Wednesday, April 2, 2014

San Francisco Shorts

“San Francisco is poetry. Even the hills rhyme.”~Pat Montandon
A collection of short stories to illuminate the character of San Franciscans

Instant Nausea 

It was Easter Sunday. My sister and I were walking from my apartment to hers, and stopped in a small British grocery on the way to pick up a few snacks. Standing at the check out, arms full of Taytos and Crunchies, I spotted a box of Cadbury Creme Eggs on the counter.

"Should I?" I asked the young British teller, presumably the owner of the store.

"You should," he answered, "they're only out once a year."

Inspired by his encouragement and slightly charming accent, I acquiesced and added an Egg to my purchase.

"I really hate these," he said, scanning the Egg, "they're so disgusting."

"Oh...," was my confused reply. I clearly did not think the Egg was disgusting and he clearly encouraged me to buy it.

"That'll be $6.80." And then, as I dug for my cash: "When I bite into them it's like ugh, gross! An instant wave of nausea. Just so, sugary, so thick, oh God thinking of it is making me sick. Instant nausea."

"Uhhhhh," I looked sideways at my sister.

"They're just so awful," he continued, "blah! And the caramel ones, don't even get me started. So gross," he handed me my change, "I don't know why anyone likes these godawful things."

"Well, happy Easter," I said meekly as I gathered my belongings, Cadbury Egg included.

My sister and I burst out laughing as soon as we exited the store. Worst sales man ever? I think so. Although, he did get me to buy the Egg.

Free Yogurt!

Garrett and I were about to descend into the bowels of a Bart station when we heard a man scream.


We looked up. A middle-aged man, disheveled in every way but his happiness, was striding toward us with a shit-eating grin.

"YOGURT!" he screamed even louder, "FREE YOGURT!"

In his hand, he held a cone of soft serve.

"FREE YOGURT!" was yelled between licks.

You better believe that everyone around him started looking for the source of free yogurt. The man continued past us, happy as high heaven. As we took the escalator down to our train, I smiled as I heard the man continue on his happy trajectory.

Sometimes it's the small things.

The Preacher

There is a woman that has taken recent residence of the city blocks surrounding my building. She is young, perhaps in her late 20's or early 30's. Apart from a head of locks matted in grease, she bears a healthy weight and a full set of straight, white teeth. Signs, in my opinion, that she is relatively new to the homeless life.

I first noticed her with an eye shadow compact in one hand, applying makeup to her reflection in the morning light of a Walgreens window. I have observed similar behaviors since; she seems quite concerned in maintaining a presentable appearance. In fact, that's all I ever saw her doing -- brushing her hair, puckering her lips with gloss, tucking in her shirt -- until I saw her trip.

And now, that's all she seems to ever be doing. Whether she is under the spell of narcotics or her own mind's demise, she is slipping farther and farther away from reality.

Her reality becomes replaced with preaching. Sometimes she braces her hand on a street pole, sometimes she stares at her own reflection, sometimes she stands in the middle of street and challenges others. Always, she is projecting her voice. Her words are strong, backed with a ferocity locked somewhere inside of her.

I passed her on my way out of work yesterday. She was leaning against the side of a building, preaching to the passersby paying her no mind. As I approached the woman, a small girl with brown curls was walking in front of me, wearing a rich red pea coat and clutching her father's hand.

The preacher pointed to the girl.


Oh. My. God. A lifetime of nightmares for the girl flashed before my eyes, stemming from this horrible moment in time, in which her life was condemned by a screaming bum.

The girl turned to her father in confusion, and they both furrowed their brows. And then, miraculously, they looked straight ahead, the tiny hand clutching her father's slightly tighter.

I stood closely behind them as we waited for the crosswalk signal to change and sighed a huge breath of relief when they spoke. They were foreign. Completely unaffected.

Not me, though. The homeless, the drug addicts, the mentally ill...they will always affect me. I'm just not sure what to do about it yet. In the meantime, I guess I'll just keep listening to the preacher.


On an evening Muni ride, a young girl sat facing an elderly woman. The woman, overweight enough to fill her own seat and then some, had frizzy gray hair poking out in all directions underneath a bike helmet.

As the girl squeezed into her corner of available seat, the older woman asked gruffly, "Does anyone call you Kate?"

"No!" the girl genuinely replied.

"Someday," scoffed the woman, dramatically tossing her head and angling her body away from the girl.


Our shoebox of an apartment is conveniently located across the street from a small park. The stretch of grass comes in extra handy in having a dog, although ours wasn't shy about doing her business on the concrete when we first moved to the city.

The not-so-nice thing about living close to a bed of green, soft grass and dirt is that it often offers a comfortable slumber to a homeless man. So far, like many of the San Francisco homeless, this man has proved to be harmless.

Until he chose to cross the wrong man. Well, dog. He crossed the wrong dog.

Garrett took Mollie, our ten-year-old Labrador Retriever, to the park to do her business after work on Friday. Fulfilling the unpleasant duty of a dog owner, he bent to scoop up her waste.

"Pretty boy! Hey! Pretty boy!" the homeless man started yelling in Garrett's direction. Garrett, somewhat used to being taunted for his...daring fashion...ignored the man.

"Hey! I'm talking to you, pretty boy!" Garrett tossed Mollie's poop bag in the trash.

"Ha! Pretty boy! What's it like picking up shit?" The homeless man gave one last taunt.

"I've never really thought about it -- what's it like lying in shit?!" Garrett gave in. Mollie, oblivious, sniffed at the trash can.

The homeless man stood, angled his body offensively toward Garrett.

"What did you say to me, pretty boy?"

Sensing the tension, Mollie snapped to. In her pink harness and pink leash, all 75 chubby pounds of her in an elderly dog's body, she lunged. With the hair spiking along her spine, Mollie snarled and growled and snapped.

The homeless man held up his hands in surrender.

The pretty boy and the old pink-clad dog returned to their apartment in peace.

Your Heat and Your Sunshine

Garrett and I were strolling down Fillmore Street on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The weather was warm and delightful; like us, many were out walking to take advantage of the beautiful day.

Stuck behind slow-moving pedestrians, our pace was slow. A woman walking against the flow of traffic stopped dead next to me.

"I am SICK and TIRED of your HEAT and your SUNSHINE!" she boasted, staring straight ahead with her fists clenched down at her sides.

Garrett and I glanced at each other sideways. Is she talking to us? We shrugged, giggled and moved on.

"Which one of us is sunshine, and which one of us is heat?" Garrett asked.

"I think I'm the heat," I answered, tugging on my red hair. "You're the sunshine!" we both laughed as we noticed Garrett's bright yellow shirt.

Were we certain that she was talking about us? No, and we never will be. The likelihood that she was referring to us was slim. Thankfully, on that day, she was the only person we came across that was sick and tired of our heat and our sunshine.


Muni Marijuana

After yoga at Grace Cathedral one night, Garrett and I boarded Muni. The bus was full, so we ended up standing in front of an eclectically dressed elderly man sitting next to a classically dressed older woman. In addition to a pair of bright orange camouflage pants, the man donned a brown fedora with an abundance of dried marijuana tucked into its band. The man turned his head away from the woman next to him to look out of the front of the bus. The woman, giving a sideways glance, quickly plucked a stem from the man's hat. Holding the plant in both hands, she brought it to her nose multiple times to inhale its scent. By the third sniff, the man had returned to his normal position; he had to have seen the woman's prized possession, though he gave no hint to it. Guiltily meeting my eyes and darting her gaze toward others around her, she stashed the pot in her purse. At the next stop, she rose tall in her business suit and disembarked. He got off two stops after her. The remaining bus passengers erupted with laughter and disbelief, reaffirming to one another that scene indeed did just happen.

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