jen and harry
After riding across the Golden Gate, I made my way up a few more hills south of the bridge. If I had asked a few locals what the flattest way to the downtown area was, I could have easily avoided a few steep climbs. Oh well. I’m a man, and you know what men do…they don’t ask for directions! Guys, guys, guys…
I was trying to meet up with Jen and Harry within the next 20 minutes. They were going to a 48-hour film project screening down in San Jose, and I didn’t want to hold them up. I cycled hard and fast but kept hitting lights. Like a good cyclist, I didn’t run any red lights, but that didn’t stop others. I had read that getting ticketed for running red lights in SF was pretty common.
I pedaled through the downtown area on my way to the Mission District. Hipster central. Many cyclists were wearing these new ‘fashionable’ stupid-looking helmets that couldn’t possibly keep your brain within your skull if you had an accident. They looked like those cheap, thin plastic helmets you get when you go whitewater rafting. There were also a lot of people on cruiser bikes. I’d hate to be on one of those in hilly SF.
After passing Jen and Harry’s street twice, I finally arrived at their below-ground level apartment. They weren’t too thrilled to live there since it was practically a bat cave. No natural sunlight. But they were moving out in two weeks. I hesitantly asked if I could take a shower (given the time), but they told me to take my time. Sweeties.
Jen and Harry were pretty big cyclists. Obvious from the many bicycles in their apartment. To get to San Jose, Jen rented a ‘zip car’. $7 an hour (includes gas/insurance). Awesome business idea and a great service for someone who lives in a city where a car is not really necessary.
48 hour film project
The screening was in a huge theater. Nice turnout. 48 Hour Film Project: Your team applies to be in the contest. You are given a genre and key words/props you must incorporate into the video. 48 hours later your project is due. Everyone then votes on the best video. I’ve seen videos that have come out of these competitions. Some are great. Many are terrible. The worst ones are the pretentious shorts made by ‘film students’. Boring. Not entertaining. Just plain shit.
Jen and Harry gave me warning that their video sucked. It was actually an entertaining short video. Short. That is key. Other videos were way too long and seemed to drag on and on. I’ll focus on the worst ones, since they are fun to bash.
The first short that was screened had this black guy standing in a desolate-looking industrial setting. Then a fat white guy in a gas mask would occasionally pop up. The narration was playback from a voice recorder. TERRIBLE. It was really embarrassing to watch.
Another team that entered the project was an actual studio in SF that Jen used to work with. They had a 20+ person crew with actual 3-d effects. Same thing. Pretentious chalked full of serious over-acting. It started out in a bar, and there was this ‘cool edgy’ woman with tats talking to an Indian girl at a bar. Turns out the edgy woman is a fairy killer. The worst part of the video was that they tried to make it edgy. Embarrassing.
The ones that were entertaining were those that didn’t take themselves too seriously. A group of high school students submitted a short about a bug exterminator. They ended up winning. Another solid video revolved around a Western-style showdown with a ghost.
After the screening, we headed back to the city in search of food. There were only a few places within walking distance of the apartment, so we decided on a burrito restaurant. $6 for a burrito that lasted 5 seconds. Damn my appetite.
day in the city
I said goodbye to Harry before he cycled to work. Jen was going into work late, so she decided to get breakfast with me. Before leaving, she took me up to the roof of their apartment.
We went to eat breakfast at a local diner on Mission Street. It was packed. This place had a interesting rule: No cell phones. Great. And free refills on coffee. When the bill came, we did the awkward jig of who was going to pay for it. She insisted on picking it up and wouldn’t let me pay for it. Very generous hostess.
I got my stuff together and said goodbye to Jen. I headed downtown to get fitted for a tux because my cousin’s wedding was coming up in another two weeks. The next few hours were spent cycling downtown and through the wharf area. I had the rest of the afternoon to kill before meeting up with John, my old VP at Cartoon Network who was now at Lucas Arts and kindly hosting me for two nights.
John worked at the Presidio, located just south of the Golden Gate, so I decided to hang out in that area. After getting coffee, I walked to a park full of cedar trees and enjoyed the warm weather. There were a few pet owners playing with their dogs in the park. A man with a Labrador retriever threw a ball in my direction. The ball rolled up to my feet, and the man smiled at me. 10 minutes later, it happened again. The man was either a pickup artist or had bad aim.
Around 6 PM, I headed over to the Presidio to meet John. I was excited to see John after he sent me an email while I was in Seattle. He’s a tall guy. Around 7 feet. I knew a hug was coming, but I didn’t want my head to be buried deep into his chest. I tried to devise a strategy to add on a few inches to my height. Maybe stand on an incline? Stairs? By the time he walked outside, I had come up with no strategy, so I decided to just stand on my toes. I would have loved to see what the hug looked like in third person.
We put my bike into his car and headed to his home just north of the Golden Gate. John warned me that the house would be cramped and I’d have to sleep on the couch. No worries. To me, a couch was luxury. “We had to downsize the house due to San Francisco real estate prices,” he told me. We pulled up to his house. The obviously humble John lived in an awesome house. The view from the back (complete with swimming pool and fruit trees) was priceless. It overlooked the entire bay area, and you could see the outline of the city. And the house was plenty big. Jennifer, John’s wife, gave me a big hug and immediately made me feel welcome. Then I met all of John’s kids: Charlie, Owen, Victoria, and Eliza. I didn’t feel too bad with my big appetite because everyone around me was bigger. And I knew John could put away some food.
fun family time
John and Jennifer adopted me into their family for the weekend. John, the kids, and I headed to the park for some football and soccer action. Like a cool guy, I tried teaching Victoria and Eliza some tricks with the ball. They weren’t interested.
And then it was time for some football. John played on one foot due to an injury. It was me, Eliza, and Victoria versus Charlie, John, and Owen. We crushed them. I celebrated in the end zone by spiking the ball. I looked back victoriously with my hands in the air. Everyone’s backs were turned to me. No one was watching.
We got back to the house and played a bunch of swimming pool games. I felt like I was 10, and it felt good. Later that evening, John and Jennifer went to have dinner with some of their friends from Lucas Arts. The kids and I watched Lord of the Rings. We competed to see who could guess the upcoming lines. Owen kept cheating. He would grunt and growl when orcs came on the screen. Sure enough, we heard an orchestra of grunts and growls. The worst part was that the kids all counted those sounds. Cheaters. They even guessed ‘battle sounds’ of swords and arrows. Cheap. Really cheap.
back to the city
Before John and his family headed down the coast for vacation, I was able to get a ride back to the city via automobile. When packing up the car, Eliza told Jennifer, “He was the nicest one of Daddy’s friends. He actually talked to me.” Jennifer relayed the message to me, and it made me sad to say goodbye to all the kids. I had a lot of fun, and the experience made me excited to see my family. Before leaving, we all jumped in the air for a final photo (well, except injured John).
I said goodbye to John in town and made my way to meet up with Tony, a friend from Conyers that went to a nearby high school. Tony met me outside his apartment located in the Tenderloin District. He didn’t take pride in living in that district. I guess it’s the dirtier part of town.
Tony greeted me with a smile and a hug. I went in for a kiss. Woops.
“Uh, the elevator is broken, so we’ll have to haul your stuff up the steps,” he said grinning.
“What floor do you live on?”
“The top floor.” I looked up. Damn.
finger in the butt
We unloaded my stuff in his apartment and then got something to eat at a pizza place nearby. After eating overpriced pizza, we headed back to his place. We walked up to the building’s front doors behind two old men. The older guy must have been 80+, as he had trouble making it up the steps. His friend, a guy that appeared to be in his late 60s, turned around and smiled at Tony. He then proceeded to laugh lightly. Odd.
The 60-something whispered into the older guy’s ear. His hand then slipped down the older guy’s back and cupped his butt. The index and middle fingers then collectively formed a rod of skin and bone that then entered the older man’s crack. What was going on??? The 60-something continued to drive his fingers further up the older guy’s butt. Was this happening? This guy’s entire hand was practically in his ass. I didn’t react. I just stared. I then looked over at shocked Tony.
The old man giggled and giggled. The 60-something then looked back to Tony and smiled. Interesting. This guy was using some pretty aggressive pickup tactics. We hurried up the steps to Tony’s apartment.
I was hoping Tony lived next to the two men. I would be leaving in two days. Tony wouldn’t. And Tony would probably run into them again.
city of homeless
I had been to SF before, and the city was fully of homeless people. This visit was no different. Tony and I walked around the city for a few hours and were constantly approached for money. The city’s inhabitants must grow immune to the beggars of SF. Otherwise, you’d quickly go broke if you gave money to every person that approached you. An easy way to avoid being approached was to avoid eye contact and make the homeless invisible. But that seemed dehumanizing and I was hesitant to do it.
One guy was trying to sell a Christmas wreath. Note it was late August. But at least he had a product. Something unique to offer. Tony was curious to see how much it was and made eye contact with him. Of course the guy jumped on the opportunity. I asked him how much. “Twenty-five,” he said.
“Sorry. I don’t have it,” I said as we walked off.
It didn’t end there. The guy followed us for two blocks. We gave him an opportunity, a glimmer of hope to make a buck, and like a shark to blood, he went into a begging fury. It was terrible. One local told the guy to ‘leave them the fuck alone’. I ended up sprinting for a block to escape money-lusting man.
The rest of the day we spent walking around the city. I noticed gay men raping Tony with their eyes. Man, it felt great to be an ugly cyclist. Tony was getting all the attention. And gay guys are very different than those in Atlanta. The guys in SF are incredibly aggressive. Due to the large gay population, I guess guys assume every other guy is gay. Or the water in SF makes you really horny.
On the way back to Tony’s, we ran into a female friend of his. He introduced me, and I had a lot of trouble with her name. I kept repeating it and getting it wrong. It was more than two syllables. Something foreign. Not like Jenny or Kelly. Finally I just mimicked how it sounded in a mumble. She smiled and nodded, obviously tired of repeating it.
They were making small talk when I interrupted with, “So how do you guys know each other?”
A moment of awkward silence.
“We know each other from work,” Tony said.
“Oh, you guys work together?” I asked, stupidly ignoring the uncomfortable body language given off by the two of them.
“No, not really,” Tony said.
Woops. I quickly changed the subject, finally realizing they had a history (confirmed later by Tony as we walked off).
packing the bike
The next day Tony went to work, leaving me alone in his apartment. I wanted Tony to take me with him to work, but I didn’t want to embarrass him again.
The day was spent breaking down my bike and trying to stuff everything in a bike box. I called a few bike shops to try and find a spare bike box. One shop wanted to charge me $15.
I biked a mile to the north end of the city to get a box from a shop. There was no way I would be able to cycle back with the box in hand, so I had to walk the bike back. Pain in the ass. A lot of wind. I hit a few pedestrians with the box by accident.
Boxing my bike and all my stuff took me 2.5 hours. It would only cost me $80 to carry my bike on the plane, and I wanted to make sure I got all my stuff in the bike box to avoid additional luggage fees. It was a little sobering to be packing up my bike after spending so much time on it. The trip was actually coming to an end.
When Tony got home, he quickly noticed I got bike grease on the carpet. White carpet. Shit. I felt like an asshole. It was dark, and I had been careless. I had tried packing my bike in his tiled kitchen, but I guess I had been a klutz. I went to buy some carpet cleaning stuff. Like a good guest, I watched Tony clean it.
tony got a job at KFC
My last night before returning home. Tony and I decided to take a walk around the city. He pulled out his solid black New Balance shoes and put on his swishy nylon pants (it was chilly that night). And he put on a big shirt. He looked ridiculous, but so did I. I was wearing the same shirt three days in a row. But I was OK with that. I had gotten used to being an ‘ugly guy’. I was just glad to have some ‘ugly guy’ company. I even wished I was wearing convertible pants.
We walked a few blocks in silence. Swish, swish, swish. If Tony was talking, I couldn’t have heard him. His pants were loud. Swish, swish, swish. Finally, Tony looked down at his shoes.
“Dude, I think I’m going to take these shoes back. They look ridiculous,” he said, sticking his feet out.
I laughed. A lot. It was great that he was verbalizing something I didn’t want to say. Who knew if he was really sensitive about his jet black New Balances. He kept criticizing his ugly guy shoes. “I look like someone that works at Burger King or KFC. They wear solid black sneakers. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking when I bought these.”
I took a picture of him in front of his workplace.
We walked the city and looked at the ‘beautiful’ sky line lit by the downtown buildings. Then we walked around Little Italy and got some pizza. We laughed. We smiled. It might as well have been a romantic date. We even got a fresh cinnamon bun at a bakery. Smiling ugly guys at a bakery. On the inside we were both really sad. Tomorrow I would be gone.
We went back to Tony’s place and settled in for the night. An ugly guy doesn’t kiss and tell.
I had a few options to get to the airport. A) Push my bike box to the BART, SF’s local rail system, and pay $12 to get to the airport. B) I can pay for a zip car and beg Jen to drive me to the airport. C) I could pay an airport shuttle $20-25 to take me and my bike to the airport.
I called Jen to get her input regarding the zip car option. She said she was able to get a truck and had no problem taking me to the airport. Awesome. Very hospitable.
The next morning Jen drove over to Tony’s. I said goodbye to Tony. Long hug. Jen and I drove off.
Two minutes later, we got on the interstate. Bumper to bumper. There was no way Jen was going to have the car back within the allotted hour, so she called Zip Car and asked for additional time. Not possible. Someone had the truck booked after her slot. Damn. We had less than 20 minutes to get to the airport and get the car back to the parking lot. It wasn’t going to happen, and I didn’t want Jen to get charged an extra $50. Looks like I’d be riding the BART to the airport.
A car in front of us slammed on brakes. Jen did the same. The power brakes kicked in and we slid to within an inch of the car in front of us. I heard a loud collision behind us. I looked back, but Jen was already speeding off to the exit. The woman in the car behind us was waving her hands angrily in the air.
She sped to the BART station in the Mission District and dropped me off. Jen slipped the zip car money back in my pocket and hugged me goodbye.
The bike box was heavy. I resorted to sliding it on the cement. I would later realize the chain ring had been poking out through the bottom of the box. Three of the chain ring teeth were ground down to the nub.
I pushed my bike for what seemed like a mile to the airport terminal. I was excited to get to the gate.
I boarded the plane and sat down. I had nothing to read. No video game system to play. No DVD to watch. I had my iPod, but I had already listened to the songs hundreds, if not thousands, of times. I was OK with sitting there. Doing nothing. I was mostly thinking about how to surprise my family. The only person that knew I was coming home was my dad, who was picking me up at the airport. The five hour flight passed quickly.