The three men stood smoking in an alleyway off Sansome in the Financial District, their suit jacket shoulders forming crisp outlines against the drab, gray buildings. It was the morning after Da Mayor's inauguration bash, and the town was still buzzing in the afterglow. The "soul of the city" pumped fresh blood through the veins of every neighborhood, bringing smiles of hope to expectant faces, young and old alike. The California sun was shining bright and warm. San Francisco was on the national news. This City Hall regime was going to be much different.
The one wearing a single-breasted charcoal-gray Zegna saw me coming and hoisted his brown-bag bottle.
"Soul of the city, brother." He took a long guzzle and passed what looked like a cognac decanter over to a Versace pin stripe with chapped red feet.
"My God," I exclaimed. "I thought you were businessmen."
"Oh, we will be soon," piped up the third, a craggy-faced individual wearing an Armani tuxedo jacket with a pair of black leather pants obviously left over from the disco days. "We've already got the clothes!"
"Got 'em from Victorian House thrift store on Fillmore," burped the Zegna, wiping his mouth on his sleeve. "All these used to belong to Willie himself, man."
The trio looked me up and down with acute indifference.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"All cotton," sneered Zegna to his companions.
"Maybe his sister works at a Gap outlet," said Armani. The other two burst into maniacal laughter that seemed to echo off the buildings.
I wasn't getting paid enough to be ridiculed by bums. But there I was, a convenient punching bag for their reverse sartorial elitism. These were not just your garden-variety indigents. This was high-priced alley trash -- transformed overnight by a simple inauguration from homeless nomads into bitchy designer snobs. Even their dumpster was draped in fresh flowers. It was time to either placate their egos or taste the lash of three drunken Mr. Blackwells, out to fuck with the rumpled. I mentioned they all appeared very professional and distinguished.
"Hey, Willie's got the right idea. You look good, you feel good," said Versace. He stepped closer to me, his breath hot with spicy jambalaya. "And last night, we ate good, too."
I asked which food they enjoyed the most.
"Hamilton's shelter -- Crepe Vine Cafe is to die for," he answered.
"Fog City oysters," Armani beamed with pride. "Smuggled 'em out in my cummerbund."
"Vertigo's dumpster, after the VIP lunch," announced Zegna. "Yellowtail tuna, bitter green salad with Stilton brioche, coconut macadamia nut tart dessert -- the Coit Tower made of white chocolate was a bit dry, however."
OK, so the cuisine was definitely a hit, but what did these haberdashery hobos think of the new mayor's promises? What about his plans for Muni, the 911 system, the downtown ballpark?
Versace ignored me. "Did you notice that he wore a shiny gold necktie at the swearing-in --"
"Yeah," Armani excitedly cuts in, "and for the Pier 45 party, he changed his shirt from a traditional starched white collar to a tuxedo collar with studs!"
"Black studs," corrected Zegna, relighting a butt. "Nothing less for a horse-drawn carriage entrance."
A bike messenger whizzed past us in a cloud of pot smoke, going the wrong direction up the one-way alley. But what about Brown's new appointments? Did they approve of Police Chief Fred Lau?
"Lau? He could use some color," muttered Versace, hitching up the hip-hugger leather pants, which were beginning to slip off his ass.
"Brighten it up, Freddie," sniffed Zegna. "Let's see some reds, some yellows. He's making 130 grand now, he can afford not to be dreary."
And Fire Chief Bob Demmons, who some say is a weak choice?
"Born in Dallas," said Armani with some authority. "I see him in Tony Lama lizard boots, a big black fedora -- Borselino, maybe a Stetson for weekdays."
What of Susan Lowenberg, Brown's appointee to the Planning Commission, who recently switched parties from Republican to Democrat?
The three looked at each other as if it were the stupidest question they'd ever heard.
"Donna Karan all the way," sniped Zegna impatiently. "Basic black."
"Not only is it classic elegance," said Armani, who paused to look up and down the alley. His voice dropped to a whisper. "It's slimming."
Despite this bizarre one-sided conversation, the three asked me to join them for lunch. Maybe there was something to this whole "soul of the city" thing, after all. If snotty, well-dressed bums can invite you to break bread, perhaps things really are looking up for the old town.
"Sure," I said. "Some Stilton brioche sounds great."
"Fuck the brioche," said Armani, already rummaging in a dumpster. He struggled momentarily, then yanked out the grimy remains of a soggy muffin. "Some things are already back to normal."
Address all correspondence to: Slap Shots, c/o SF Weekly, 425 Brannan, San Francisco, CA 94107; phone: (415) 536-8152; e-mail: Slapshawts@aol.com.
By Jack Boulware