit by a MUNI bus but from what I could tell, it wasn’t the bus driver’s fault, the dude walking was immersed in a tragically important game of “Candy Crush Saga.” A crowd gathered around to poke and prod at him to see if he was still alive or to see if he needed an ambulance that would send him to General. “Does this man have health insurance?!” One woman exclaimed. “We need to reevaluate how citizens choose to walk the streets of San Francisco!” sung the Mayor after he would hear the news. “There’s nothing to see here, move along everyone!” I realized that I was glad that I hadn’t purchased a smartphone yet and that I didn’t know what “Candy Crush Saga” was. This was normal though for San Francisco. It was just another beautiful day in Bagdad by the Bay filled with distractions. The Mission had a culture to it that I could no longer define. My father told me that when he lived in the City during the sixties that neither he nor any of his artist friends would even think to venture into this neighborhood, let alone walk along most of Market Street downtown. “It was too dangerous,” he said. Now it seemed that everything dangerous had been disguised or painted over with a mural or blocked by a Google bus or a technology start-up company. Regardless of the façade that symbolized gentrification, I didn’t feel like I belonged in this neighborhood. I hadn’t shaved for a week so ironically I had that going for me, but I was dressed in faded khakis with paint flakes on them left over from my day job (none of my clothes seemed to be without some kind of work related stain any longer), my shirt was purchased from a second hand store on Haight Street which I had proceeded to spill my hipster coffee on, and I was holding a copy of Dickens’ Great Expectations in my left hand. I never read it in high school and saw it for $1.99 at a Goodwill store so thought that I would give it a try and see what I had missed. “Holy shit!” I thought. I actually do kind of fit in here! “Meh…” I said out loud to a gentleman riding past me in a mechanized wheel chair. “Maybe I am just thinking about my ‘uniform’ too much.” He scowled at me as he rushed by and yelled, “Dum, Dum Diddy!” sped off in his scooter and headed towards the 500 Club for an afternoon drink I assumed. “Sorry I’m late!” Esther said out of breath as she barreled out of her front door, slamming it and shutting it closed before I could get a glimpse of her stairway up to her home. “I’ve been on the phone with a client this morning and he is fucking nuts.” Her right shoe isn't quite on her foot properly and she bends down to adjust it stumbling a bit. I instinctively grab her elbow to stable her body while she fixes her shoe. “I don’t know what to tell him anymore, I can only prescribe so many milligrams of Adderall before it starts to become a problem. So let’s eat, I’m starving!” I’m waiting for her to take a breath but she doesn’t seem to need one. I've never seen Esther actually take a full breath and exhale. She is standing at ‘attention’ in front of me with a smile as if she has now become completely present with where she is and whom she is with and is waiting for my response. I wanted to say, “This is so typical of you. You are always late. I really wanted to try out this new place South of Market that had just opened up but you are always so distracted and now we have to go to the place that we always end up going to when you flake on me.” But I didn't say any of that. I smiled back at her and let her take my arm instead and started to walk in the direction of ‘her’ place. Some things just weren’t worth making an issue of. Especially since I didn’t have many friends in the City and she was my only close friend. She was my only friend really and I needed her, dysfunction and all. We went to her spot for brunch somewhere off of 18th Street (I can’t remember the name of the place) and since there was a line we huddled up by two spaces that were at the bar but with no wait but they still served food. The dude at the front let us sneak by a couple that had been too intently looking at the menu before deciding what their next move would be. These folks were leisurely starting their day and were clearly in love by the way that they touched each other while we, on the other hand were merely hungry and we happily passed them up on their short lived opportunity to dine at the bar. I hated that couple for some reason and I wasn’t sure why. It seemed that the older and more single I became over the years, the more prone I was to dislike folks who became couples and even worse those who chose to procreate. Esther was an opportunist, and we swooped in onto the bar stools before the lovey couple had a chance to even figure out what happened. “I want whatever comes with hash browns,” she declared. “And papaya mimosas!” The bartender who would end up taking our orders was extremely cute and definitely my type but I could already tell that she was annoyed by our presence. She wanted to make drinks, make a minimum amount of chatter to the customers all while generally being left alone but we had clearly come to set up shop and eat. Also, Esther talks a lot when she is excited about food and especially likes to share more information by virtue of the loudness of her voice than our poor, cute server would like to hear. I’m only half listening to what Esther is saying as I browse the brunch specials on the menu for the day. She was talking about another client I think but all of her stories end up sounding the same to me. She is my friend and while I love her and her company, there are just certain topics in which she talks about where I have learned to go to my own “happy place” filled with puppies and rainbows and punk rock music. Punk rock, moshing, smiley puppies make me happy for some reason. I honestly hear nothing that she says, nod my head in agreement where I think that it is appropriate as far as the length of her conversation is concerned and say that ‘I am sorry’ and that ‘I understand’ when I can tell that she is finished with her story. Most of her stories are usually a complaint about something or someone so usually I hit the nail on the head with my supportive replies. “At his initial intake, I’m trying to take notes about how I can help him since his wife left and then I catch him staring at my chest! I tell him that I am here to help him but then, he starts staring at my legs! So I call my assistant in and she opens the door slowly to see what’s going on. And I’m like, (she’s mouthing this) Can you help me? I didn’t know what to do so I sent him back to the front with my assistant to reschedule. Can you believe that? I have to see that asshole again next week. I should fire my assistant for even making the appointment in the first place. The guy just creeps me out. Either way I’m making sure that I wear pants for our next appointment, or maybe a mu-mu. Or a velour track suit, whatever it is that turns you guys off. I just want to wash this work stuff right off of me and it is Sunday so I’m sorry, how are you anyway?” “I’m sorry, I totally understand,” I say. I’m now sitting at the edge of the stool with my menu in hand waiting to see if she actually takes a breath but she doesn't. I swear Esther is an anomaly; she doesn’t seem to need the normal amount of oxygen that most humans require for existence. I’m always amazed by this. While she was talking I was also pretending that I was not watching our server as she skillfully pops the tops off of champagne bottles and makes mimosas with papaya and mango and orange juice. “Hey!” Esther says, “That’s what I want too! Are you listening to me?” I wasn’t. With one last pop of the last bottle the cork unexpectedly falls into one of the glasses that our server was preparing. Some people sitting at the tables behind us clapped their hands and cheered loudly, I thought it was because of her mistake but instead, they were fixated on the Giants game on the television above our heads behind the bar. I too turned my head towards the TV to see Angel Pagan hit a perfect triple (I caught the replay) and then try and run for home where he was tagged out thusly ending the Sunday game with a loss. The folks behind that were previously clapping at the game had now intensively and with purpose downed shot glasses of whatever they had left over in despair. “Torture!” one of the clappers said and all of his buddies nodded in agreement and ordered another round of Jameson and Fernet for the whole table. Our server, Jenny, cleaned up the mess from the cork spill and began pouring shots for the table behind us. I whispered in her direction, “I didn’t see anything.” She smiled, “So you didn’t see what just happened? Pagan just fucked it up.” She knew that I was talking about her faux pas and winked at me, dashed off towards the kitchen momentarily and then reappeared with our food. She placed my Southwestern omelet in front of me with a huge pile of hash browns and a skimpier looking plate of eggs and grits in front of Esther. “Doesn't mine come with hash browns too?” She whined without remembering what she had ordered in the first place (It didn’t come with hash browns). Saying nothing in response, Jenny brought a side for her on a little plate almost immediately and set it delicately next to her eggs. Esther was happy and uttered a muffled, food stuffed “thank you” in Jenny’s general direction. For chrissakes she didn't breathe when she ate either! Jenny gave a sarcastic curtsy and then went about her duties making drinks for not only the customers at the bar but the waiters who came and asked for orders at their tables. She was extremely busy and I watched her between bites of my omelet and replays on the television documenting the Giants loss. She had since shed her outer shirt and was wearing a much more revealing one. I noticed her necklace with a stone eye and Sanskrit writing. I had to get to know this girl.