Monday, November 15, 2010

The Enterprise - 12

You get a special feeling in San Francisco. It's airy and isolated, impervious to the dreary ailments of other cities. I cannot imagine a wisp of trash blowing in its streets. As we approached it from the south dusk fell upon it gently, like a hallowing.

It probably didn't hurt that the place was inundated with capital.

David had wanted to rent a motorcycle, ride it into the hills and up and down the PCH. I don't know. I contemplated what an afternoon at The Prison might feel like, drifting into evening and finally, night. The microwave food. The cheap booze. The pornography. Time distending, collapsing into silence. Is that what I wanted? It was almost what I wanted.

But for all his enthusiasm David was frustrated in his quest. And so now we found ourselves parking the rental on Haight Street, two guys on a detour from business, anonymous, without a purpose.

The sidewalk was peopled with what appeared to be runaway kids. It was impossible not to think back to the so-called Summer of Love. That's what everyone thought about when they thought about this street, even those who weren't alive in '67. Especially them. For myth has greater power over those who did not witness fact.

A scrawny boy with spiky black hair and a face both acne-scarred and studded approached us, hand outstretched.

"Gimme some money," he demanded.

"Why?" I asked.

"Fuck you."

He walked with us for another fifteen feet or so, hand still out, as though the interaction so far had been perfectly normal and might well result in the dispensing of a dollar or two. I glimpsed his girl behind us, by the wall. She wore a wild tangle of dreadlocks, a lip ring, a granny dress, nothing on her feet. She clutched a trembling dog and kissed him between the ears. Finally her boy broke away and returned to her.

We pressed on, nowhere to go but forward, nothing to do but this. We wandered in and out of bookstores and cafés, their entranceways festooned with calls to demonstrate for this and that, against the other thing. The neighborhood itself seemed to be a living bulletin board. Behind the latest tract was last year's; and behind that one, the year before's. No one ever bothered to throw anything out. It'd be disrespectful. Or worse yet: negative. Nihilistic. The anarchy flyer's OK, just don't tear anything down, man. If you have a new idea, pin it on the past. And any surface that wasn't covered had absorbed the smoke of all the fires it had seen: peace marches, feminism, black power, animal rights, environmentalism, gay rights, whatever. You could drill out a sample like a scientist, read the history of our time.

We had a drink at a tall-ceilinged, decrepit bar.

"Now what?" said David.

"I don't know."

We sat in silence for a while longer.

"Let's drive around," I said.


We drove to the Presidio and stopped where a street took a right angle to the right and straight ahead the earth just fell away. In the distance was the Bay. We parked the car and got out and walked down the steps, the Lyon Street Steps, shouldered by ornate, shuttered Venetian-style homes with terra cotta roofs. It was all beautiful and precious and I wondered what it would be like to be one of these joggers, rich, healthy San Francisco people, running up and down the steps and stretching against the stone walls of the garden.

David had gone to Berkeley and lived there after graduating. He wanted to drive by his old haunts, the Greek Theatre, the old chemistry building. We ate at the most famous and expensive place in town, a legendary bastion of locally sourced and seasonal cuisine. We spent lavishly.

"I think the first thing the user needs to do is type 'home,'" said David between bites of mesclun.

"I agree," I replied.

"If they don't see the home screen right away, they have no idea as to the scope of functionality."


"If they don't type 'home,' we should force them to type 'home.'"


"Deliver a message. Telling them they should have typed 'home.' Type 'home' now. Please."

"No matter what they typed?"

David nodded.

"I'm not sure I agree."

After dinner we drove back across the Bay Bridge. We sat at another bar, a posh one this time. Ornate and old-timey. Might've been a literary haunt some time ago, or might've been  made to look like one. Some of the ritziest bars in the world are the ones where broke writers used to drink. David had expected some old friends to be there. We drank expensive and pretentious martini-style cocktails. Nobody came.

Finally, there was nothing left to do but cross the Golden Gate. Up in the hills beyond it lay Marin, home of rich musicians, artists, free thinkers of privilege and means. I wondered what it might feel like to cross this bridge at the end of every day.

As soon as we arrived on the other side we pulled in to the vista lot and turned around.