One of the men BEHIND me said, "I think there's an old Chinese proverb that goes, 'The only way to get rid of temptation is to give into it.'" Nervous thus excited people on the shuttle from the lousy Holiday Inn to the train station at SFO. Quickly you learn to sit in the back so you can tell who's talking and write about them without anyone looking over your shoulder.
As the train departed the station a woman in FRONT of me shouted, "Shit!" and dashed after her big roller-suitcase--it rolled into a woman wearing a burka. Seated in the BACK of the train car, I noted the event in my little pad. The voice of the conductor was light-hearted and personable and tinged with absurd. "This train is bound for ..." AND I AM LAUGHING AT MYSELF. "Next stop Glen Park, Glen Park ..." AND WE ALL GOT TO WORK! WHO EVER THOUGHT I'D BE DRIVING A TRAIN! LITTLE JOHNNY LAPSKIN FROM BERKELEY. I AM A GAY POET DRIVING A TRAIN!
Walking down Sixteenth Street I admired the graffiti and murals and a tall brown-skinned man with a do-rag said to me, "What the fuck you looking at?" Later I answered, "Everything."
That classic red convertible Corvette, that purple Vespa, that man or woman in a filthy ski-jacket picking butts out of the weeds. The clashing construction, the shaky rafters, the slopping paint. That man by the bizarre who you thought asked you for money and when you turned to him reaching in your back pocket for one of the dollar bills you'd stuffed back there he said, "You looking for that crystal?"
"No," you said.
"Oh you want that weed. That's me too."
"No, I'm okay. But thank you."
The tourists and the hipsters in their wing-tipped shoes. The skyscrapers and the statues--the big balls of that horse on which Bolivia sits. The people facing outward on the trolleys and the antennae of the trolleys sparking and gliding on the wires. That lady slumped on the sidewalk who did ask you for money and when you gave her a dollar from your back pocket she said, "I wish you'd've pulled a twenty out of there," laughing and smiling like that dark girl outside the strip crib who said, "Hey there, handsome," and you smiled and she said, "Look at that smile." The crosswalks. The reddish orange hand and the numbers counting down. That young, uneasy policeman in his fresh black uniform unkindly giving directions. That staggering old man in his stretch pants and purple halter-top. The strong fortyish man with his life-possessions spilling from his grocery cart. The poor in the shade with their backs against the trees. Their weathered faces and perceptive eyes. All the Starbucks. All the automobiles. All the red balloons in Chinatown. Huge pork rinds and plastic Samurai swords and lady's slippers with flowers embroidered on the toes. All the people on phones. All the people taking pictures. The blond guy with a tiny head and deep-rutted jaw pushing a stroller. The white-skinned men trying to look good in tight jeans. The stretch pants on the manikin's legs, the large lifted plastic buttocks. PIZZA BY THE SLICE. PAKISTANI CUISINE. CENTER FOR SEX AND CULTURE. L'EGLISE DE NOTRE DAME. The hills. The lingering haze. The thin arms of that model on his bike on that billboard. That server in that café preparing menus. The fishnet stockings on that woman's legs in that photo in the window of that erotic gift store. That fountain of fountains shooting like fire hoses this way and that and that dark-skinned girl with enormous breasts posing for pictures in the fountain.
San Fran is a city of friction, a city of lust feigning intellect, a breezy city made to blow the soul, a city that grabs you and never lets go. A tantalizer, ruled by King Tantalus, who loves to pass on his divine punishment. San Francisco is a throat-deep bath with fruit-laded branches hanging over it, and they recede when you reach for them.
Temptation never goes away, it just steps out for a smoke.