we were in the grapevine by 11AM so it wasn't a wretched setback. the five stretched on endlessly, it was a bloody dry day and every flick of ash out of the window seemed just right for setting california ablaze. we had sil's ipod thingamabob so all we had to find was an empty radio station and viola, an mp3 player for the car. well...it's harder than it sounds. both times i've ridden with one of these buggers it was frustrating. this time however we did have about 90% working conditions, so i can't complain.
by the time we reached the interchange for 80 heading into town i was high as a kite and chomping at the bit to cross those waters. our entry was seamless, kismet was already smiling on us. striking at first the mission district has a bit of a facade feel. the fronts of the row houses sit awkwardly against the buildings conjuring images of wild west towns in spaghetti westerns. the air was cooling rapidly all around us, and in the time it took us to traverse four blocks, we were engulfed in the lazy grey of an overcast and steadily cooling evening.
"Do we have any parking instructions?"
"Yeah I guess that counts," ah, yes. we found a spot a block away. a chap was pulling his truck out. he flipped a u-turn and parked on the other side of the street. i went back to the car for something i forgot and the man called out to me. i had no idea what he was saying so i approached him. he repeated himself and i could discern this time he was speaking in spanish. since i still didn't understand i'm sure i had a look of confusion on my face. he repeated himself and i was able to make out 'two hours' (hey, i guess taking Latin finally paid off) and laughed with him. yes, yes i let him know i had seen the sign, and i agreed it was ridiculous. he said something else and pointed to his truck. i could tell he was saying this was the reason he parked across the street. i patted him on the back and waved goodbye. i was glad he didn't try to speak english and i didn't try to butcher spanish. we communicated just fine and there needn't be anymore to it.
fortune struck again, we were only a block from their house. we walked up the stairs and sil knocked on the door. mike answered the door very excited to see us. it was a warm welcome. we set straight to shooting the shit and having the first of many drinks in their astonishing apartment. when hillary(sp?-sorry if i'm fucking it up) arrived home she welcomed us a second time and we all had another drink. at some point sil and i joined mike on a walk with the dog they were watching for a friend. the half shepherd half malamut had a field day sniffing every three dimensional object it's ADD riddled mind could register long enough to garner neck movement. truth be told it was a fucking hike...very steep, and seemingly never-ending. when we finally crested the top hill we looked out over a fog blanketed atlantis. the moisture in the air permeated everything around us. as we smoked cigarettes the fog slid over the hill and sprinkled beads of condensed hydrogen and oxygen across my eyelashes and lips. my black jacket became grey with reflected light and as soon as it had begun it diminished.
the logistics for the evening were ironed out and after another drink and further *ahem* preparation, we struck out into the night.
a falafel place down the block got the order for dinner. despite my protest my food was rife with vegetalia, but the portions i was able to pick out and enjoy truly were superb. we were here primarily to celebrate and commenmorate sil's last few days in the united states, so my picking through something he'll be eating everyday for the next year or so seemed only appropos. after all i'm a full-fledged supporter of the adventurous!
we dove underground and sped inexpensively toward our next mission...columbus ave. as we emerged and began turning blocks i began recognizing the area from my trip in 2001. soon we were on Vesuvio's steps. hillary elected to go in and mike, sil and i walked into city lights for a gander. i wasn't there for a serious look yet, but i enjoyed re-acquainting myself with the place. it would come in handy when i came back for serious purposes.
we slipped into a window booth with a few drinks and toasted something or other that is of no import now. i was waiting for the queen of hearts to arrive and she did not keep me waiting. our conspiracy was complete and we had the entire evening ahead of us. we all came to know the queen of hearts simultaneously, though i admit to a slight advantage, and were thus equally enthralled.
hillary was ecstatic to have another political
junky such as myself along for the ride, mike sil and i all have web-programming/writing/production, as well as vastly different and similar musical and literary passions in common. throw in two young ladies that can match (or kick the arses of) all three of us in any given category, have even more similar and differing loves and hates concerning everything under the sun and what you have folks is a conversation that can go on all night long. slainte`. it did just that. we had grandiose plans of retreating to the mission and striking back out, but mike and hillary's beautiful apartment and the blackhole commonly referred to as the couch, had much
different plans for us. we finished off the evening leaning treacherously close to sunrise and eventually convinced our bodies that sleep was possible.
apparently it is hard to wake me up...
i've heard this before. i did wake up though in time to give the queen of hearts a farewell hug and thank her for a magnificent evening. morning was standing just outside those curtains waiting to kick me in the nuts...oh...i was right. sil had already been out for coffee and back. i figured i needed to take my ass a shower and get with the program.
we had breakfast a few blocks away. by christ their pancakes...and the waitress...too much for the morning, too much most times of the day. sensory overload - we spilled back into the streets just as my head was begining to clear up. philz coffee was next on the agenda. some folks were doin' their thing dancing around and reading poetry, i think, and you know, doin' stuff. it was too early for me to be so abrasively faced with stuff, so i shuffled face down as much as possible until i had a steaming mocha in my hands. the place makes each cup of coffee to order. just one, just for you. they pour enough for your order into a single filter and brew it in front of you. the special attention pays off.
invigorated, i felt much more equipped to handle the day. and a good thing...
we traversed the city by bus in search of a bookstore sil wanted to explore. we found the place and it was a nice little store. we found a few things and stepped out to smoke while we waited for hillary. the pub across the street kept calling my name...william...william...
yes, that would also be a good idea. mike and hillary took us closer to homebase and we walked a few blocks to a sausage shop. you take a seat in the bar next door and they knock on the wall when your food is done. of course it doesn't hurt that the bar has manymanymany wonderful beers on tap. the food was splendid and the beer was perfect. by the time hillary's friend and sil's friend showed up we were relatively full and 3 to 4 pints down. they joined the chorus, danica split off first to prior engagements, but we were able to convince mike to come back to the mission with us. mike, sil's other friend is a world traveler and soon that was the topic of conversation. mike, sil's friend whom we came to visit(damn names!) is also a world traveler so sil was soaking up every bit of information the two of them had to add to his research. this time however we were able to escape the couch because we insisted on mike trying philz coffee. it suddenly became extremely important. the two mikes, sil and i walked to philz and much to our robust cussing and disappointment, philz was closed. anger. we walked back to rejoin hillary and eventually we made it to the taqueria. we had convinced mike to join us, but only under the condition that he had to make tracks after. i got fucked by the food fairies again, but it was still good enough to pick through.
we sent mike on his way and decided on the phone booth to cap the evening. the phone booth is a tight little bar on corner of 25th sitting stealthily under a bright light. The inside is a deep crimson under low light. the pool table in the back is lit brightly making the shadows dense as one moves toward the front door. the bar and facing wall allow for tables, chairs a small walkway, and the bar. it behooves one to find a place to sit and protect it viciously. we were fortunate to find seats at the bar…though i lost mine several times. you could smoke inside, but you couldn't smoke "at" the bar...which meant i had to stand in the no-mans land for passing. that fucking sucked. i resigned to smoke outside anyway, fuck them. our nightcap wandered back across the street and we tied yet a few more on in the comfort of the apartment. by the time my lids became too much for me to battle, i was stretched out on the couch and wishing i could use the Force to put the blankets over my already sleeping body...no such luck.
the next morning went much like the last. i woke up late again and hurried to take a shower. soon we were all mobilized and headed to the red cafe' for breakfast. i had more extraordinary pancakes, this time thick, which i'm not usually as into. but they were delicious...even delicious enough to make up for the coffee. so the next stop was...you guessed it. there were no kids singing and rapping about freedom this time, we got coffee and slipped back down the street without a single hindrance.
we parted ways, mike and hil went to walk the dog, and sil and i headed back to city lights. we stopped off at an art supply store and i picked up another notebook. parking was drastic to say the least when we reached the Columbus area. eventually i gave in and paid to park. it wasn't horrible and we were close. this time around i had a few authors i planned to check on. i came away with two more books so the trip was a success. once we had had our way with city lights we decided to get the fuck out of town. such simple plans eh? we made a dodgy right into a clusterfuck of traffic. that's right, the bridge is one lane this weekend. fuck. we waited. we waited some more. we waited because we weren't certain we would head the right direction. our mental layout of the area was slapped together and dicey at best. by the time we made visual contact with the onramp, we realized that it would have been much faster(like an hour +) to go all the way back to mike's house on surface streets and enter the freeway there. so the onramp turns out to not be an onramp at all, it's going the opposite direction. it is a detour. we are instructed to take the ninth st. exit and re-enter there going the opposite direction. when we ascend to the highway level we see the thick groaning mob crammed into four lanes all vying for position across the choked and gasping bridge.
"No fuckin' way."
I couldn't agree with sil more. we continued south and called mike hoping for some advice. we needed gas soon anyway so even if we were fucking ourselves we would stop soon and could look at a map. mike wasn't around so we stopped and sil checked the maps. we had an exit strategy. by the time we reached the other side of the hills two hours had passed from our lives. the ride home was smooth as silk by comparison. sil leaned into it and toughed it out like a champion and i did my best to remain conscious. we were slapped around by a massive lightning storm and then thundershower. it was enough to evoke that, "well, there was this cop who had been struck by lightning and didn't know it..." conversation. the skies over orange county were billowing collisions striking down at the earth and arcing light across the grey canvas. the rain settled down by costa mesa and my drive back was fairly uneventful weather-wise.