trip to California, story 2

We went to California in May, and it is now August. Sadly, I’ve only managed to tell one story about the trip. Here’s another. Maybe I’m keeping you alive by never finishing my stories, like in that Twilight Zone episode. But probably not.

I do extensive planning before we travel. That planning turns into a three-ring binder full of maps, menus, pre-paid tickets to things, a rough itinerary for each day, etc. We are free to deviate from the plan (and do, often, so quit looking at me like that), but it helps having a guideline when you’re in a place you’re not that familiar with. It also mostly keeps you from wasting money and time on shitty meals or destinations that don’t live up to the hype.

For the San Francisco part of our trip to California, I didn’t do a lot of research into the mass transit system. Figured, they have buses, they have a subway, what’s to figure out? Yeah.

We were staying in North Beach, which is a stone’s throw from Chinatown. It was also pretty much a straight shot, by bus or on foot, down to the Financial District where we would catch the train for points further away. I didn’t look into the bus routes that deeply and instead just picked what looked like the shortest journey. Had I done a bit of research, I would have realized that the bus route I chose was ridiculously, dangerously, stupidly over-full at all hours of the day and night. The first time we rode this bus (the number 30, I think), we crammed our asses on board, feeling like giants next to all of the tiny Asian people who were already on. James almost fell on top of me when a very aggressive, loud guy at the front of the bus started literally pushing people, with his body and his hands, behind the yellow line at the front. He was yelling as if we were in the midst of an asteroid attack and the driver needed to put the pedal down in order to save our lives but the bus wouldn’t go into gear until the yellow line was unmolested by someone’s foot or rear end. We were asshole-to-elbow, as the saying goes, mashed together like a lump of living bologna.

After about 15 minutes of creeping along the very populated Stockton Street, listening to this guy yell and watching him get into fights with old men, we decided to get off the bus and hoof it down to the subway. We walked slightly faster than the bus traveled and got to the financial district just ahead of it. We got on the subway, and, since I hadn’t done any research into our mass transit options, we were amazed when the subway car climbed up out of the earth and drove on the street like a bus. It was a really cool experience that I wasn’t expecting, and I would think it would be cathartic for NYers and others who ride the subway every day to ride the train in SF and emerge from the depths into sunshine. Wish fulfillment.

So we were riding on the subway that was now above ground when a guy with tattoos got on. Not a sprinkling of tattoos – a monsoon of them. And they were thematically related. Here, see if you can figure the theme out:
– 666
– picture of the generally accepted version of what Satan looks like
– devil horns
– what was supposed to look like flesh torn from the back of his head
– etc.

He was dressed in black, head to toe, carrying a black bowling bag that I’m pretty sure contained a human head. Or, I should say, I was pretty sure of that because this guy cut a mean swagger and his eyes looked scary crazy. Then I noticed the shoes.

He was wearing these little black sneakers with skulls on them. I can’t remember the brand, but they looked like sort of like this only in black suede. And the illusion was broken. See, scary footwear would have been some greasy old black combat boots, the kind of shoes you can picture stepping on and in messy things. His little skull shoes were a joke. He was too accessorized. He was wearing shoes that I’m sure a thousand suburban skate punks and chubby goth kids were wearing at the same moment. I pictured him sitting at a computer at the library, searching through page after page of search results on, looking for just the right skull-themed footwear. (There’s an amazingly large variety of shoes with skulls on them, by the way, as I found out when trying to find a link for this blog.) So whatever hold he had on me for the brief moment that I found him intimidating dissipated as soon as I noticed the shoes.

(While in Big Sur, I sat on the deck at our cabin, drank wine and wrote some notes to myself with the intention of eventually blogging about this stuff. I have plenty more stories to write.)

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