It was called “The Shipwreck.” It had been a late afternoon of some debauchery before a somewhat aimless drive through several neighborhoods North of Market. Randy and Blanche had found themselves in a neighborhood in San Francisco that they did not quite recognize, despite having lived in San Francisco as long as they had. They had stopped to ask a local where a good place to eat would be. This would be not quite dinner and not quite lunch.
“How’s the coffee here?”
“Black and strong like my men.”
The menus were somewhat greasy. But, Randy was impressed with the lack of flies. That would be his usual caliber of restaurant: Tenderloin dive. These two men waiting at a table in a nearly empty restaurant took in the void of past elegance; linen tablecloths, bud vases of china populated by purple edible orchids no less. Depression-era glass was on display. There seemed to be a darkness despite the broad bay windows. The floor plan was designed to be a home, not a restaurant.
“Apparently, this place is known for its desserts.” This, according to the local as she placed the metal lid on the garbage can on her front porch, a rarity in San Francisco. Other than the more stately Victorians, one’s home would not have a porch. They were some blocks from the iconic Painted Ladies near Alamo Park.
It had already been a lazy afternoon of Chantilly clouds in an Azure sky. Blanche had introduced Randy to a friend who owned a Renault that they had driven somewhat aimlessly. Kenny was still parking the car, also a somewhat aimless expedition in its own right. No Doris Day parking today.
Randy and Blanche took in the old photos adorning the walls -of Greece, Rome, the Pantheon, the Sistine Chapel, Notre Dame, etc. Inspired, one would be sure, by the concept of The Grand Tour, the days before the democratization of world travel. The black and white images lent their illusion of grandiosity to this small restaurant that was once a home.
Randy, while in the back seat of the somewhat oxidized Renault, didn’t have to roll down the window in order to ask the housewife carrying a bag of rubbish to the can, as the car stopped. The window had been broken for as long as Blanche could remember. It did not present a problem in the Mediterranean climate of San Francisco, unless it rained. But, then again, any car was a luxury. Even a dented, old Renault. Kenny called it “The Tin Can.”
The woman looked startled at first, with an orange tabby brushing up against her ankle. But then she warmed to the prospect of recommending a neighborhood mainstay. It was word-of-mouth success, or at least survival.
With Fuschia pantsuit and large-framed glasses, she stooped to lift the lid as she spoke. The can was dented to a similar extent as the Renault, but more battered and gray with grime. This would be a well-worn phrase, she was accustomed to recommending this restaurant.
The cat escaped down an alley after loosing any interest in anything. The wind rustled a wind chime somewhere. There was the general sense of disorientation. Where there is sunlight, there is the very possibility of faerie dust. The dust is to distract us from the grime.
Earlier that afternoon, Kenny had showed them yoga positions involving a stability ball and mat. He worked as an instructor as well as making extra money on the side selling succulent dish gardens which he constructed and designed himself. He would sell these to passersby on the side walk in front of his basement apartment which he shared with his cat, Binky. Binky was a rescue cat.
Randy and Blanche had decided it was easier to get out and walk while Kenny looked for parking. There were loading zones and meters. But, sometimes one did better in the alleys.
There was a strange familiarity to the place -the restaurant, the street. And, yet, it did not seem to correspond exactly to the coordinates on a map. Not that they had a map. Merely, there was the vague sense. The only certainty was their Northern relation to Market Street, Opera Plaza to the Northeast, and Hayes Valley to the West.
The woman was patient and kind. She effusively recommended the neighborhood restaurant, subsisting as it did on a casual lunch crowd, and the more ambitious Opera aficionados, with a curio and folded linens, and brass fixtures.
Finally, Kenny walked into the dining room. As the restaurant was nearly empty, seating a party of three presented no problem. The maitre d’ had already seated Blanche and Randy.
A nonchalant gesture made Randy notice the ring. It reminded Randy of Aurora Borealis; like crystal suspended in the sky reflecting color. Perhaps, even, from another planet. In reality, from our own Sun. And there could be any color-combination imaginable. There it was, the mind-bending reality of it. Did we ever see anything the way it really was? Square-cut and almost costume in its proportions, it competed with the silver, its genteel neighbor.
“I hear you have a nickname at the studio.” -Randy commented to Kenny.
After a hesitation Kenny said -”Orgasmatron” Chuckles all around.
With this Sleeper reference, Randy’s thoughts turned to Madrid.
“How is your Can-O-Coffee investment idea coming along?” -Blanche asked Randy. This was before he scored his one big investor.
Randy thought of that last board meeting: “The fundamentals just aren’t there.” Where would he get the desperately needed capital?
Do not wait for permission to pursue your dreams. The possibilities were staggering. Tactics and strategy, but most of all, tact were needed.
Too much was riding on this project. Too bad it was so ill-conceived.
The financiers be damned. But will he fall victim to The Trap-Door school of accounting and management? Small minds, little matter. Did Nokola Tesla ask anyone for permission first?
As there was no answer to the inquiry regarding his project: “How was your trip?”
“If Paris were in California, it would be Madrid.” Youthful laughter filled the nearly empty dining room that once housed a working-class family, long ago. This was from before the New Economy.
Randy thought of that long flight to Madrid. So much of traveling is taken up by the mundane tasks. A rude flight attendant can seem to make the trip take so much longer. Humankind was not meant to merely fly, but to soar.
(9-14-16: Murder in SF)