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Joy of Shopping 

Two stories about puking: a bad day at the mall and a Marina vs. Mission drinking contest

Wednesday, Jul 10 2002
It's a brilliant, bright Saturday afternoon in San Francisco, and the last thing we want to be doing is trudging through the vapid, fluorescent lengths of the Stonestown Galleria. But our companion needs her glasses tightened, so we set our sights on LensCrafters.

Suddenly, disaster: No more than 20 feet inside the store's entrance, our companion emits a strangled cry, her left leg shooting forward as her right leg buckles. Looking down, we expect to find a puddle of coke, a recently mopped floor, or almost any type of liquid substance, but not -- not -- a gigantic, smeared stream of vomit.

Yes, our friend has fallen into a chunky swath of barf, which now coats her pant leg and shoes, and the telltale aroma is filling -- filling -- our nostrils. For a long moment we simply stand there, stunned disgust gradually giving way to rage. Who, after all, blows chunks -- in a mall -- and just leaves?

Good citizens that we are, we notify the nearest boutique employee and stand guard, warning shoppers to give a wide berth. "It wasn't us," we explain, while we wait for the mall's brass, which arrives in the form of a solitary, excitable security guard with a slight build who wants, more than anything, to call an ambulance. We wave off the offer, noting that a shower would be more useful than an emergency room; he pulls out a notebook.

"I just have a few questions," he mumbles.

Can't we wash first?

"No," he says. "We have to take pictures."

Ours is a litigious age, certainly, but -- but -- this guard, who clearly sees himself as the Sherlock Holmes of mall security, demands our friend's driver's license, which happens to originate in Florida, which immediately raises as much suspicion as a flight-school registration card. Eyes flickering between the spill and the stained pantleg, security guard Holmes re-creates the fall. He remains suspicious.

"How could you fall forward," he asks, contorting his body into an unlikely position, "if your right leg wound up here?"

"There must have been a second vomiter," we mumble.

"I have to write a report," the guard replies testily. "Now, how much do you weigh?"

The photographer finally arrives; our friend dutifully poses next to the puke that did her in, holding her nose and fielding questions from the mall's investigator.

And then he asks her to hike up her pants. To prove there aren't any cuts or bruises.

"But the pants are covered in someone else's vomit," we point out.

"I have to write a report."

"Then you touch the pants," we suggest.

Finally, after agreeing to return for further questioning, we are allowed to wash. When we reenter the crime scene, a janitor has received permission to mop, and we're told that the mall will reimburse us for replacement clothing, so long as our real names are the ones we gave. It's not clear why we would INVENT NAMES, but we do know this: If John Walker Lindh had tripped in puke in the Stonestown Galleria, we would have known he was Al Qaeda long before Afghanistan.

-- Matt Palmquist

Jangle vs. Zima

Aloysius "Al" Cummings IV lives in the Mission, wears thrift-store threads, performs purposely bad stand-up comedy on the 31 Balboa, eats burritos a lot, drinks 40-ouncers, has a blue glass bong displayed prominently in his living room, and knows all the homeless guys on Valencia Street by name (even Omer, the guy with a guitar who plays really bad heavy metal).

Oh, and he drinks jangle.

"Do you know what 'jangle' is?" Al asks earnestly. "It's three-fourths Olde English and one-fourth grape soda. It sounds really gross, but wait until you try it. I couldn't believe it. It makes you drunk and hyperactive. It's kind of a weird feeling.

"And then there's 'stangle,' which is Olde English and strawberry soda. Or you got your 'Sunny-G,' which is Sunny Delight and gin."

These potables, according to Al, are typical Mission District cocktails, and some of them will be used this Saturday at the first annual San Francisco Drinking Games, during which the Marina District will face off with the Mission District in "a day of communal drinking and good times."

"For the Marina people, we'll have a Zima-drinking contest," Al says. "You know, who can slam a Zima fastest? I just want to bring people together to have a good time."

A tall, amiable, and unemployed electrician, Al was clicking around craigslist in May, looking for a job, when he came across two e-mail postings based on Marina and Mission stereotypes. ("You know you're a Marina chick when ... you have a crush on a bartender" and "You know you're a Mission dweller when ... you have a crush on a bartender with a septum piercing and/or a "really cool' tribal tattoo.")

"You could just sense this tension," the twentysomething Al says. "So I figured the way to get over any sort of tension was to just put it on the table, and I thought the Drinking Games would be a good-natured way to do it."

A few weeks later, Al began making his own Internet postings to publicize the event. Almost immediately, he began receiving encouraging replies from all over the city. He also started fielding calls from national and international media outlets. So Al secured a city event permit, and started brainstorming on ways to compete while drinking. (A game of drunken tug-of-war is being considered.) He made flyers for the event and printed them on high-quality paper.

The only thing left to do was to make sure that people from the Marina would actually come. So on a recent Friday night, Al -- wearing a tie and dress shirt for the occasion -- and six of his best friends climbed into a Volkswagen Westfalia bus (piloted, of course, by a designated driver) and chugged four miles across town to spread the word. With cans of Lone Star malt beverage in one hand, Al and friends offered flyers to a variety of Marina bar hoppers and passersby with the other, many of whom seemed puzzled. "Here, literate people, come check this out," Al said. "Everyone likes to drink."

"No!" a pony-tailed blonde said emphatically. "No, I don't want any propaganda!"

She skimmed the proffered flyer, anyway. "Oh, I totally pre-judged," she muttered.

Nearby, a well-coifed man with a cigar and leather coat was entirely unintimidated. "Aw, man, Marina people can out-drink you guys any day," he sneered. "Dude, we drink seven nights a week, and we get up for work. Hey, there aren't going to be any homeless people there, are there? I can't stand homeless people."

Pit stops were made at bars. Flyers were distributed. Drink was imbibed. At a sports establishment, Al's sister, P.K., was challenged to an arm-wrestling match, which she won. Jillian (Al's roommate's ex-girlfriend) mooned the crowd at a bar too cool to have an outdoor sign. The Mission crew took over a nightclub with messy, arm-flailing dance moves that forced the Marina crowd to the sidelines.

After several hours, the group returned to familiar grounds -- the hipster bars on Sixth Street, where Al drank jangle with some homeless guys on the curb.

"In the Mission, there's a lot of people who are considered 'open-minded,' but they won't talk to Marina people," Al says, suddenly waxing philosophical. "And that's just as close-minded as Marina people can be. I just want to make our neighborhoods get together for once. Because it's not our city, and it's not their city; it's [all] our city.

"I'm sure I sound like some Communist hippie, but we got to get along somehow."

-- Bernice Yeung

The 2002 San Francisco Drinking Games take place on July 13, 2002, from 1 to 7 p.m. at Speedway Meadows in Golden Gate Park.


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