What do you kiddies want to hear about today, hmm? Shall I tell you about the time I was buried under an avalanche of discarded mismatched sneakers in the back of a Goodwill in South San Francisco? South San Francisco is not real San Francisco, and there are lots of old unstylish low lying houses and low income apartment complexes and liqueur stores and gentleman’s clubs with signs over their storefronts manufactured in the 1960’s, and one of those dull yawning caverns of a Goodwill plopped down in the middle like the center of a grotesque flower, all the other haunts of the impoverished derelicts, and professional sex workers splayed around it like drooping petals. This is all off of the route 130 bus line and very near to a BART station and I make it sound even worse than it really is. People probably only get knifed outside of those places every other night or so, and during the day, if you’re there, you’ll only just get a very dirty feeling that will make you want to rush home and wash that intangible filth away.
I was once in a place that was much, much, more dangerous, where people were knifed in broad day light, probably about once every three hours. That was in Colorado, and the street was an infamous stretch whose name has now been blotted out by the many years in which I have lived without thinking about it, but now that I am trying, the gears in my head are grinding real hard so that my neighbor down stairs bangs on her ceiling with the tip of a broom and shouts “quiet up there!” Little bits of recollection are coming loose in my watery mind like bits of milk scum left in the bottom of a coffee mug that was poorly washed before being used again.
The street drifting to the center of my mug is called East Colfax, and nobody that wasn’t completely insane and didn’t have to be there was there. I, sadly, was part of that first category, the “completely insane”. Particularly I was lured there by the presence of the area’s largest magickal supply store. It was Kmart for Wiccans ,Thelemites, alien abductees, and Christians converted to New Agers (you will find that there’s hardly any difference between the converts and the original, but the Christians hate the New Agers, and the New Agers pretend that they love everybody, even the Christians. Actually the Christians pretend to love everybody too, but in their version of that lofty feeling, you can kill anyone that’s a Muslim or a Satanist and call anyone who isn’t a member of your church one of these before killing them and consider it God’s will, whereas the New Agers like to think that everything is okay and everybody is okay and things are just fine, and all we need to do is picture ourselves bathed in white light and it will all get better. Another related point of conflict between the two is that the Christians know that there is a devil creeping around acting refined and educated, urging you to vote for a black president and buy a hybrid vehicle, while New Agers are sure that there isn’t and he just sits with them in drumming circles dressed all in white, grinning and waiting for them to drift off into a peaceful bright white slumber so that he can rape them and steal their wallets.)
The thing that I don’t recall, no matter how I scrape at the sides of the cup, is the number of the bus route that led to that esoteric super store, nor do I recall the name of the store itself. At any rate I was 18 years old and rode the bus and had to get off and walk a block or so before arriving in heathen heaven, were they carried 64 different tarot decks, some imprinted with photographs of your mother doing various unhallowed things. Tra la, la, I skipped up the street, a slightly cynical veneer covering my country bumpkin naiveté so that I would melt in the mouth not in the hand, and a woman with scraggly hair, missing teeth, and fresh bruises all over her face stopped me and asked,
“Are you walking?” I looked down at my worn sneakers and, just like Crissy from Three’s Company probably would have said, I answered,
“I was on the bus before. But yeah, now I’m walking.”
“Oh good,” without missing a beat she continued, “Because I got these two guys in an alley over here…”
Those gears I told you about in my head started grinding. My jaw dropped.
“Oh. I’m walking, but I’m not walking. Sorry.”
And away I went, off to the gun shop of Isher, otherwise probably known as Merlin’s Beard or The Glitter Star Rainbow Cauldron, or something like that.
The clerk was kind of a mean mediocre middle aged fellow with a moustache and no interest in being helpful, and whether this was because I looked too rough or seemed too sweet, I’ll never know, because it’s always hard to see oneself, even when looking back through the pools of antiquity. It is not surprising, however, that the whore I met on the way took me to be one of her own profession. When she caught sight of me, she saw an extremely skinny girl with long bare legs and a shaved head wearing army fatigue shorts and a tank top, and my eyes were still a little bruised from a car accident I had been in a month or so before. So perhaps the cranky old fake wizard thought, as she had, that I was just some cranked up prostitute choosing his store as a momentary refuge from the broiling sun outside. I bought something unnecessary and completely forgettable which probably changed the course of my life to come and made it back home without further incident, but wrapped in a slowly developing state of shock. (I told you that I was a small town girl out for a dip on a big dirty city street).
All in all, compared to East Colfax Blvd. in Denver, South San Francisco along route 130 is like downtown Disney, but compared to downtown Disney, South San Francisco along route 130 is like East Colfax Blvd. If you have to choose between these three destinations, pick downtown Disney, unless you’re looking for toothless hookers and illegal drugs.
As for my experience in the back of that Goodwill, I can’t tell you very much about the avalanche because it hasn’t happened yet. Now that I think of it, it will be unpleasant trying to chew my way through all of those shoes while I wait three days for emergency rescue workers to dig me out, and drink cool aid from a thermos strapped to the back of a trained rat named Bernard who is accustomed to being lowered down wells and sent into collapsed buildings to offer refreshments and a game of five card draw to disaster victims while they wait to be unearthed. I think perhaps I will skip the whole affair and get a pair of shoes at Payless instead. Hell, just to make sure, I think I’ll go to the Aerosoles shoe store in Union Square in real San Francisco. There they’ll wrap my purchase in hot pink tissue paper and lower it into a stripped gift bag so that when I leave I’ll be smiling like it’s my birthday. So dearies, you’ll have to settle for this story about the time I took the bus to the Unicorn’s Mystic Haven on East Colfax and nearly started my accidental career as a two dollar hooker, and excuse my while I count my shiny nickels and prepare for a shoe shopping trip in Fancy Frisco.