Every walk is a new walk, the poet A. R. Ammons wrote. You couldn’t prove it by me. Every direction seems stripped of possible newness; I’ve done each so often. Into the Mission? Up the hill? Noe Valley? None seem more inviting than a Denver suburb.
Nothing to do but walk, making decisions intersection by intersection. Oh here comes the J. Get on, talk to a twenty-ish girl on crutches doing a crostic. A puzzle nut, she says. Me too. The car rolls along. Across the aisle a young gay guy nuzzles his pug. I get off at Van Ness for no good reason. There’s nothing at this intersection but a collection of some of the most butt-ugly buildings in the world.
Were it not for the wretched, sprawled in the sun, Civic Center plaza might be designated a national cemetery. It’s windy but none of the four windmills are turning. Are they merely trendy?
The young man working in the corner grocery asks where I’m from. From the Midwest, I reply. For a tourist every walk is a new walk. He was born here, his parents Palestinian. They came for a new life. Like my grandparents, I say.
Little Saigon is more little than Saigon. I climb the hill to Lafayette Park, soon to be in Pacific Heights where houses look like consulates and sometimes are.
Once you turn back, a destination inevitably presents itself: a beer, in this case.
Everybody in the bar on Larkin seems to know everybody else. An old regular proclaims, “If Nigeria ever settles its political stuff, chocolate will be dirt cheap. Most chocolate comes from Nigeria.” The young tourist from Minnesota (so he says) staying at the youth hostel has gotten himself sloshed, with a bit of help from the regulars. “This drink is not fit for human consumption,” he slurs.
Not having change for the bus is an excuse to trek across Market to Harrison, to the Lone Star, which is crowded, indoors and out. I get a beer, calculating how many more it would take to see this place as anything but joyless. More than I can take.
First a burrito, then back home.