Streets of San Francisco by John P Brady
First published in The Bohemyth’s Beat Generation issue.
“John P Brady’s ‘Streets of San Francisco’ takes us right into the heart of Beat country where his narrator like a young Jack Kerouac goes in search of the elusive pearl, looking for the heart of Saturday night – you’ll have to read it to see if he finds what he’s looking for.” – Alice Walsh former editor of The Bohemyth
Here is the story in full:
Streets of San Francisco
- By John P Brady
I turned and mounted the steep hill on Taylor Street. I was in San Francisco at last. I didn’t look back as the car disappeared behind me; we had spent every moment of the last 3 days together travelling from San Diego. They were good people but now our paths diverged. My road was another and I had to follow it.
I entered Amsterdam Hotel and proceeded to pay for my accommodation. The goth girl on the desk put on Stone Temple Pilots as I waited to check in. A French guy in a floral shirt scrambled around in the office behind her.
“Is that Soundgarden?” I asked her.
“No, it’s STP,” she responded.
“Same band,” I commented trying to rise her.
“Excuse me, you’re talking to a fan,” she defended.
And quite a lady she was – just my type, with an edge to her. I imagined her dancing seductively in a dark rock club. Her punk/rock/chick look persuaded me to ask her for some local knowledge.
“So where does a guy go to have fun in this town?” I asked in an unapologetically thick Irish accent.
She immediately scribbled on a map the location of all her favourite rock hangouts, describing each one to make sure my decision would be an informed one. Grateful, I thanked her and grabbing my guitar and bag, headed for the second floor.
I needed to wash so looking in the bathroom I found a bathtub with a shower. The bath was blocked and almost full of the vilest liquid I could have imagined. It wouldn’t have been wise to get in, so I showered standing on the edges, slipping as I went. Water overflowed from the bath and covered the floor.
Soon afterwards there was a knock at my door. The French guy from reception rushed into the room saying there was a problem in the kitchen. We looked into the bathroom to see the several inches of water that had collected on the floor ripple gently.
“Okay, we have a problem,” the he asserted.
Soon I was helping him attack the bath with a large plunger.
“Ah, is no good,” he sighed. ‘I worry for the kitchen.’
It was clearly a job for him. It was time to get out and see the city so I prepared to leave. The French guy wore an impressive 70’s shirt which I had to comment on.
“That shirt you’re wearing is superb,” I mentioned.
“Ah thees one! Somebody leave it behind and I just wear it!”
Well, as the Yanks say: “That’s how I roll!”
It was time to find these dungeons of rock that San Francisco proudly hid amidst its great hills and corners.
After a quick step down by Union Square I grabbed a quick slice of pizza and moved towards the party streets. Bums were everywhere. Some I thought had arrived into the city just like me with a little money and just fell on hard times. America really forgets its poor.
I saw a suitably underground bar and went in. It was packed with stoned punters who wore mostly black. Neil Young sang out proudly on the jukebox. “Be on my side/I’ll be on your side…”
The barman poured me ale and I searched for a seat. I saw room in a seedy corner by a pool table. I gestured to the guy sitting there to ask if it was okay to sit. He looked deep into space and completely ignored me. I sipped deep into my first beer in San Fran.
The guy next to me raised a hand suddenly and held it there, almost touching my head. I stole a glance to see what variety of maniac he was. He gestured to an unscrupulous character at the other side of the pool table that looked back menacingly. Obviously my choice of seat was not popular with everybody. He approached and stood over me staring fixedly with empty eyes. I decided it was time to move.
I passed the legions of “cool kids” who each wore more unusual clothing that the last. The bar appeared to be divided in two, stoned rockers one side, coked-up hipsters the other. I left for another bar.
I went out into the fresh San Francisco night and noticed the chill from the mist which descended over the bay each evening. I saw the Edinburgh Castle on my right. Outside to the left of the bar, sat six or seven teenagers. They were puffing on joints and taking photos of each other
“Hi Mom, I’m high,” said one girl while posing for her hairy friend’s camera.
To my right a circle of older punters was forming. One tall guy with grey hair stood fidgeting in his pocket.
“Are you on stage now, man?” one of the others asked him.
The grey haired man produced a dope pipe, and began puffing hurriedly. He grumbled to the affirmative.
The group of guys puffed on American style joints and miniature pipes on the main street as a homeless black crack-head looked on. His eyes screamed for a hit. The grey haired guy reached into his pocket and parted with a roach to cheer him up. The crack-head grasped it frantically and putting it in his mouth, tried to puff.
“No you have to light it first…wait a minute…there you go,” said the grey haired man.
A moment later they went inside the bar, leaving the crack-head swaying alone, puffing relentlessly. I followed along inside, intrigued.
The grey haired man walked to the stage and picked up a bass guitar with the authority of a true musician.
The music began and I leaned against a post drinking ale, totally captivated by what I saw. It was progressive and delicate, soft and strong. Hippies of all ages swayed to the music, others watched with reverence.
The music ended and I snapped out of my haze and went outside. During the road trip from the Mexican border, I had not been on my own even for a moment for 4 days and now the feeling was strange. I went back to where I was standing before watching an endless stream of hobos passing. A mixed group of fashionable mid-twenties in front of me looked to be deciding on their next move.
I used my shamelessly lost Irishman line once again.
“So where does a guy go to have fun in this town?”
“You have an accent!” a girl responded as the five of them turned around in unison.
“Where are you from?” another asked.
They were eager to show me the city.
“Come with us we’re goin’ out now!”
Moments later I was in the back of a Chrysler careering through the streets of San Francisco with Lia, a beautiful Persian-American girl, on my lap. This is it!
We arrived at a club and I soon realised that Lia, clearly the single girl of the group, knew everybody there. I was introduced to super good-looking girls who smiled broadly and snobby gay people who would barely talk to me.
This mass introduction lasted a few minutes before I lost everybody and stood alone again. I began to wander around what I realised was just another soulless R’n’B club which held only negative pretentious vibes.
I listened as the DJ played 40 seconds of a classic song before applying tasteless alterations then changing the track and repeating the process. I walked around and wanted to leave.
Lia was from Iran originally and she was a dynamic representation of Persian beauty. She was the only person from the group that I had made any connection with. She wasn’t exactly easy to talk to as she was fond of affecting a persona which she felt she needed for whatever reason. Crucially, I hadn’t seen her for the last 20 minutes. I walked around alone.
I had firmly decided to leave when suddenly she returned. She looked into my eyes and held my gaze. I felt compelled to get close to her.
She drank more and more and sensing that I was still sober she urged me to drink up. The temptation of Eve. We began to dance and any barriers that we had were now gone. When I moved to kiss her she resisted saying that she didn’t kiss guys that were leaving in two days.
The time passed and now it was just Lia, her friend, Karen and a guy she knew.
We went outside. Karen and the guy began making out with vigour. Lia kicked me in the leg in a playful, drunken fashion.
“You’re just here ‘cos you want a piece of American ass!” she shouted.
“I don’t want American ass,” I announced, “I want Persian ass.”
This promoted another installment of girly violence.
A few bruises later and we were in a taxi, Lia and I along with Karen and her guy.
We pulled up at an upmarket apartment block and I reminded myself that you never really know who you’re talking to outside a bar. It turned out that she owned her apartment, a well decorated, plush place within walking distance of the centre. Inside there was considerable comfort, soft tones and designer furniture, making her abode a pleasure to be in.
We sat on the couch. Still no love and it was getting late. Karen and the guy were dry-humping like animals right next to us. She reached into his pants and rummaged around. A few minutes later they got up and said they were leaving, going to her place apparently.
Lia put on the latest sensation, a Scottish group that had made a name in the US. We sat on the sofa as Lia continued casual conversation and gradually we began to make out.
She had a sofa bed which seemed less pressurised than going to her room, also it was nearer.
A peaceful night later and it was morning. We hit the make or break moment. If the conversation died here I was going for the door. But things went smoothly and soon we were heading out for morning coffee.
The day ran with huge momentum as Lia took me over to Haight-Ashbury the site of the great flower-power revolution. We shopped in the vintage stores, ate Mexican food in a noisy restaurant and became very fond of each other. When we arrived at the Downtown bus stop she lay back on the grass verge and lying over her, I kissed her tenderly.
During the crowded bus journey we barely took our eyes off each other. We then walked silently through the streets towards her apartment each moment uncertain. When we arrived she threw the door open without really offering an invitation. She didn’t need to. Then we were in the elevator, going up.
First published here http://thebohemyth.com/ (Scroll down to the fourth story.)