As a rule, I try not to leave the house. Good things rarely happen when I leave the house. Especially at night. There are times when I am stuck having to go to someone's birthday party (or wedding), have to drive in traffic to get there, stand around while everyone else gets drunk, talk to people I don't know, don't like and have nothing in common with, and seldom do I return home after these nights, saying, "Wow, I am really glad I did that."
But this weekend, I went out. Twice. In a row. There was a time when I needed to be out in the street, moving among the crowd, traipsing across the city, drunk, high, looking for a good time. These are not those times. But I had fun this weekend. Or my version of the word. Went into the city, saw a great band and some of my favorite people. But besides reminding me of how "old" I've become, wrecked after a loud night of rock 'n' roll until...one a.m., the weekend also showed me how much the city has changed. And I don't think I could ever live there again.
While we were looking for a house, I had pressed Justine to consider the city. Which was for naught. One cannot afford a house in San Francisco, or at least anything decent for under a million. What was in our budget nets about 2 extra bed- and bathrooms in the East Bay. But I liked the idea of returning to the city.
When the traffic is clear, San Francisco is only about a ten-minute ride over the bridge from where I live now. I see its skyline every time I jog, rising over the bay, spearing that angry European sky (to quote my buddy, Tom Pitts, with whom I saw a poetry reading on one of these nights), and it fills me up with good memories of bad times.
I have entire chapters dedicated to San Francisco in my memoir, which is essentially a love letter to the city. Even my noir novel, The Lone Palm, features San Francisco prominently (although I change the name to "Bay City"). And these wonderful, inspiring elements about San Francisco haven't changed. They are still there--the feel of wet streets after dark, the rough and tumble and all things hipster, the barrio bars and undeniable...energy. But I don't feel comfortable living in it. It has become the ultimate "I'd like to visit but I sure wouldn't want to..." place.
The Drive-By Truckers kicked ass at the Fillmore. I don't go to shows unless I know pretty much know everything the band will be playing. This means I see The Gaslight Anthem, The Hold Steady, and Springsteen. But I've been getting into the Truckers lately, even if I don't know their entire (impressively large) catalogue. Pretty much all I listen to these days is cowpunk, alt country, whatever you want to call it--Lucero, I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House, Two Cow Garage, Slobberbone--basically if you could conjoin the Replacements and Springsteen. Pissed off Americana, I suppose.
We went with Matt and Angela, our "go-to" couple for things like this. Matt and I used to play in a band together before I got strung out, and he was always among my favorite people (I don't know what it is about bass players, but I've always felt an ease around them, Big Tom, Soupy, Matt). We lost touch when I became a junkie, because you loss touch with pretty much everyone who isn't a junkie. But we started talking again when I got sober. His wife, Angela, is from Tennessee, and about as sweet as southern punch. When I think of marriages I want to have, theirs is what comes to mind. 10 out of 10 stars. (See? I can write nice things about people.)
Matt said to me when we were about to have Holden that I'd find out about "the line." Matt and Angela already had one kid, with another born shortly before Holden, and Matt had told me how a lot of friends, the ones without kids, would fall by the wayside. Since I don't have many friends with (or without) kids it didn't impact me like that, but I've seen how it's been for Justine. And it's really true. You are definitely on the other side of that line when you have a kid.
Anyway, the Truckers rocked, even if I didn't get to hear "Birthday Boy," my favorite song, because Justine was sick. That's not true. She was sick, but she was game to wait. I was just fucking tired. Matt and Angela had to get back to the sitter, and after midnight we did too. So we grabbed a coupled Drive-By Trucker posters on the way out, and I put "Birthday Boy" on the iPod...
When I called Tom Pitts outside the Fillmore Saturday night (while I was waiting for Matt and Angela), I asked him is he wanted to see a poetry reading in the city on Sunday. This guy Evan Karp, who runs Litseen, was holding a reading at Kaleidoscope. He's a guy I wanted to meet since I do Lip Service West, and like so many people I "know" these days, I'd only met him through Facebook.
By the time Tom called me on Sunday afternoon, I'd already changed my mind about leaving the house two days in a row. I don't think he was feeling much better. We are both in our forties, but it's an old 40. Tom and I lived together at Hepatitis Heights, if you can call that "living."
Tom always felt like more or a brother than friend. I won't go into terrific detail about Tom, since I already have in the memoir. Suffice to say, he's a righteous mutherfucker.
We rarely see each other these days (Tom and his wife, Cheryl, are also on the other side of that "line"), so we decided we'd hit the reading, which was on 24th and Folsom. This is an area Tom and I know well; it used to be the hotspot for scoring dope. But if there are still street dealers out there, I can't spot them anymore. In fact, I wonder how junkies even keep going in the city at all. There are still the residential hotels and the Tenderloin, and you can see some of the junkies still slinging around, all sickly and sniveling--there will always be junkies--but the city has become so bourgeois, the logistics mystify. Maybe they always have. Who knows?
I'd write more but Holden is not as entertained by Bob the Builder as I'd hoped.