The Situation Is Right for a Lovely Fight

11:37 PM Sunday, April 30, 2000

Wow, there's so much more to write about when you're culture shocked. I bet that's a big news flash to everyone, huh? Sorry, I can't stop, I wanna do my burrito walk. It's something I've done a few thousand times. Culture shock in itself isn't that interesting: "Dude, like, check that weird shit out!" In fact, I think real travel writers are supposed to suppress shock, maybe even wait until it subsides before they write descriptions. It should be obvious by now that I'm not a travel writer. I write journals.

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I have to go and buy food at 11PM. Is this what I'm going to have to do for the rest of my life? I seem to remember doing it every night last year.

Stuff is getting in my way.

I keep my eyes low and stare at singular, uninteresting objects for longer than necessary in a sensory protest. 

My skateboard with the fat Kryptos, my late-night cruiser leaning up against the wall. I decide to walk. I never do that except if it's raining hard. But skating is too fast. After flying 600 miles per hour all day today, I want to go slow.

The force of the water shooting down from the faucet startled me when I brushed my teeth. SSPUUSH. Aerated and white. I could drink it if I wanted to. It's so cold it stings my molars.

From the apartment onto the street. 50 degrees is brutally cold. My teeth chatter before I reach the corner.

A cyclist on Valencia street with a blinky red light on her back. Wait, a "her"? A woman on a bike. At night? Alone? I'm shocked by my culture.

The 14 Mission MUNI bus might well have been the space shuttle for the technological marvel that it was. White, electric, silent. The back full of fluorescently lighted technical victims.

Nearing Taqueria Cancun, I come upon my first group of sausage-jacketed gangbangers. Surenos, if my memory serves me, wear the blue. Hate the fucking Surenos for co-opting my favorite 2AM liquor store and calling me faggot: "This is our store now faggot." Stare at the ground. I'm tall and dressed in black and khaki. This is the exact spot that I was once forced off my bike for riding over their turf. This is the exact place that I've had a bottle explode on the wall next to my head. I remember why I usually skate.

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Inside, Christmas lights and palm trees painted on the walls. Around a varnished wooden table, a group of scruffy looking white youths. They're unattractive by television standards. One girl wears well-worn skateboard shoes. The boys work the skinny, intelligent beer-drinker-in-a-dress-shirt look. They're the only ones besides some single Latino men gulping tacos. A brief spell sitting next to them while browsing the Bay Guardian reveals almost nothing. I cannot understand what they are saying although they are fully audible. Too fast, too many laughs, too many swallowed sentences. I listen for slang-clues that they're skaters. They are miraculously beautiful to me. I'm glad they came from wherever they came from.

When I order the man says "Is that all?" and I wobble my head and say "Ha." The seven neck vertebrae that make up my cervical spine are now a tuned communication device. It seems to pass as an answer but then as I remember that I want more I think, "ek....what are those things? Salsa verde. Yes, ek salsa verde." What the hell does "ek" mean to this guy? It should be "una". I still have Spanish-Hindi usage confusion. I point at the green stuff. Now what am I going to do with all this worthless Hindi floating in my head?

Around the corner with one veg food log (no sour cream) and two Negra Modelo's. More gangbangers looking up the block: "Yo, is that HIM? That IS him." They're talking about a black rag-top Monte Carlo with more boys bent over, leaning in the windows. Parked in front of the Lexington lesbian bar and then peeling out. I cross to the other side of the street.

Should I visit my liquor-store clerk and buy a Coke for the morning? I've been visiting him almost every day for 7 years. No. I don't want to announce to anybody that I'm back. I just want to eat and write. Ok, enough.