The cars around me bob like buoys in the gentle swells of a calm bay. Perhaps it's the flush of sickness, cold medicine and fitful diet that is swirling around me, but the cars still just bob around the calm inside my head. Outside, we are screaming down highway 101 at 85 mph, no doubt swerving erratically and swiping in front of one another in hopes that speed and arrogance will stave off the certainty of the salaryman shackles. The road from San Francisco to Palo Alto, like highway 5 from Redding to Los Angeles, doesn't actually go anywhere. It shimmers and moves in and out of wrinkles in time. I can see the ghost of an old Buick taking Kerouac down to Big Sur on this highway's two lane incarnation.
I am back in San Francisco. It is 1990, and Sam Sloat is laughing at us. We had tried to go to the beach in our giant orange station wagon, but it stuck on the Gough St. hill. I revved the engine until hoses snapped and steam poured out from under the hood. We pushed and rolled it back down the hill and left it in front of an elementary school. Sam is spending his summer here, living in a warehouse on Capp. St. It was converted from a mechanic's garage, and is overflowing with plants and junky electronic and pre-electronic devices used by his roommate's experimental music. It is beautiful, cheap and poorly constructed. The plumbing hardly works, there is one outlet for the whole house, with orange extension cords strung from the rough beams of the ceiling. Sam is too smart for me to carry on a real conversation with, full of quick barbs and references that I miss. He studies Joyce. I and my girlfriend spend the night on the couch under the stairs, unable to make it back to our tent in Berkeley until I can replace the hoses in our car. Now I would give anything to live there.
Back in Palo Alto, the artificially fit internet wealthy mill around in Z-gallerie on University St. We walk in and leave a "Kill The Rich - target selection meeting every Tuesday" flyer prominently on the seat of a huge leather chair in the display window, next to the basket of river rocks. Every third store on this fucking street sells outsider art and baskets - or buckets - of rocks. Everyone is part of the same circle. No-one thinks its bizarre to sell rocks, and these tailored-casualwear assholes that swarm all over must buy them. At least the rednecks back up in the valley who supply them must get a laugh out of it.
No-one will notice the flyer, or any other of the flyers. I could grab them and shake them by the neck, and they would play along. "yeah, we did this tribal shaking thing at burning man. It was real spiritual. We've got a tribal shaking room at our office, next to the television-array monitor for the nintendo." Salaryman. I am dry inside, lonely and impotent.
When I walk past Blondies bar on Valencia, there are two of those fake cable cars parked in the bike lane. It is drizzling outside, but the salarymen are still screaming frantically inside. A vodka company has supplied a few strippers in tied-up t-shirts for them to grope while they mention their total stock stake in the first few slurred sentences. Up the street is Kimos, inoffensive enough today, but in 1990 it is called the Crystal Pistol. My band is playing there with Blatz. It is a gay bar with a low-ceilinged back room with tinsel hanging from the walls and dayglo posters of baby heads. Over the bar are two giant televisions, which are playing a video of a small man impossibly contorted while giant penises penetrate him in every possible way. The singer of the first band suggests to Joey that they have sex in the alley before the show. Eggplant and Elspeth start a mock chair throwing fight which drives big Dave of MDC out of the room, shaking his head "this is too punk for me."
My next door neighbor today said that she would be happy anywhere there are queers and punks. I see only salarymen. The tinny voices and plastic smiles that run on money and empty souls. I too am soulless, bobbing along in my haze down highway 101. I know what it feels like, or what the absence of feeling that these poor bastards suffer every day. Someday I'll wake up and pull a falling down. I'll park my car sideways at 3 PM on the northbound side of 101, and swim out to the barge parked between SFO and Candlestick. I'll pull up the anchor and light the billboard for cellular service on fire. I'll float out on the bay, fluttering bits of burning plastic stinging my face. The salarymen will be backed up again, just as they are every day. They won't notice, but I will be gone, freed the way all salarymen must be freed, a greasy splatter of spontaneous human combustion.
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