Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Bus Report #892

The open doors (and windows!) of Clement, redux.

This morning was cool and dark, but no fog.
Clement Street was just waking up as I walked down the street to catch the bus.
The donut shop was busy - three customers hunched over coffees and sweet pastries.
Further down the street, a man unloaded crates of food into a dark restaurant entryway.
The homeless woman I worry about all the time stood in front of her luggage, brushing her teeth and then spitting toothpaste foam into the gutter.

A familiar face illuminated by the light of a cell phone came in to view a block later. It was the friendly bus boy from my local diner. I said good morning to him, to which he replied, "Good morning, dear."

Doors ajar at the dim sum place, doors open just a sliver at the bakery. The sugary smell of the pineapple buns almost tempting me.

The bar, the bank, barely a light on, cleaners wiping down the doors. 

That same door with the steep stairs leading up to the landing. No wet suits today, just a grey bin on top of the bench. Still somehow inviting to me.

And the windows! Not as many open as during this summer's heatwaves, but still, upper-floor windows thrown open, screenless, leading me to wonder if any birds or bats have flown inside during the night.
Windows with clothes hanging up to dry or air out, bathroom windows open to release shower steam.
A tiny galley kitchen revealed, dim orange lighting, towels hanging to the left of the window, a shaggy-haired person in baggy clothes standing in front of the stove preparing breakfast.

Across the street from the bus stop, a silhouette of a head and shoulders in the window. The lighting and the setting feels very Halloweeny.
I stare intently, is it moving? Is it real? Just when I am about to close the case on this one, the silhouette turns to the right, shape shifting, reaching a previously unseen hand out towards something else unseen.

The bus arrived on time and I got on.
Just two other passengers. Someone sitting in the back, rear-facing, shrouded in a hood so that I couldn't get a clear look at them.
The Russian woman who always Skypes her son, Skyping her son.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Bus Report #891

Last night I hurried up the street to catch the 19 Polk.
I had to be somewhere in forty minutes and the bus was already running late.
It arrived a few minutes later and I got on, slid in to an empty seat beside an older man in a floppy hat, who was on the phone.
When he finished his call, he fiddled with the phone and put on some music.
I braced myself for the usual tinny sound of bad top 40 tunes.
But no. Instead, a deep, rich voice boomed out from the tiny phone, singing a mournful song about love.
I asked the man what he was listening to. He turned the phone so I could see the name on the screen.
"It's Gerald Levert," he said. "You know him? You remember the old times?"
I didn't, and I didn't. "It sounds really lovely," I told my seatmate.
"Yeah well you know, I don't go in for all that rap stuff," he said. He shook his head. "Gerald Levert, you remember that."
"I will," I said.
We sat in silence and listened to the music.
The bus was crowded and people were yelling. A woman with a double stroller and two other kids clutched a large Mylar balloon in the shape of a big purple shark. She tried to keep the balloon away from the babies, away from the other passengers.
It was all very... 19 Polk.
But the music was pretty and for a moment the rest of the rush hour commute drifted away, out the window and out to sea.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Bus Report #890

This morning our usual driver was training a new driver. The new guy drove slowly, while the usual driver leaned over to share tips and techniques.

In the Haight, by the McDonald's, a group of dodgy guys stood clustered around a fleet of (probably) stolen bikes and bike parts.
As we idled in the stop for a moment to let passengers on and off, one of the men grabbed a spray can and promptly began to tag the bus.

A young man sitting in the back of the bus called to the driver, "Hey, this guy is spray painting the bus!"

Our usual driver started to walk back to see what was going on, but by then the sprayer had retreated to the sidewalk and put away his cans.

Our usual driver urged his trainee to close the doors and keep going, and we rolled along.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Bus Report #889

Last night, after a week of unseasonably hot weather, I stepped off the 38R at 6th and Geary and was excited to see my friend, our friend, Karl the Fog back in town.

Walking the rest of the way home I watched the fog rolling over the neighborhood in tendril-like wisps. Oh, it felt good.

This morning, the fog hung low over the neighborhood. It was heavy and thick and made me want to crawl back underneath the duvet I'd thrown off an hour earlier.

Lights were on in many of the homes all along Arguello and later, Ashbury. With the shades open, each illuminated room in the apartments and houses looked like a dollhouse room. Painting hung here and there. Kitchens cluttered with pots and pans and coffee makers all pressed up where the window meets the wall. Stoves in silhouette. Flickering televisions with the viewers hidden from sight. Cats sitting on the backs of sofas, surveying the streets.

The bus was almost empty my entire ride and for a moment I wondered if perhaps it was Saturday and I was going to work by mistake. We rounded the hairpin turn onto Market and the connection to the electricity fell down. The bus braked, hard, and then the driver hopped out to fix the connection.

On 16th and Potrero a man crouched over a glass jar and emptied something in to it. The jar was full of... I'm not sure. Vegetables? Vinegar? Was he making sidewalk pickles? I'll never know.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Bus Report #888

I walk over a dozen blocks to get to the bus these days, down Clement Street in the early morning quiet.
In the morning the only other people out and about are the cabbies, the restaurant workers, the delivery guys. Homeless people waking up in doorways. A man who picks up trash and moves trash cans back onto the sidewalk after trash collection. A couple who meet at the donut shop and then sit in the man's pickup truck with their coffees and pastries, sometimes arguing, sometimes making out.
The man who delivers supplies to the pizzeria, always smiling, always saying good morning, cheerful despite his 3 AM start to his day. The bus boy from Hamburger Haven.

Mornings, before the shops open and before the street comes to life, Clement belongs to the birds.
Flocks of crows (or should I say, murders of crows?), seagulls, pigeons and small sparrows vie for space on the overhead wires. They fight each other for the right to pick at the overflowing compost bins in front of some of the neighborhood's finest restaurants. The crows shriek and scream and sometimes sound eerily human.

And there are open doors on Clement. Open to let in restaurant workers and the delivery guys, open for some cool air on a warm morning.
One perpetually open door leads up a flight of stairs to a landing where a trio of wet suits hang above a wooden bench. I wonder what goes on out of sight around the corner from the landing.

I linger in front of William The Beekeeper and look at the handmade clothes, the jewelry.

When I hear the electric screech of overhead wires I dash to the corner and catch the 33, only a little breathless.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Bus Report #887

I can't hear a thing these days - too many years going to shows sans earplugs. I have to watch TV with the closed-captioning on, read lips in loud places.
But with my headphones on and the sound cranked up, I am just fine.
Today I took the 33 Ashbury, Bruce Springsteen shouting into my ears at top volume.
Russian woman on the phone in front of me, per usual.
Man with too much cologne, a few rows back.
I opened the windows, stared at a greasy spot against the otherwise clean windowpane.
Bus rattled down Arguello to Fulton, Fulton to Stanyan, the park early morning quiet, shrouded in fog.
People rolling up their sleeping bags. Trash strewn all across the entrance of the park. Welcome, welcome everyone.
Two men zoned out, standing still yet weaving in place anyway in front of McDonald's.
Further down Haight, people loading veggies and fruit into the bins out front Haight Street Market.
Beautiful red tomatoes. Golden butternut squash shaming me and the months' old squash lurking in my kitchen cabinet.
Dude in a car refusing to move for the bus to turn. Bus honking. Honking.
Car slowly backs up, more honking, backs up some more.
Last night's dreams slowly seeping back in to my consciousness. People I haven't thought of in years. Actors from long-ago canceled television shows. The warm weather making me sweat even as I still shiver in my jacket.

The Boss tells me he's on fire just as the bus hits the hairpin turn on to 18th.

In the Castro, a trash can actually is on fire - smoking smoking on the corner of 18th and Castro.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Bus Report #886

The other night, coming home on the 1 California.
Our driver was a ginger-haired, blue-pale man with a deep voice.
When we hit Fillmore he came over the P.A., said, "Faaabulous Fillmore, everyone. This is the stop for fabulous Fillmore."
I giggled.
My seat mate, a woman with curly hair and bright red lipstick, a shy smile, said, "Sometimes, a little too fabulous for me."
"Me, too," I said, taking off my headphones. "Well, too fabulous for my wallet most of the time, anyway."
"Yes," she said, nodding. "Yes, for me, too."