After spending an evening meandering through the Mission, I wasn't feeling well by the time I reached my final destination. "I think I'm having a low blood sugar episode," I said to my friend Floyd. I get those now and again, where I start to feel really crappy and flu-ish and nar-nar. "I need sugar," I said, and asked the bartender for the sugar pourer I saw behind the bar, but she didn't hear me. I get confused when these flashes happen, and forget that I could order a Coke instead of pouring raw sugar into my hand. At any rate, I must've been turning blue or something, because Floyd hopped up and ran out to get me some Skittles.
We were at the Uptown on 17th and Capp streets, that great amalgamation of a bar that is part old man, part hipster, part pool shark haven, and part crash pad. If I lived in the Mission, it would be a tossup as to which dive I'd be a regular at, the Uptown or the Attic. In fact, I like the Uptown so much that I didn't even mind the little blond pixie of a man staring at me the whole time I was waiting for my candy. He was part Wayland Flowers and a whole lotta Madam, and he was smiling eerily at me, like Boris Karloff in a beauty pageant. Actually, I was cursing my luck, because normally I would be all over talking to someone like him. Matter o' fact, usually I'm the one ogling strangers, hoping to start up a conversation. But I wasn't feeling well.
The other factor contributing to my nausea was a subpar $100 dinner of Indian food followed by whiskey, if truth be told. Floyd and I went to Dosa on Valencia, a place I have been hearing about forever. I'm not sure what I expected, but it sure wasn't nirvana on the Ganges. I couldn't figure out why the restaurant was so packed, when I've had ten times better Indian food at places in the city that have two patrons, a mildly needy waitstaff (Please! Come in and eat ... please!), and Hispanic cooks.
As we left Dosa and made our way toward the Uptown, I mused that the key to running a successful restaurant in San Francisco was simply to charge a lot of money. Then people automatically think the food is good and that the place is a hot spot. We paid $15 for two boring samosas, for example.
"Nah," Floyd said. "You just aren't used to southern Indian cuisine." We argued that point before moving on to buses in S.F. and how they suck (my opinion) and how they are great (his opinion).
As we continued down Valencia, we passed the strangest church. It was named Jews for Jesus, but everyone inside was Hispanic. The doors were flung wide open and people were singing. A menorah was in the front window. I couldn't help but pause and look in, and several parishioners looked back at me with mildly needy gazes (Please! Come in and pray... please!). The Moonie vibe was strong. "Dude," I said to Floyd, "that is a cult."
"Nah," he said, predictably. "There are many Jews in Latin America. As a matter of fact, Argentina was called the Israel of the ..." blah blah blah. No wonder by the time we got to the Uptown (via a stop at Doc's Clock for a whiskey and a discussion about aging hipsters) I felt woozy.
Back at the Uptown, where my heart was palpitating and I was in need of sugar, the pixie began to lean into my earthspace. He was about to say something to me when Floyd popped back in and slapped the Skittles on the bar. I ripped into them with relish, sorted them by color in my hand, and inhaled the rainbow in all of three minutes.
I started to feel better right away, though I was painfully tired — physically and mentally. The other big, exhausting discussion Floyd and I had been having was about novels that have been made into movies. We agreed that Fast Times at Ridgemont High was a great book. And actually we never discussed the movie, because I was scared that Floyd doesn't like it. That film is a sacrament to me, and I don't want its name taken in vain.
The "arguing" we do is actually really stimulating. Floyd is extrasmart, and I always learn something. For example, when we were discussing mid-to-late-'80s hardcore, I learned that the Gorilla Biscuits have a heavy cachet with old punks, and are, in fact, not viewed with derision.
"No way," I said.
"Way," he replied.
But here's my favorite thing about hanging out with Floyd. I feel as if I am having a very San Francisco evening. We hop around from place to place, he knows someone at every joint we hit, and we take in a meal. It's somehow a better night out than I am used to — the book version, if you will. And what's a good plot without a little conflict? Plus he'll bring me candy if I need it.
I always wish I could stay up longer when I'm with Floyd, but I tend to get tired and start to doze off, a fact he always points out. This night I did pretty well though, making it to BART right before the last train took off, which is superlate for me. I was still in danger of falling asleep on BART, though, which I've seen others do on many occasions. I forced myself to sit up straight and took out The Autobiography of Mark Twain. I'm not sure about the movie, but I think in this case the book about the man was more interesting than the reality. Twain can make anything compelling, even Missouri. He made a deal with himself that his life story wouldn't adhere to normal chronologies. "In this autobiography," he wrote to his friend, William Dean Howells, "it is my purpose to wander whenever I please and come back when I get ready."
I can relate.