Drunk in San Francisco

A dreamtime post

I was back in San Francisco yesterday afternoon, doing some more volunteer work at a legal clinic. I talked to one of my favorite clients there, and older black gentleman who made his living as a door-to-door salesman. He’s one of the nicest, smoothest-talking people you’ll ever meet, and he did a great job of selling, too, until he got “downsized” about eight months before he retired from the company.

He wanted to talk with me about some legal trouble he was in, but he didn’t tell me about the charges hanging over him from when he went back to his old company one day. No, his current trouble started with a fishing trip down the river and ended in a disaster on someone’s farm. As he told his fish story, the salesman used my electronic sketch board to paint an overhead view of the farm at the bend of the river and how each thing happened in a way that led to his arrest and the confiscation of two keeper catfish.

While there wasn’t a whole lot I could do for him legally, I marveled at the quality of his drawing. “Have you ever thought about selling your drawings?” I asked the salesman.

“Naw – who’d ever buy the meager scribblings of an old, broken-down salesman?” he replied. I gave him fifty bucks for the drawing of the farm and went on my way to a pub next door to meet up with some friends.

We had dinner; we had drinks; we all moved from our table up to the bar and started joking and flirting with the bartender, and asked for a walking map of San Fran since we were planning on being too drunk to even catch a trolly. Then her Morose Stalker showed up and proceeded to drone on about what an awful day he had. We settled our bill, over-tipped, and headed out the door with our map-on-a-napkin.

We headed down a few blocks, then turned right because, according to the napkin, that’s where the bay was. We went over a hill, and sure enough, there was water – and waterfront – down there. Half-way down the hill, my idiot friends decided that the open door to the staircase going to the second floor of the All Things Occult shop was an open invitation that looked too inviting to pass up. But of course, being an idiot myself, I couldn’t very well let them go up and get into who-knows-what trouble by themselves. We got half-way up the stairs, when I turned around to say something to one of my idiot friends. And of course, I missed the door at the top of the stairs opening, and missed hearing what the woman up there said.

“We’ve been cursed!” my friend said with a drunken giggle. “What a great night!” I immediately felt ashamed of us and tried telling my friends that Circle is where a coven of witches goes to get in touch with the holy; it’s just like when they go to church.

“There’s nothing holy about witches!” one of them retorted. “They’re heathens, and they tried to curse us! That’s so cool…”

I sighed and started pushing them back down the stairs. “You’re just lucky they didn’t turn you into newts.”

We got to the downhill corner, and the other two were still arguing about the coven and weather they should go back and try to see what’s going on, and weather life as a newt or a toad would be better. I just turned the corner and kept heading down toward the bay. I came across a storefront styled as an old-west general store, complete with a porch, a hitching post, and ads in the windows for all sorts of ways to wear fancy ropework.

I heard swearing and banging from the back of the shop, so even though it was getting on toward full dark, I decided that the open door must be an invitation, and headed inside. There was a huge, burly man dressed in brown Carhart bibs, boots, and a bushy dust-filled beard chopping at an ice-filled water trough with a shovel.

“Goddamned internet!” he shouted. “Always freezing up when I’m trying to do something!”

I took a couple steps closer for a better look when the man noticed me. “What the hell do you want?”

“Well, I work in tech support, so I thought maybe I could give you a hand.” I grabbed a pick-axe leaning against the wall, and together, the burly man and I made short work of the ice.

“Well, shoot, friend, that was mighty nice of you to lend a hand. Now people’ll be able to find my store from the Interweb again.”

I waved goodbye, and headed out into the street, only to see my friends had made up their minds to use their powers for good, and were coming around the corner toward me. We had a hale reunion in the middle of the street, then headed, once again, for the waterfront.

We were on the homestretch – just a plaza to cross – when something smacked me square in the butt. I turned around to see my high school friend standing there in 19th century garb, holding her furled umbrella in a decidedly unladlylike grip.

“So, there ye are, Billy The Goat, y’ ol scoundrel,” she said in a lilting brogue. “I once spent a night in his bed,” she added in a stage whisper to her similarly-dressed friends, “as a prisoner of rape!”

I stuttered and sputtered and made a hasty departure.* And then, finally, we made it to the bay. But more importantly, to the Holiday Inn on the Bay. Ah, comfortable bed, I have come home to you.

* Here’s what I’ll say the next time I’m accosted with innuendo by a period street performance artist: “Ah, Molly ‘Iron Britches’ Malone, ‘twern’t rape, seein’ as how you were on top and I was willin’. If I remember rightly, you was wantin’ to keep on all the way from the Golden Gate to Hong Kong. Somethin’ bout bestin’ yer ol’ record. Thank God for yer exhaustion on the second day, though, when even the Captain with his cat-o-nine tails couldn’t drive you off me.

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