New York. Too hot in summer, too cold in winter. That’s why I moved to San Francisco long ago. The City has a lot of charm, but the most entertaining thing about it is its night life. And people are what make nightclubs bearable.
Imagine for a moment the bar in hell, because there is one you know. Who will be on the stool seated next to you?
“It was a case of natural selection and I didn’t get picked.” The guy seemed sane enough when I sat down and ordered a dark ale. But, then, everybody’s normal until you get to know them. I made the mistake of nodding in his direction when my drink arrived. He said in response, “I love chaos. We have a two party system because anarchy is too hard to organize.”
His stream of consciousness was becoming a river.
“Fact,” he said with a half full glass of wine at his lips. “The fine for not picking up your dog’s shit in San Francisco is $27. Fact: The fine for not picking up your own shit is zero.” Other than his mouth, his most distinguishing characteristic was a red bowtie.
I decided the conversation had taken a wrong turn long ago, saluted him silently with my beer and draped a cocktail napkin over its rim. There was no more perfect time to take a leak. Turned the corner and bumped into a mountain wearing a fedora. Nobody wears hats any more, and fedoras were out of fashion long before I was even conceived.
“The Yeesev wants to see ya.” My guess was: the mountain bumped into me on purpose.
“Funny, I don’t think we’ve been introduced.”
The giant stuck out a meaty palm. My pink paw looked like a plastic Ken doll by comparison. “Morris,” he said pumping my arm up and down.
Morris was blacker than the inside of a coal mine and had a smile like a set of piano keys, from ear to ear. He was bigger than a Sherman tank with hands the size of dinner plates. He had Teamster written all over him, but the way he dealt with the situation was a testament to his intelligence.
“I meant the guy you said wanted to see me.”
“Oh, yah. The Yeesev. Why he wants to see ya, he heard about you, wants to talk. Mind coming with me?”
My hesitation must have come across as no, because that’s when Morris opened his jacket just enough for me to see he was packing.
“Mind if I hit the head?”
“Be my guest.” That wide grin again.
Remember, kids, always wash your hands afterwards. And open the window first, if there is one, so you can escape. The tackle must have investigated before letting me go in alone. There was no window. Told you he was smart. The walls, however, were covered with literature. One of the pieces of graffiti read: Lost, perhaps for good.
Morris pressed a button on his key chain and the car squealed and flashed its lights. It was the latest model Mercedes SUV available, pricier than a Hummer and twice as pretty. He tossed me the keys saying, “You drive,” adding, “and put on your seat belt.” He buckled up on the passenger side. I saw why he was not driving. He wanted to be able to hold the muzzle of the .32 steady against my right side, low so no one else might catch a glimpse. It was a small caliber, but it would ruin about a mile of my intestines if it went off. I was careful pulling away from the curb.
“Haight to Masonic, left. Then left on Geary, right on Arguello. We’re going to the forest.”
There were several places you might call “the forest” in San Francisco. Forest Knolls Drive, the woods surrounding Laguna Honda Hospital, a couple places in Golden Gate Park, maybe somewhere else south of Muir Woods, but his directions were to the one comprised of eucalyptus trees in The Presidio.
“Enlisted men’s housing or officer’s quarters?” I inquired casually. I had no idea what difference the answer might mean, I was just making small talk.
“New old digs. An NGO redevelopment.”
Now that was a twist. The Presidio was a former Army base that butted right up against the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. America launched the Spanish American War, the Philippine-American War, World Wars One and Two from there and finally ceded it to the National Park Service in the late 90’s. Now it was being rented out to the likes of George Lucas who moved his movie making facilities there after tearing down Letterman Hospital and building his own version of military chic. Believe me, his buildings may look old, but I have a buddy who was an electrician on the project. He had to sign a non-disclosure promise never to tell anyone anything about the secrets of modern connectivity he installed. So right away he told me.
The rest of the buildings on the old base were being renovated one at a time. Renovation is a polite word for the amount of work that had to go into each of what the Army so graciously left the City and the Park Service. With the exception of two clusters of residential housing, one set built in the 30’s and another in the late 50’s, most of the structures were little more than shotgun shacks with no modern amenities. Some were built during the Victorian era and those were in the best shape. Later construction practices might be described as cheap and quick single wall design with no foundations, connected to septic not sewer lines with knob and tubing as the norm and their clapboard sidings rotten.