AND THIS WAS SUCH A NICE QUIET NEIGBORHOOD
One night some time after midnight I am woken up by a god awful hallabaloo coming from the street below my windows. I am normally pretty good at ignoring city noises, O’Farrell is a busy street the traffic never sleeps on O’Farrell street, buses, cabs, people going to the theaters to hotels going shopping, just going, people. My building is right in what I call the tidal delta zone. The place where the worlds of the tourist hotels, the shopping the theaters and restaurants, meet and mix with the tenderloin world of the broken, the used and the forgotten. My apartment looks out over it all. I would sit at my windows working on some beading project and watch the endlessly entertaining theater of the streets. So I am used to the sounds of the streets and find the sounds of the city breathing actually comfort my sleep. But even so hearing people screaming out my name with death threats attached kinda got my attention
I pull open my window and lean out looking down to the street below.
Queeny and her crack head court were down below my window, screaming up death threats, to me.
Queeny is a needle thin African American woman who could be an aged thirty or a preserved sixty. Her court is an ever changing collection of the hopelessly lost. Her tribe occupies the sidewalk in front of the Christian science church half a block from my building. The sidewalk there is wide and open, catching the warming sun for most of the day and there is an alley between the church building and the building next to mine perfect for the clandestine deals necessary for survival on the streets. Every now and then I toss the tribe a few bucks for coffee or crack, what ever gets you through the day.
I leaned out the window a bit to get a better look at the commotion. Spotting me Queeny screams up at me shaking her boney first.
“Ya you, you bitch, we going ta KILL you!”
“Really? Have I done something in particular to piss you off?”
They all shook their fists at me and screamed up a chorus of murder. This is the first time in my life I have been serenaded and I must say I imagined such an event in my life quite differently.
I shrug my shoulders and close the window. What ever drugs their on, will no doubt wear off in a day or two. I thought and vowed that I would never again buy those idiots another cup of coffee. I go back to sleep, fading the calls for my death into the steady back ground of the street. I slept.
5am I woke as I did every morning except that this morning the crack heads were still under my window screaming up the endless creative means of my demise they could come up with. I pull on my torn jeans a clean enough t shirt and my doc martins and head out the door.
Once I was out on the sidewalk Queeny and her court fall silent, watching me with weary eyes. I smile and wave at them and skip across the street to paradise doughnuts for my breakfast.
“Long time no see.” Hussen greets me as he does every morning. Hussen has the whitest teeth I have ever seen outside of a tooth paste add.
I pour myself a cup of coffee and grab a doughnut, hmm boston cream. I say my good morning to Hussan and to Alan who is there as he is every morning puttering about fixing the coffee.
Alan is the sort of man you could see teaching Irish poetry in some exclusive boys school. He sixtyish with a neatly trimmed beard and hawkish nose. He tries very hard to project roguish charm. He runs errands of an unspecified sorts for paradise doughnuts and for the quick copy store that is owned by an Indian gentleman named Mr. Repinder. Alan is also a small time loan shark loaning 10 for 15 kinda thing. Alan and I are friends, with in boundaries. That is we go out to lunch from time to time, and take little trips out and about to places in San Fran and the bay area. I don’t talk about his busness, he doesn’t talk about mine. He enjoys having someone to tell stories about the old days to, I enjoy listening to stories so it all works out fine.
I get a newspaper and a pack of camels pay for my breakfast and skip back across the street. I smile and wave as I pass the court. They give me the squint eye. As soon as I got back inside my apartment they began yowling up at my windows again. ( Oh for heavens sake.)
They seemed quite determined to continue their annoyance of my peace so I shrugged my shoulders, put on a movie and turned to my bead work. I had just started on a large project, a large denim coat that I was beading with designs from the beetles movie the yellow submarine.
They continued all that day and night. Working in shifts. I was impressed. I never would thought that that crew was capable of such well organized behavior or of being capable of holding a single thought or plan of action for such a long stretch of time.
Day two, repeat day one. A week. I was no less confused about the cause of this nonsense but was seriously impressed with their sticktiuvness.
You would think that that many people making that much noise at literally all hours of the day and night would attract some attention, but apparently not in my neighborhood. Now of course you wonder why didn’t I immediately call the police? For what exactly? Making noise? And of course when the cops show up they won’t be making nose, will they? Hell the cops won’t even see them, as like cockroaches when the light snaps on, they would disappear into the shadows.
I continued with my beading, ordered the occasional pizza. I kept the window open a bit and looked out every now and then, trying to puzzle out the cause for all this ruckus. I noticed a man hanging out with the crack head crew. He seemed to be the one directing the crew.
I knew him, calls himself John. Very original. He was tall blond and muscle bound and very very sure of his attractiveness to women. It is one of the true wonder of the world that the men most sure of themselves are so often the ones with the least reason to be. He had shown up in the neighborhood about two weeks before the ruckus started.
He had been just standing there on the street corner. When I passed on by he started trying to chat me up. Trying to do everything in his power to attract my attention, if there had been a puddle in the street he would have thrown his jacket on it for me to step on.
Unfortunatly for him, I pretty much considered him a puddle I was trying to avoid steping in.
One day I went out to the dinner just up the ally from my place for a bit of breakfast. He invited himself to join me. I couldn’t bring myself to object. It was like having my very own performing monkey amusing me at breakfast.
Ohhh and how he did go, telling me all about his numerous girl friends his prowess is bed his size,
“Jezz dude, I’m on my first cup of coffee here.”
He continued on, going on and on about my hotness.
Yawning widly. Sipping at my coffee. (I havent finished my first cup of coffee yet, I refuse to believe that I am currently anyone's hottness.)
He wants me to take him home with me.
“What ever for? “
So he can have sex with me.
Well direct enough. I laugh.
“Why would I do that?”
Because he wants it.
“Really? So I should have sex with you, just because you want it?”
He looks at me so convinced of his attractiveness that my agreement is a forgone conclusion.
I laugh so hard I have to push the plate out of the way. My head down on the table, pounding the table with my fists.
He frowns and with out another word stalks off from the table and out the door. My wild peals of laughter following him.
Looking out my window watching him talking to the crack heads, I figured that the blow to his ego was more then he could handle gracefully and this foolishness with the crack head crew was his little way of acting out. Well sooner or later he’ll get over it and the crack heads will find another game.
The end of the second week, I am becoming annoyed. ( Fun is fun but really this has gone on quite long enough.) From under the kitchen sink I take out my can of raid. ‘Kill roaches from 10 feet away’ nice. I put on my torn jeans a clean enough t shirt and my doc martins and the yellow submarine coat I am still working on. In one pocket I stuff the can of raid in the other a bic lighter and I head out the door.
Out on the side walk I stand across the alley from the crowd of crack heads. I take out the can of raid and the lighter. I smile and point the can. It works better than I expected. A fifteen foot jet of flames lights up the predawn darkness. I catch the shocked startled looks on the faces of Queeny and her court, frozen for a moment like in the flash of a camera.
I put the can and the lighter back in my pockets and smile at their frozen faces.
“You all may bay at the moon if you wish.
“But,,,,quit,,,,Fucking with Me.”
I smile pleasantly and skip across the street to paradise doughnuts.