Monday, September 19, 2005


Friend Quigley, staying with us last week, wondered if his impression of San Francisco as a gentle city was skewed, having only seen the "nice" neighborhoods.

Tonight, waiting for the bus where paint curls off buildings, smell of decades-old cigarette smoke and mildew drifts from the corner cafe, a man with white hair to his shoulders waits with me, porkpie hat, hook for a hand clasps the strap of a duffel. A trim man walks by, suit so impeccably tailored it takes a minute to realize his legs are half the length of mine, he stands no higher than my ribs.

A finely built woman, dainty in a pink sweater, deep mahogany skin, ponytail, face of a man, walking quickly the other way.

Hipster taping flyers to the telephone pole, tattoo of ten arrows pointing away from a black center circle.

A man in a baby mohawk and combat boots, wide chin, broad shoulders.

The bus arrives, and mohawk and hipster move toward the door, but mohawk stops, arm out, blocking the hipster.

He nods gravely at me.

I move past him onto the bus, a dumbfounded Thankyou trickling from my mouth. I find a seat and the others climb aboard, hipster laughing and shaking his head, mohawk last, walking past me without a glance.

I finish the ride alert to this odd grace, and think Quigley's perception is right, there is something softer here, something gentle, a welcome for people who aren't at home where we grew up, a shared nostalgia for places that would never be ours, I can talk about us here and it sounds truer than it ever did, a community of unmatched puzzle pieces, we're remaking the picture every day.


anne said...

Glad to see you had your own brush with gentlemanliness.
That said, I find that when something nice happens on a bus or metro, it does skew my perception of the city. Public transport brings out the worst in people, so when the best is visible, it's... blinding.

jkirlin said...

Nice, Billy.

Caryn said...

Hey, I just saw you mentioned on I didn't know that about you, did I? That makes three I link to: you and Dooce and Natalie Collins. Great sites, all of them. Our town is only 30-40% (and I go with the majority), which is kind of refreshing, compared to the rest of the state.

LyP said...

Hello B,

I enjoyed reconnecting with you yesterday on my b-day. And, you successfully nudged me into the blog world, sohere I am.
I link to you, of course. You're free to link or not link to me. We'll see how it goes. LyP

Chemical Billy said...

Anne, it's true, but it was in your city, in Paris, that I fell in love with public transportation, and I'll never stop romanticizing.

JK - thanks!

Anna, holy Mormons, Batman! I didn't know about that site, but I like her writing. I feel privileged!

LyP, Welcome to the scratch fiction world!