Outside of a giant liquor store that only had one brand of Shochu and not the kind I wanted, I set up my laptop to play through the aging and squealing car stereo. As Japanese language lesson MP3s began to scratch through thirteen year old Honda speakers, my foot firmly planted not on the brake but on the accelerator, I put my car into gear and my bumper firmly into the bumper of the handicap-car driving black lady in front of me. I'd had a pleasant exchange with earlier as I warned her about the impending tow-away time on this side of the street. Fortunately she wasn't in her car but she was coming back to move and she saw my hit. We both went to her bumper, I was happy to see that there was only some slight paint cracking, amidst a number of other paint cracks on her late model royal blue Japanese car damage buffer. She was excited to get my insurance information and personal information so she could file a claim and get herself a new rear end. In spite of my will to remain pleasant I became incredulous, responding to an older man of southeast Asian descent driving a private parking enforcement pickup truck - "yes, there's been an accident - if you have a pair of tweezers and a magnifying glass we might be able to assess the damage." I took digital pictures of our cars nearly kissing and insisted on leaving before the police she called would arrive to discover that I had no proof of the car insurance I had just recently renewed. I went home to get my insurance proof, and I called to leave my policy number on her answering machine.
A Picture of America
In a gourmet taco chain in silicon valley, served a fish taco with spicy mayonaise sauce by a Latin American man with tattoos on his hands, alone in a large room shared only by two software engineers from India who were driving a new Mercedes, I found a picture of America.
Flush with enthusiasm over this great miscegination, I stopped to wish my cook a happy America. He stared intently into my face as I spoke, and I extended my well-wishing and brief spiritual patriotism into a few sentences. Finally, as I finished and smiled at him, he gestured towards the condiments bar, and replied with his brow furrowed just a bit "Salsa?"
I drove one and a half hours to Santa Cruz. Spent one hour with old college friends aging gracefully and living largely on the forested sides of hills and working on the edges of the technology economy, or entirely outside of it. They were relaxing with sunshine, pot and beer. There were many dogs. Some people had worked as florists, gardeners. One woman I hadn't seen in years was interviewing dying people, examining the way they prepared for death. Other people had spent time living in Asia and shared their reflections with me. One woman discovered that she belongs in this nation after much time abroad. You'll never not be a foreigner when you're in Asia, she said. She's developed the sort of seasoning befitting a mountain mama; was she planning to procreate and fill the forests with screaming hair-pulling curious knee-high ankle biters? No, after seeing dead babies floating down rivers in China, she knew there were kids out there if she needed them.
I drove one and a half hours to San Francisco. In the company of a woman who'd just ditched her kimono for modern clothes, and other guests from her Potrero Hill party, we went to the industrial beach of San Francisco near 3rd street. There, black folks and Latin American folks were setting off their own fireworks. Kimono-girl's old lover had a BMW trunk full of illegal Indiana fire fun. We were part of the beach danger enveloping bottle rocket towards your neck and spinning screaming diving fireball towards the picnic table gathering making their own bright booming fun underneath the pyrotechnical pounding sponsored by the state. After cavorting with some gregarious homeboys, the other white boys with me, older and more established in their business, they theorized that the other beach denizens were scheming to gaffle the nice white BMW.
Karuma de Santa Cruz ka ra San Francisco ma de ikimash(i)ta. Watashi no karuma furui des.
Stumble into America
Enthused by Japanese people I immediately enjoyed talking to, and a festive atmosphere, I over-indulged in the gin I brought. Three Malaccas with Guava juice had me ready to verbally cavort at 12.30 when the hostess was headed to bed. I wandered to the doorbell of a sleeping neighborfriend who didn't bother to wake for me. I scribbled some semi-legible news for her mailbox, and walked towards my car. Down the street an open door was another Independence party, artsy digital white and asian people. I walked in and stood around and talked to some folks. Turns out the woman throwing the party was someone I'd met in Tucson many years earlier, and last seen at a Doo-Rag show here in San Francisco. Underneath her bedroom in this aging home was an abandoned "in-law" type unit. A door wedged shut guarded a rotting floor and aged fixtures and empty space. I pushed through the door and explored the space with her. Someone desparate would love to use this space and it wouldn't take too many dollars to make it habitable. The landlord was planning to tear the whole joint down she said, and besides she liked the idea of having that much space lying unutilized in a city with so much real estate hysteria.
Sleep with America
Someone used my camera
to take a picture of me towards 1am.
Whatever state I was in,
I didn't remember until I saw my aging posture.
I returned to my car. Too tipsy and tired to drive well, I carseat slept overlooking San Francisco until nearly sunrise.