“Excuse me,” a lady asks. “If we start having sex, would you watch?”
I give it some thought. “Maybe.”
They laugh. Huh-huh-huh-huh! A good time rolls off their lips.
“Pay me first!” I call after them as they waltz down the street.
Down the street, a woman screams like she’s on a hot rod, not a brightly colored bike rickshaw that glows all the colors of the rainbow in the dark.
An old man in his 50s, pot belly and half-head of hair all the shades of gray, closes his eyes and sways to the tune his guitar makes. Strums, false starts, and tunes warble over two lovebirds, an Asian and a Caucasian, and finally, a song starts with a low, melodious Spaniard’s tune, punctuated by strong strums of the strings.
“It’s engineering physics, just because they needed something with calculus in it,” the Blonde half-complains, half-jokes. “I just hope I haven’t forgotten all my calculus.”
The man warbles one last time, dabbles at his neck, then puts his guitar away, watching young men and women stroll back and forth in front of a smoky cigar lounge. And he still sings on, until the stream of humanity trickles away.
I want to talk to him, but what could we talk about? I failed violin and was kicked out of the class when my teacher noted I snuck in copies of a PS2 magazine rather than the violin notes.
Finally, he stands up – but just to move to the loveseat under the gnarled tree. One shoe is off.
A young man in clean-cut hair walks up and shakes his hand, and they talk – they’re not Spanish. It’s some Middle Eastern dialect I can’t puzzle out without sounding like a fucking racist. The younger one palms his iPhone repeatedly as they talk.
“Sit over here.” He pats the empty seat by his side.
The teenager next to me doesn’t respond. He wears black slacks, a blue button-up, half a suit. He carries a Axe box set of body wash and body spray (“NEW, AXE BULLET”), and under it, a white pizza box.
“Come here.” Again.
“Sit over here.”
“Okay, then scooch over there.”
The only response he gets is staring at him. His father? He misses several teeth, his hair cut short, face wrinkled only a father could have.
“Okay, when he backhands you…” He makes a slapping gesture, but the rest is lost to the fucking open window right behind me. This kid smells like sweat, and he’s got long eighties hair that’d make a girl jealous and the scruff of someone who hates shaving and isn’t bothering to shave against so soon.
Now does he scoot away, placing the pizza box on the weird little boxy rises that offer grips to passengers who are forced to stand.
One of the unpleasant truths about humankind is that they all have these deep, dark thoughts that fleet for a few seconds and harass the rational, not bugfuck crazy part of the brain. Like the urge to punch someone you’re talking to, for no reason, or ripping out your eyeball, also for no reason.
Another unpleasant truth about humankind is that there are people who will not shut the fuck up about how humans are bad and evil for having these urges.
“Hi, I’m doing a story with the San Jose Mercury News”. He’s 30 reaching into 40, or that just might be the low light. A head is covered by a busboy cap, and Asian eyes shine behind glasse.
He types my name on a iPhone that looks like my mother’s, in a hardened case. I spell my name out, because most people wouldn’t know how to spell it, and half of those people haven’t heard of Superman. It starts out well, until I get to my last name.
“P as in Paul.” I forget the military alphabet, which I try to use to make me sound cool. I can’t help but sound a bit annoyed, but I hate even doing that to him.
“What age are you?”
The music clashes and morphs it into 41, and I can see consternation on his face, despite the dim half-light.
“21,” I repeat.
“Oh, 21! You didn’t look 41.” Heh, heh, he chuckles.
“What are you writing?”
I pause. Mass Effect fanfiction, but that’s stupid, so: “A story - I’m a scritwriter.”
His eyes light up. “Oh!”
We discuss the article a bit more. I said I’ve been going here for more than two years, though that’s a lie - it’s two years, exactly. It’s a nice place.
“It won’t run until the seventh”, he says about the article.
“That’s fine!” And I wave him off. “Good luck!” I shout after him. He turns around, waves, and smiles.
I feel like I should ask him something. How’d you get that job? WHat equipment do you use? But nothing comes up in my mouth. What would I have to ask him? I want to run after him and catch a story, like him. What’s he like? What’s he about? How does he write, what’s his name?
But I let him go.
His bald head shines and his beard wavers in the red light as he beats his drum. He licks his fingers, holds down the surfaces, the plastic and the metal, and beats it.
The two others - a young pianist and the man in the fedora, old enough to not have anyone call him out on wearing a fedora, hold up car horns or bike horns, I’m not sure which, but they’ve got a black rubber ball that makes ‘em honk
He honks, raises them up to the bricked cieling, honks them at the dummer, gets into a honk war with the pianist, who tries not to smile, then drops it to the floor
The drum souls’s going to come to an end with a whistle, but the drummer’s far from done.
His tiny toy sax blows a little, more an more, trying to interject, but the drummer’s having too much fun. Rolling, clashing, and then the sax seems to have it…
And then the others cheer him on with a “GGoooo!”
He holds it down for more beatings, and he’s fading into the foreground
The microphone doens’t work much, in awe of the drummer.
Pete Fallico, from KCSM… two nights, we’ve got organ night… Got a great show, some of you heard our first set… Where is JEff Mars? …Jeff Mars is in the bathroom, we will be back in a few… the first series is a
coming up next month, hashimoto sakamoto(???), from osaka japan… next up, Adam Schule… ha ha,
Ladies and gerntlemen, this is the
This is the Lesley speaker, evented by Don Lesley… bought a hammond and didn’t like the sound of it…
And playing in the United States for the first time, Jeff Mars…
Ladies and gentlemen, (name of the band leader), with his famous whistle. Would you like to blow the whistle for us?
"NO!" He says.
…letting us know we are in fact, in Cafe Stritch…
"He’s in the organ business.. which means, if you need a kidney, or a liver…"
This is me, reporting live from BlogHer 2014.
I’m not actually attending, no - that would imply I have the money. No, I just dropped by on my way to see a guy on the sax at Cafe Stritch, blowing past a couple at Falafel’s Drive-In taking a selfie (after the bald, heavyset male, waiting at the long-since-closed diner, the windows black and the place devoid of people or indoor cleanliness, waits for the woman to rise up from tying their shoe and pose over the gyros and falafels and used wrappers).
Women and men spill out, some pushing strolls, just as others pull luggage. A big, blonde woman with flowers in her bike’s basket stops for me, and I apologize for intruding on her path. She smiles, tells me it’s okay.
San Fransisco. New York. Chicago. San Jose in 2006. On and on. It’s Blogher’s 10th anniversary. Happy tenth, Blogher.
I take a look inside - the main floor has a lot of corporations with infomercial-style product demonstration booths. Pledge. Tide. A few banks. So on and so forth. I wonder what the radicals of Tumblr and beyond would think.
"So a reality show contacted me - a made-up show and made-up city wanted me to go,” a woman laughs as I stand on the escalator. Must have been a prank by the more misanthropic-oriented comedy shows on the telly.
The ever faithful convention center staff - not to be confused with the con staff -help set up a buffet table for tomorrow, serving spoons and gravy boats and forks among empty food platers. Two of them give me a look, interrupting their conversation in Spanish, and smile at me.
A mom in short hair and glasses spins around as her son grabs her by her white jacket, play-growling as they turn into a slow-mo turbine. “It’s MY phone now,” she laughs, and they spin down the hall.
"It came up!" A woman in a polka-dot tanktop/shirt suit pumps her fist, watching her tablet. A lanky man in a Jewfro comes up to her, peering.
Laughter, the sort you hear from people among friends, echos up on the floor - along with the echo of a mother shhhhh…ing her kid.
"Ladies and gentlemen," a man on the mike practices welcoming, in different tones, different speeds, all the keynote speakers - sounding like an announcer at an airport, looking for lost kids. There’s a pause - then more, practicing more and more. Practice makes perfect.
"BITCH," the lead singer calls her violin. "I dropped it in Oklahoma - everything bad happened in Oklahoma," she repeats. It’s like an omen, a prayer that’ll undo the jinx Oklahoma gave her violin, duct-taped and shattered to pieces and now a finicky, complaining thing that needs to be tuned on the fly.
"Maybe if you stopped calling it a Fitch," one of the other band members - drummer or guitarist, I can’t see - helpfully admonishes, "and treated it with love and kindness, it’ll stop…"
"I love you, violin."