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April 25th

7 years ago tomorrow evening, I arrived in San Francisco. The first moments of getting lost at the tangle of onramps near the Bay Bridge. The “quiet” first to drinks in square leather chairs on California at Divis, which I had to ask my host to repeat, it’s full name, and then spell. The walk back down the hill past several bars, the need for a cigarette, which led to shots with people as willing to yell celebratorily before throwing them back while my friend waited for me to finish getting up to my blood-alcohol equilibrium. Her total unknowingness when I’d asked to stay on her couch in the Victorian with elaborate moldings, steep stairs, and cavernous ceilings with medallions that used to hang chandeliers. The map in the kitchen, framed, that showed everything I didn’t yet know about where I was and the bowl of organic fruit on the stainless steel-and-wood island that indicated she and her roommates did. “Is this all you brought,” she asked at my one large suitcase. “I would have packed a U-Haul with a bed and desk…” and everything I didn’t realize or think to realize to bring on my loosely charted drive across country. Like her bookshelf lined with poignant, funny indie authors and photography books, her bedroom hung with the art and travel accoutrements of a young 20-something with much more wherewithal, worldliness and self-confidence than I had. The photo of her and her smiling old brother, the one I tried to sleep with once, as I would the other couch surfer in her house, but who sent me back to my own, as her friend, the other newbie in town, wouldn’t. The toilet beside which I would kneel for my last time ever to toss up the pitchers of margarita-mixed tequila served by the bartender who shared his rolled cigarette but refused to kiss me under the awning of his establishment where I’d been left by my friend to my desperate, near-pleading come-ons. The Kezar bar where I learned of the game flip-cup and downed the unflipped cups on my way out with those who’d last-minute invited me to a show at the Fillmore, where I, according to my credit card statement, bought several rounds of shots on me. The band was something hippy-Jew-bluegrassy and the pot induced thoughts: Did I drive here? The post-tequila day, when I softly resolved I wouldn’t drink that day by Ocean Beach at the Park Chalet where my one friend’s boyfriend was playing a daytime set with his band and I there decided that a Blood Mary was a breakfast drink, which was, I do remember followed by pitchers of beer. The booting up of my senses, the snap into gear, as my vision came on line and showed me some unfeatured, perhaps bearded stranger standing a foot from me engaged in what must have been a charming conversation I must have been participating in as the sun and sky took on that ethereal duskiness. Is it interrupting when you inject consciousness into your own speaking and ask where the band went? Or odd to turn in the morning to the couch surfer and say without guile for the first time since meeting that you regret you can’t be friends now, because you have the utter inability to be friends with guys you’ve slept with? Is it strange for him to look puzzled and mildly alarmed at the prospect of really meeting the person he jumped into bed with? Perhaps it’s not strange, then, that the day after the band blackout I sat in a room with other people who’d also finally realized that alcohol was the problem and not the solution, or that I learned San Francisco geography by driving from one church basement to the next. 

me and my gracious host, April 25, 2006


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