Thursday, January 14, 2010

#32 The Downtown Routine (A State of Mind)

[WTANGISF editors’ note: We suspect Sam may have over-indulged (beverage-wise) when he wrote the following.]

The morning Muni bus is trundling through the filth and chaos of China Town. We're on the 1 line, the 30, the 45. It is body-on-body crowded again, just like yesterday and the day before that, so we stand and forfeit our seat, for appearance's sake really, and just like yesterday some grimacing, pirate-toothed septuagenarian bursts through the scrum into the vacancy, first throwing us an elbow or taking a swipe at our knee cap with one of her five bags. Some small determined act of evil. She'll talk about us later, barking at one of her little friends in a violent burst of Cantonese fury; it will be a story of our weakness and contumely, punctuated by a loogie hocked to the curb. A wrinkled, wispy haired type in shapeless shoes manufactured in 1950 will look on, wondering, as he does every day, where all the hot chicks he sees in pirated DVDs are at. All of this is ungenerous to think and inexcusably unfair and offensive and we know it but we’re grumpy. We step off the bus, feeling the usual local hate, being pummeled by tiny people and tiny food stuffs. The routine.

A boring, late morning office buzz about lunch options and venues fizzles at 12:15 like it does every day because caring about burritos is intrinsically pathetic. As we leave the building we experience an irrational jolt of excitement, like when you de-plane at your vacation destination, when there's unmeasured sensual possibility, tropical fruit and rum and topless beaches!; but beyond the doors on Battery or Market or whatever it's just coldish wind and professionally bland boringness. Scrunch-faced women and drably dressed older guys. Groups of youngish men each indistinguishable one from the other in their khakis and striped shirts and diffident demeanors. We forget these people the moment we see them.

We wonder about the disappeared pretty persons. Perhaps they are unemployed. Or work from home. They must exist - we recall seeing them on weekends, on Union Street or at Union Square, sunbathing at Dolores Park or strolling along Laguna towards the Mission on that idle Tuesday we played hookie. But never downtown. Certainly not at lunch time. Not really on Muni either. Muni commute buses sometimes have 6s maybe a 7 and a half once in a blue moon. We puzzle on this briefly, sadly. A colleague, a cookie-cutter Republican white guy we tolerate on lunch outings, you know the type, all hackneyed fraternity brother banter and out-of-sync bravado, is talking about Tahoe cabins or his parking his Jeep we don't f*cking care.

Whatever we ate was fine. It was okay. Some chick in the elevator is questioning us. Now opining. Something about fish tacos, and how they are “amazing,” which would just be forgettable mouth noise had she not said AMAZING in caps, which instead makes her criminally vapid and somehow vain, and should bar her from casual conversation for the rest of her shallow-minded, fatuous life but because she is one of the three congenital defect-free females under 40 who work at the company everyone starts agreeing like maniacs, creating a little sonic dust-up of a**-kissing nonsense.

There was a time you know when we’d eat lunch at Bryant Park. We'd sit by the merry-go-round and behold Manhattan’s midtown splendor for half an hour. Models and artsy types and sleek Euro girls with sunshine bouncing off their sleek Euro hair. 24 year old marketing or publishing or PR assistants, making 40 grand and living in Murray Hill, all big eyes and toothy smiles, chatting away happily. Everyone checking out everyone. Everything a coy precursor to eventually becoming naked. No one saying sh*t about fish tacos.

In Sydney we’d cut out work around 5 and catch the train out to Bondi. We’d be wading into 72 degree waves by the half hour, breathless and happy. We'd usually bump into someone familiar, one of the regulars or a mate of a mate or Sandra, the improbably bosomed dark eyed Bay-Watchy girl who we barely knew but happened to work in the same building and was suddenly before us in a curious one-piece (she'd been swimming) and so we'd make sea-side chit-chat then teach her how to body surf in the same wildly cliched, farcically innocent, mutually grope-festy manner that you teach a girl to play billiards and then we'd stand with her gazing out over the water, us quietly thrilling and her quietly forgetting she has a boyfriend.

Now it's 6. In dark, foggy downtown San Francisco. So we just head home. Separate packs of fuglies on separate Muni buses, each lurching up a hill. "School night!" someone says in a phony, cute voice that is, like
DFW says, the absolute voice of death. We feel vaguely nauseous. We're unclear as to why Muni stops are a block or two apart. Why not 10 blocks? Subway style. Two miles shouldn't take thirty five minutes. We look around thinking like DFW did how repulsive everyone seems and how cow-like and dead eyed and how annoying and insecure. Up above cruel Shakespearean gods roll on the ground laughing.

Our roommate calls. He wants to go out! he says which is so earnest and doomed a desire we want to cry. Our roommate is a good man in San Francisco. He is Roberto Benigni in
Life is Beautiful. He is a lone Chinese national standing before oncoming tanks.

101 Minna! our roommate suggested and we can already envision it, not just the abstract notion of a Wednesday evening at a gimmicky drinking venue south of Market but the mathematical specifics: the 14 women who haven't been socially relevant since the 8th grade, the 13 women who are relevant but not significant provided a sober sense of physical and societal proportion, the five slightly irritated boyfriends, the three Sierra Nevadas, the two cougars having the time of their lives, the one cute, recently engaged community college girl from San Rafael, and the 35 semi-adult men with myriad half-visible insecurities and anxieties clutching pale ales like orphans with blankies. Everyone generally dismissive and bored of every one else. It'll be a Mexican standoff of awkwardness and condescension and desperate self-preservation. “Tlaloc has the most AMAZING salsa,” people will say.

And people will be right. The routine doesn't lie. Patterns emerge. Downtowns develop. Ways of life and taco habits get entrenched and proliferated, in Manhattan, in Sydney, in San Francisco.

Our bus stop approaches. We wait for it, waiting like morons, nothing to do, catching every so often a depressing, self-abnegating, self-loathing self-image in the window glare. Many summers ago we sat in our corduroy shorts on a mossy stump somewhere and pondered with our primitive little lord of the flies minds the nature of adult existence and whatever it was, it wasn't this. Not day after day. Not by choice.

Not that retrospectively adorable youths are, at least typically, reliable sources of sound sociological theory. That is kind of the whole thesis of Lord of the Flies. Children are socio-pathological fantasists. Screw those bastards. They killed Piggy.

We look out the window and sigh. We have missed our stop. This is not part of the routine. This is just a stupid existential corollary that after an unintelligble day just like yesterday and the day before that, devoid of girls, fair climes and girls and also, any attractive women leaves us where we started: bored on a bus with a bunch of fuglies. It's like that myth where you push a rock up a mountain and at the top, the rock rolls back down. It's like the second chick in a row, some pudgy Fresno State grad getting her nursing license or in sales at some start-up, screwing her face up in disgust when you try to buy her a goddam sea breeze. It's an absurd and insufferably boring struggle with no scale of values, like jazzercise or a David Blain endurance trick.

Of course who the hell knows? Day to day doesn’t everybody feel bored and lonely? The bus driver, the tweener receptionist at the gym, those spooky octogenarian twins who wander about Nob Hill? Can you blame the culture or the metropolis or the man? Yes, yes, and yes.

We’re finally ambling along Valencia or Scott or California or Laguna or whatever, closing in on home quarters and feeling like a solitary man and a pessimistic douche and just glad no one can look into our head and see the narcissism and negativity and frustration and weakness and then finding consolation that at least it’s f*cking Wednesday and that’s Hump Day and that’s a misnomer in San Francisco surely but at least it’s captures the right spirit and in two days it’ll be Friday and then, yeah, you know what we’ll do then, we’ll laugh at the downtown routine, we’ll fart in its f*cking face, and hell yeah, we’ll turn our backs and roar off like Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, head to L.A. or Yosemite or you know, maybe just up to San Rafael, any place really where cute, recently engaged community college girls spot the streets like sprinkles on cupcakes, salsa is consumed comment-free and everyone agrees that everyone will eventually be getting naked.