Monday, April 6, 2015

Part One: Scramble and Hustle


So how did I end up living in a punk rock nightclub?  Lemme tell ya....
     First, I was laid off from the car wash in Oakland I worked at because it was winter.  My roommates, having been in the same boat, demonstrated their compassion by promptly giving me the boot.  (A couple years later, I was comforted to find a couple of them living in a tenement on Pill Hill, and others having moved back home.... In their mid-twenties.  Fill in Simpsons "Nelson" laugh here.)  A friend down in San Jose was able to help me out by letting me sleep in the garage of the house she was living in.  There was just one tiny problem: the guy who she was renting a room from couldn't know I was there, so I had to sneak in the house around six in the morning and hide under her bed until he left for work.  I'd built a small cave to live and sleep in in the rafters, and the guy never went in the garage past seven p.m.  I just had to sneak in the side door after seven and stay quiet.  I did plenty of laps around the block until the lights at the side of the house went off, the signal the coast was clear.

     This swung pretty well until one morning  when I dozed off under the bed.  I snore.  He came looking for the source of the horrible noise and found me.  He was un-amused.  My friend narrowly escaped eviction; I would have too if I had 38C cups.  (Yes, she was highly perky.)
     San Francisco seemed like a natural move, with its large homeless population.  However, being downtown was a blessing and a curse: I was just one of thousands of homeless in that area.  I figured there would be space in in one of the shelters, and on the advice of one of the shopping cart looneys, I showed up at Starvation Army around three to try and get a cot.  I did, and got a meal, and was shown to my cot.  By eight I was regretting my decision. Complete bedlam hell: shouts, screaming, fights, utter chaos.... And it didn't end.  All night the noise and brawling didn't end.  I slept with my knife in my hand due to creeps trying to get into my duffel bag.  Jabbed a couple because they thought I was kidding, and I wasn't.  That was my one and only night in a shelter.  (Glide Memorial  was good, but was pretty much reserved for families, not random punks.)
     I ended up sleeping in the Glen Park BART station, on the southwest side of the city.  Nice neighborhood.  Very nice.  They weren't used to homeless crashers , so they weren't sure what to make of me.  I wasn't filthy, crazy, or drunk, I was just.... Homeless.  I managed to get on friendly terms with the station agents at the BART station, and they would let me use the bathroom at the station in the morning.  The agreement was that they'd let me get clean  in the bathroom if I left the bathroom cleaner than I found it..  Sounded like a good deal to me.  I'd shave and wash and change into a cleaner shirt, then scrub down the sinks and toilets and urinals, and mop the floors.  It felt like a reasonable exchange to me: work for twenty minutes, look respectable and not stink.
     I"d pick up an old newspaper to read the want ads.  Pissing on the wall.  Getting a job with no address or phone number simply doesn't happen, not even fast food.  And when everything you own is in one of those big army duffel bags, they don't view you as the most reliable employee.... Which is bullshit, since you desperately need the damn money.  Speaking personally, I  was willing to take any shifts, any hours, any days they'd give me.  It's not like I'd  anyplace else to be, so why not spend eight or ten hours mopping floors and making fries?  I would have worked hard just out of boredom, y'know?

     And I got a girlfriend, sort of.  A foul-mouthed, strange-humored, criminally underage punk rock girl who called herself "Nuck."  It was short for "nuck nuck nuck nuck nuck nuck...." that being the noise made by people spun up on Ecstasy, which she loved, chewing on pacifiers.  She and a friend of hers woke me up around three a.m. because they couldn't figure out what I was: I was a strange lump under a blanket and they decided to investigate.  They shrieked when I moved, and I explained I was just a homeless punk who didn't want to be downtown.  They saw the logic in that.
      She told me to come to her house a few blocks away the next day and I could shower and wash my clothes.  I told her that sounded great, but uh, wouldn't her parents mind her bringing some bum over?  "Aw, they don't give a fuckin' shit what the fuck I do, as long as I don't break shit.  You just can't crash there, which is bullshit.  C'mon, follow me so you know where the fuckin' house is."
     And the next day we washed my clothes, ate, and had sex in her shower.  "You can shoot your cum on my ass, but not up my cunt.  I need to shoplift more Trojans.  You fuck good, are you gonna be around for a while?"
     I told her yeah, probably so.  "Fuckin' awesome.  I like your dick a lot."  It's always nice to feel appreciated, I suppose.

      I finally got a job two blocks away.... Doing telemarketing, raising funds for the Policemen's Benevolent Association.  A fucking swindle, but considering I was bordering on stud-hustling for money --- I was still at the age where you can get a hard-on staring at mud --- I was in no position to moralize.  Besides, hustling would have meant taking speed again, and I didn't want to get on that merry-go-round again.  Since I was indoors, I would work twelve hour days and have all the free coffee I could drink.  I was only a mediocre salesman, but with twelve hour days, I managed to earn my keep.  I would work from eight a.m. until eight p.m. at which point I would go spare change money for food and malt liquor.  I'd pull in enough for a can of Campbell's Chunky soup, a roll, and a forty of King Cobra.  Somehow I managed to avoid contracting scurvy.
     If she was home, I'd go to Nuck's to watch TV and have sex.  Fairly vocal sex.  The kind of sex you have when you're trying to piss off other people in the house.  The only comment from her parents was to remember I wasn't I couldn't stay the night.  "Fuck you dad, I know!" and we'd have another go.
     After two months of this I had enough money for a shitty hotel room on San Pablo Avenue in Oakland.  The manager and I got along just fine.  He was protective of my fourteen year old girlfriend, and each night we'd switch who paid for the pint of Royal Gate vodka that we'd split.  My teenage girlfriend was straight edge.... except for LSD.  And crystal meth.  And mushrooms..  And Ecstasy.  And poppers.  Yes, except for those, she was completely straight edge, totally free of drugs and alcohol.  She couldn't understand why we'd poison ourselves with booze and the occasional joint.  "Don't see where the fuck you get off on that shit.  Just a bunch of goddamn puke to me," she said, whiffing from her jar of amyl nitrate.
     And you did read her age correctly  above: she was fourteen, I was twenty-three.  The answer is because her parents didn't care where she was and I was a punk rock scumbag with no sense of morality or scruples.  (And you thought it was complex.)  Yeah, she was a fourteen year old sketch-case, I was a slimy loser who fucked little girls in their parents' house.... Why, we were a match mad in,um, hell.  We deserved each other in a lot of ways.  Hey, Shakespeare's Juliet was only fourteen.  Probably didn't get so damn high all the time, though.

     Two days shy of losing my hotel room (the girlfriend saw the writing on the wall and went back to her parents' house) I had a stroke of good luck.  My friend Jesse at 924 Gilman told me there had been near constant break-in attempts at the club, and he knew I needed a place to crash, so how did I feel about living in the club?  All I'd have to do is run off crackheads with a baseball bat on a regular basis.  Hey, I know how to do that!  So I bade goodbye to my friend the hotel manager, let the guys at Quarter Pound Burger know they'd be going through about thirty fewer baskets of fries a week (I lived on french fries), shoved everything back in my duffel bag, and jumped on the 72 bus northbound for North Berkeley, where I settled in.... To the joy of some, and the annoyance of others.

     It was at this point my life started getting weird....

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