Thursday, August 28, 2008

Autobio, Part II

I decided to overcome depression by taking advantage of what's sure to be SF's warmest day of the year so far and doing the nostalgia walk. I try to do a version of it once for every month-long stay in San Francisco. So about 10:00 it was off to the "N" Car stop and the short ride under Market Street to Montgomery station.

For once I was glad to be alone. I usually do this with someone, but that defeats the purpose because you give all your attention to the other person (or people) and don't attend to business, i.e., reviving ancient memories and using them to draw inferences about the present.

I started at Number One Montgomery Street, where I worked for a few months in early 1969, as a temp in a bank, filing the annual reports they got from other companies and routing mail. At the time Julie and I were living with another couple on upper Montgomery, so home-to-work-to home was a ten-minute downhill walk in the morning and a fifteen-minute climb in the afternoon. Except today it was about a half-hour climb, because now I'm an old man with emphysema rather than a young, bulletproof idiot able to sit at a desk all day smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee, then scramble effortlessly up a 45-degree grade at five in the afternoon.

I still made it though, but at the top couldn't figure out what house we'd lived in. I think it was the one right at the top of the stairs, at Union Street. It was owned by Melvin Belli, the famous attorney who defended Jack Ruby in Dallas and shit a pile of little green nickels on TV when he couldn't get him off. And Belli's people evicted us and our housemates Barbara and Larry, I remember that.

Three blocks down I took a trip along Broadway, now a scene of nearly total desolation. All the joints at street level are either closed or about to, and looking up to the second and third stories I realized there are still flophouses in North Beach. I lived in just such a dreadful, filthy place when my parents pushed me out of the ancestral home in Marin County, in 1966. I didn't know how to take care of myself and became dirty, malnourished, and a little bit insane.

When Julie and I picked each other up we were at 67 Fresno Alley, right behind Broadway. It also now looks like a slum, and has been obviously broken into so many times that it no longer presents even the appearance of a secured dwelling. It looked a lot better even just a couple of years ago.

Julie and I first hooked up in 1968. There was a war going on, and Hubert Humphrey the Democrat was running against Richard Nixon, following a tumultuous and shocking series of civil disturbances on the streets of Chicago during the Democratic convention. However, there was no point to voting for either, since both candidates and both parties were creatures of the War Machine, and both parroted its silly rationalizations justifying the war it was waging at the time.

Nothing has changed. Life is a zero-sum game.

I went by City Lights Books because I wanted to go there specifically and buy a copy of Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl." This is, I think, the second time I've done that.

Ginsberg asks: "What sphinx of cement and aluminum bashed open their skulls and ate up their brains and imagination?"

1 comment:

Joe said...

I forget things like "Which house was it?" even though I am, lets see--calculation again--45.

I am still contemplating that riddle.