(This layout is not what I want but I don’t know how to correct it. But, this post is so long that only imaginary readers and me, myself and I will read the entire thing anyway. So…I’ll not sweat the invisible stuff).
This post recalls a day well spent drifting around San Francisco using public transportation. I take notes as I ride and sometimes they turn into buzz hacking songs. (I’ll post a link to a song at some point for my imaginary listeners out there in digi-world).
Starting With the 38 Bus
On the Number 38 rapid bus route going towards the Pacific Ocean, I watch mad men on Geary Street scream at pedestrians or themselves, depending on the moment. No one makes eye contact with these unpredictable souls. No one else talks on this bus heading west. Everyone messes with cell phones. So I sit and stare or scribble hurriedly about what I see, hear and smell. I’ll tell mostly the truth, but fiction, or at least my imagination, rides with me, too.
To my right, a mother reads aloud to her daughter as horns on the street blare “Watch out!”
She hears nothing except her daughter’s voice. I wonder what choices got them here on this commuter bus right now?
“Never Mind” was quickly written with black spray paint on a concrete retaining wall at Geary and Presidio Street.
But the recorded voice on this bus I’m riding says, “Please hold on.” Now I’m not sure what I should do. So I continue to ride towards the ocean blue. Or at least that’s what I hope it will be.
Lily’s Magic Alterations and Tailoring at Geary and Stanyon Street is across the street from a Cross Fit training gym where fit men
jump rope looking out the door on Geary Street. This bus ride is my temporary alteration. “Please hold on” says the bus voice as the bus doors close and people find seats.
At 6th Street and Geary on old woman wearing a men’s gray felt jacket picks white cat hair off the sleeves one by one. She gently flicks each hair towards the bus and never looks up. If you didn’t realize what she was doing, you’d just think she’s crazy. Not everyone is crazy out there or in here on the bus.
At 29th Street and Geary, a man with hair in a tight bun drags on a cigarette while nursing a to-go cup, but I’m not sure it’s coffee he’s sipping. I’ll keep riding on to 48th Street, but at 44th Street, Geary slopes down quickly. I finally see where the ocean meets the ground.
At Lands End the coffee is good, dark and includes refills. I shall quake with caffeine before I touch the ocean with my fingers. My coffee buzz counters the slow methodical moves of tai chi practitioners. I watch them as the surf crashes on the beach behind me.
There was a man at Lands End who screamed at the land, sky and ocean. His rage is directed everywhere at everything and everyone.
He took our attention and for a moment, became bigger than the ocean.
If I could surf, would I be free? What if I don’t surf until I’m seventy? Would the fish laugh as a shark made a meal of me? “Please hold on” I imagine the bus voice saying now. I could sit all day at Lands End. I could pretend I’m a local obscure poet. But the 28 bus route waits to cart me to the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s not a sacrilege to say God hangs ten at the ocean of nature devotion. So I will imaginary surf on the 38 bus to Park Presidio Boulevard and switch to the 28 bus. But I can’t be late because I’m just drifting, looking and listening to whatever comes along. Yes, I’m a well-kept man on vacation. But, “Please hold on” says the magic voice from the bus. Oh, that magic lady voice does so care for all of us.
At the bus stop for the 28 bus, a shirtless tattooed man’s back carries, I suppose, an image of Jesus. As if anyone knows what Jesus might look like? He prances on the tips of his shoes at the stoplight while others step aside adding distance from this mad man. He sips bright red liquid from a clear plastic bottle and returns it to a side pocket in his backpack. Maybe this is a modern-day Last supper, but I didn’t see any bread or apostles. “Please hold on” said the magic voice as the bus rolled on. Perhaps God is testing us. God, he, she…a street bum and maker of a cathedral from a wave at Lands End. “Oh behave!” my Queen Anne might say if she rode this bus with me. I’d better be careful or I might hear heavenly voices no one sees.
I exit the 28 bus where everyone flees to see the Golden Gate Bridge equipped with selfi-sticks opened and ready. I attempt two hand-held pictures of myself with bridge and delete both. I’ve run across the bridge before, maybe twice or even four times. But this time only my eyes will cross the Golden Gate Bridge. Am I lazy at sixty? If I was on the bus a voice would now cut in and say, “Please hold on.” So see? Now I am hearing the magic lady voice without riding the bus, be it route 38 bus or 28 bus. But I feel great on this day of riding and walking. It’s a day of retreat.
I’m back on the 28 bus heading to the 1 bus. “No Stops or Turns” a sign says near the Golden Gate Bridge. “Please hold on.” We do until we can’t hold on. Then we let go. On I go to California Street where I’ll exit and take the 1 bus. All this effort made just to head towards the Powell Street cable car. It’s OK, I’m a tourist.
Once off the 1 bus a short walk is made to the cable car. The car’s empty and the conductor sits on a bench smoking an electronic cigarette. “Get on if you want. Sit or stand, whatever you want” he tells me as vapor leaves his mouth. I ride the cable car to enjoy the sounds of the antique machinery. This turn of the century technology could have gone electric by now. But the clattering operating levers and smoking wooden breaks makes the ride more than transportation.
The now on duty conductor says to a co-worker, who hops on to ride but is off duty, “He (referring to another employee not present) came on like a rock star.” “But they won’t keep him. He can’t handle the pressure” he says while ringing the bell on the cable car like a jazz percussionist.
The end of the cable car line is one block away. The next riders wait at the turn around point. I exit early and walk back to the Hotel Nikko where doormen smile at each customer passing through the door. I ride a polished elevator to the 19th floor where I get a bird’s eye view of a magic crazy city. “Please hold on” down there. But it’s obvious many people have lost their grip.
Gregory Zeorlin 10/13/2016 (A day in San Francisco, CA)