Vignettes: San Francisco Bay and Environs

I’m just off the plane.  My bag came out third off of the baggage carousel, which was nice because I, as usual, had convinced myself that the airline had lost it (because this once happened many years ago, and I have dreaded the waiting-for-my-checked-luggage period ever since, [never more so than in Bombay, where, of course, the carousel broke down for half an hour, just to say Hello]).

I’m just onto the BART.  Oakland Coliseum to 16th and Mission.  I sit across from an overweight Dirndlmadchen, who is singing–nay, lip-syncing, and with much enthusiasm–to what I can only assume is a Jackson 5 song.  She’s not really a Dirndlmadchen because she’s not really German (because this is America) and because I don’t know how to put an umlaut over an ‘a’; but her purse is black and wicker and it is shaped like a little German cottage and it has a pin inside of it that says “Not only am I perfect, I’m also German!”  Which I found to be, uh, at odds with something.  Like, I dunno, the history of the Planet Earth in the 20th Century.  Or something.  Again.  But, at any rate.  I know there was a nationalistic German pin in her bag because I was doing everything I possibly could on that train to avoid looking at her enthusiastic and plump Aryan face mouthing out the words to old R&B hits.  Because I didn’t want to laugh at her.  Because that would be rude.

She got off at Embarcadero.


I’m late.  We’re late.  We’re Kate and me.  We’re going to the Oakland Athletics baseball game.  They’re playing against the Boston Red Sox.  The Boston Red Sox are my team.  They were supposed to be good this year but they’re not.  The point is that we’re late.

We have a flat tire.  A homeless man tells us so.  We’re turning a corner and the homeless man says, “You got a flat tire,” and we say, “Shit, really?” and pull over and the homeless man preacheth truth.  Flat fucking tire.  Not wholly flat, but pretty damn flat.  I call AAA.

“You’re being transferred to California,” Washington State AAA tells me, and I wait.  I became a member of AAA a year ago before I drove across the country.  It cost me a hundred dollars.  It’s time to cash out.

The AAA guy says what I said, “It’s a slow leak.”  He can’t get his portable air pump to work properly, so we drive on the semi-deflated tire to a gas station.  I tell the man at the gas station to turn on the air.  Little known fact:  gas stations are required by law to turn on the air if you ask them to.  It’s a safety issue, and all.  Public health, greater good.  Never pay for air again, is what I’m saying.

Gas station man turns on air.

We fill the tire with air, we inseminate it with tire-repair juice, we get on the highway to Oakland.


Fruitvale.  We think the tire’s flat.  It’s not.

“No,” I say.  “The tire’s fine.  Let’s get back on the highway.”  This, it turns out, is easier said than done.  We can get onto the highway going the way we do not want to go, but the opposite is causing us no shortage of trouble.  Kate and I pull over next to some lady.

“Excuse me,” I say, “Where the shit are we?”

She says, basically, “I’m a drug addict, can I have a cigarette?”  By which I mean she actually says, “Oh, man, you want to turn around here man and go back to San Alejandro, or wait no go straight here and take a right and then,” all of this ever so slowly, and as she gets more comfortable she starts leaning on the window, “I’m saying, I think you’re going the right way.  But you can also go back from there and then turn off at San Pedro, or actually–” sway away from the truck, inch back up.  Long pause.  “Can I have a tobacco cigarette?”


The bleachers are disappointing.  There is hate but it is weak.  I’m used to Fenway bleachers, where the hate is thick enough to make you sweat.

But Chris is there and Chris and I talk shop for four innings; and Chris is wearing an absurd “Boston”-emblazoned jacket that he and some schoolmates designed when they were, like, seven years old; and Chris and Michael and Kate and I eat sunflower seeds and watch the Red Sox lose 5-0 to the A’s; and we leave in the top of the 9th inning, to beat the crowds, and because it’s a lost cause for all of us anyway, excepting Kate, who’s been cheering for the opposition.  We piss in the parking lot because the portable toilets are padlocked.


Front porch handrail:  paint brush, three coathangers, seventeen pennies.


Chris wakes me up at eight in the morning.  I am barely coherent.  Handshake, farewell.  I walk to get coffee.  I eat a Sausage McMuffin at the McDonald’s because I’m still drunk from the night before and this seems like a good idea.  While there I listen to a man tell another man how to tell which geographical direction is which.  “The sun always rises in the East,” he begins, and I faze out because I already know how this story ends.


3 responses to “Vignettes: San Francisco Bay and Environs

  1. Ciao Tom!

    AAA guys are preferred 3-to-1 over other roadside-coverage guys for their unsurpassed ability to state the obvious.

    Sorry about the Sox.

  2. To umlaut: click the upside down horseshoe thingy (aka, Omega) in your blogging toolbar, then symbolize to your heart’s content — and your post’s content.

  3. Pingback: A Year In Review | Blogbytom

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