Monday, March 13, 2006

i ain't no adobe hut

the following took place 88 hours ago. Or so.

It doesn't matter how close you walk to a building, if there's no awning overhead, you're going to get wet.

The sky's been lazily trying to decide whether to really get serious about this whole rain thing or just say the hell with it and make the whole city go shithouse with a good old fashioned blizzard. So what if it's March, who's in charge here, right?

Either way, it's been wet, all kinds of wet. And cold, as my block and a half walk from my blister of a rental car as reminded me. I grew up back east, but there's a definite difference, I think, between the kind of cold you feel when you're a kid and the kind you feel when you're grown and your limbs are further away from your central heating core. I'm flat cold and getting colder the longer I walk, and it's definitely the California in me talking.

The snowflakes are coming in bunches, like the torn stuffing from the world's tallest stuffed animal, and appears Mama Earth's committed to this whole winter thing for the rest of the day. Maybe all this mess will finally start sticking and I'll be trapped on this side of the river for good. It's time I grab some lunch.

I step into the cafe and to my disappointment it's the same damn one I ate in two years ago, the last time I was in this city. Much less bustling on a Thursday afternoon, but it's the same little breakfast hole. I remember it being a good place, but when you're visiting a new city--particularly one you're considering as a place to live--there's no point in retracing your steps. The waitress tells me to pick between two tables near the window and I do.

One of them is closer to the door and has a new alt-weekly already there and waiting for me, along with a half-empty (yep) glass of water on the other side, surely left by a busboy since there's not so much as a crumb of anything else on the table. I look to the counter and sitting under a pile of fliers is a copy of the city's competing alt-weekly, so I grab it and figure I can compare them both while the weather clears up. One's about WalMart and the other's about the new psychedelia--guess which I read first?

I'm seated barely a couple of minutes before another waitress corrects me: "I'm sorry, you're going to have to move. Someone's sitting there." I nod and gather my papers and my jacket, which I'd already looped over the back of the chair (c'mon, just because it's that cold outside do we have to amp the heaters up to the tropics?).

At that point my former table's original owner approaches. She's a big woman, there's no way around that, and she couldn't look more Of Her City if she had a Suicide Girls tattoo on one arm and "I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone" emblazoned on the other. Her hair's wadded up severely into a blue bandanna and otherwise she's dressed all in black, except for her top which is a deep navy blue sailor smock. She looks about 5'10" from where I'm sitting, though a third of that's probably boots.

Really, I'm not judging. Stay with me.

She sits down quickly next to me and barely looks my way from behind black-rimmed glasses as she says, "Can I have my Mercury back, please?" Her tone is filed down and poison-tipped in a way that leaves little doubt she's done this before.

I look down and sure enough, her paper's right there in my hands. "Oh yeah," I smile and half-chuckle. I'm caught, so let's just own it and have a laugh. "I kind of ganked it from you there."

"Yeah. You did," she says. She doesn't look at me as she speaks, biting the ends of each of her words like half a pretzel.

I'd been in a car alone, a Chevy Aveo, mind you, for the last three hours, with nothing but a buzzing iPod for company. I'm in no condition to really engage in a conversation, much less an etiquette misunderstanding. So I didn't even look her way; I was too busy wondering, "Did that just happen? I thought everyone in this town was supposed to be all nice and mellow. What the fuck?"

Her Gardenburger arrives a short time later, which she consumes quickly and disappears, her free alt-weekly jammed safely in her purse. I leaf through my competing, non-Mercury, paper and chew my sandwich. It was warm. A few minutes later the snow gives up and I grab a Mercury from the shop next door. There were plenty to go around.


So this one's for you, my new-found friend. Sure, I'll tell everyone here over the next couple days how we're not moving and that a switch to the rainy country isn't in the cards, at least not yet. But you and me, we know the truth. We know it's your harsh urban justice that sent me back to whence I came. Kudos. I've learned my lesson, and I hope ya'll out there have too. Free papers are never free.

"Nietzche", by the Dandy Warhols

Come on, let's be pals.


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