I like to go to the cemetery a lot with my developmentally disabled clients. It's quiet, and there are deer wandering around, and it smells like eucalyptus. I also like answering questions from my clients like, "Do the dead people get bugged when the lawnmower goes over them?" or "How do they get haircuts?"
Most importantly, I am a strong adherent to Frederick Law Olmsted's theory of graveyards, which is that they should make great stomping grounds for the living. Known as the grandfather of landscape architecture, Olmsted designed Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, along with other well-known pre-cemeteries (depending on how many murders occur there each year) like Central Park in New York City.
The Mount Tamalpais cemetery in Marin wasn't designed by Olmsted, but it is no less beautiful. It sprawls over acres of prime real estate. We had just pulled up last week and were quietly sitting in the car when the lady came up to me and flat-out asked if I had family buried there. She eyeballed all my friends, especially the one with Down syndrome. Yadda yadda, she told us basically that we didn't belong there, so I told her to go fuck herself.
This, not surprisingly, left me feeling a bit, er, "off" the rest of the day. We were discriminated against. I felt different. All Holden Caulfield. So what do I do that night? Something really dumb. I head to a phony place loaded with phonies, Kate O'Brien's on Howard.
"Soooo," I said to the guy with the Irish brogue standing next to me at the place, ordering drinks, "What do you think of this fake pub?"
"It's fuckin' shite!" he guffawed. O'Brien's is a nice place. It's just that it's the sort of contrived joint that could exist in Epcot Center's "Worlds of Wonder" exhibit about different cultures. It's like if TGIF decided to open an Irish pub. "Thanks bay ta Gaelic It wer Frúdéi!"
Pictures of Irish people are artfully placed about and there is wood all over. You get the picture.
The Irish lad I was talking with had a prominent overbite, multiple laugh lines on his face, and those strange jeans Europeans wear. "I just got off the plane from Dublin!" he grinned. (Yes, gentle reader, I really couldn't make up this lame patter if I tried.) "In the pubs in Dublin you wouldn't wait this long for a drink! They have the Guinness all lined up there on the bar already when you walk in!"
He and his companions stood at the bar for several minutes while the two bartenders and a waitress talked about some guy they knew. Or something. I tried to liven things up.
"It's kind of too clean in here, too," I observed.
"Ha yah!" he concurred.
"No puke on the floor," I offered as an example. "But stick around I could be sick at any minute."
This continued for awhile, me and the Dubliner passing jokes back'n' forth like a leprechaun at a dwarf toss.
Slowly his companions came into view. They were glaring at me. They were San Franciscans with expensive eyewear. They were the kind of people who seem to frequent this establishment folks who work downtown or South of Market. The sort of folks who make up most of this city, really; it's just that I usually hang out in dumps. I suppose the fact that they had an Irish friend in town and they brought him to a fine, fresh establishment like Kate O'Brien's probably says all about them that needs be said.
Unfazed, I continued to share stories of my exciting trip to Dublin with the fella, like the time when I was there that some guy called me a "septic tank." It took me like 10 years to figure out that he was using a Cockney rhyming slang phrase for "yank."
Slowly but surely the Irishman's friends pulled him away from me and he became absorbed in their circle. I spend so much of my life being included in things. I have a lot of friends. But give me one day of being excluded, and I, well, feel all Holden Caulfield.
I saw a guy sitting by himself with two menus in front of him. He had been there, waiting I suppose for another person, for at least an hour. He was doing that thing that I do when I am stood up, which is pretending to be writing something the whole time so that you don't just sit there like a dink who got dissed.
I approached him, not so much because I felt sorry for him, but because I thought he might buy me a beer. You know the idea, two lost souls living in a fishbowl year after year. Running over the same old ground. What have we found? (Ooops. Sorry. They were playing Pink Floyd.) Just when I got closer, the chick, his chick, showed up, breezing in like never-you-mind and plopping herself down just as fine as you please. Harumph. I turned back, but the guy with contempo frames had taken my stool. The Irish laddie was cracking up some middle-age babes done up like mutton disguised as lamb.
Sigh. I don't need them, I thought. I don't need anyone. Bunch a freakin' phonies. I'm going to keep hanging out with the only folks who really get me. Retards and dead people.