Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Soft Warm Reopening

It is both great and sad to be back on Hyde Street tonight, a mix of old faces and new outside the nightclub. The stark scarecrow of owl-eyed Kenny, with his constant bumming of cigarettes and an ambitious request for two dollars (to get some food, he claims). Emilio and Katie and Grant and even the new kid, Justin the barback, who seems like an uncanny fit for the club. All the various and varied DJs and promoters and their friends and fans and girls and boys and everyone so very glad to be back on one of the toughest blocks in San Francisco.

While I'm still deciding if I'm celebrating being back on Hyde Street after midnight on a Tuesday or not, a drunken rapper shows up with a pronounced pink scar on his left cheek. His slur is somewhere between pimp patois and having been sippin' on some sizzurp for a little too long, along with, of course, some weed. But he is lucid enough to require me to give him the "private party tonight" line to keep him from trying to insinuate his way into the club. He is obviously way too wasted to allow in and I can't tell if he is cool or just another of the neighborhood's newest cracked-out denizens.

He slurs something and I nod and smile vaguely and mutter, "Yeah...", but I cannot understand a word he is saying. This conversation, I'm guessing, is mutually based on a rough reading of energy and body language. We bump knuckles a few times as his low and mumbled monologue continues.

Apparently his reading of me comes back positive, as he produces a CD from his back pocket. It is a professional-looking affair: a clear plastic sleeve with full color cover, double-sided on glossy stock. It feels like a familiar exchange and I quickly explain that I have no money to buy a copy of his homie's album. He explains, head still down toward the sidewalk, with the occasional violent sideways swerve up toward my eyes, that this isn't his homie's album, but he and his brother's.

He suddenly swings his head up and in toward my face, holding the CD in front of both of us. "See? Thass me,” he says, jamming his dirty finger into one of the confidently smiling faces on the CD cover, “and thass mah brother." He forces the CD into my hand, then stumbles diagonally backward into the wrought iron gate in front of the club. I get off my stool and start toward his slumping figure, but before I can reach him, he lurches up into a standing position and wobbles stutter-step back toward the curb. He kicks off one of his shoes, stoops low in the middle of the dirty sidewalk and carefully examines the papers and bills from each of his front pockets, weaving obviously and straining to focus his eyes. The club's smoking patrons watch quietly from against the fence and comment in loud whispers to one another. One of them makes a grand gesture of giving him a cigarette and a light.

After a few drags, he sloppily throws the smoke into the gutter, takes a few wobbling steps, then crumples face down onto the trunk of a blue Honda parked in front of the club. Perhaps he is finally unconscious. His pullover black hoodie hides most of his upper torso and head. I'm sure he's still alive—I can see his back rising and falling regularly—and at this point, that's good enough for me.

After a few minutes of face-down deep breathing, he flops over violently and lurches into a slumped sitting/leaning position against the parked car, pushing back the edge of his hood with his wrist. He focuses his eyes, and nearly indecipherable speech, on me again. "Hey, mang, juss hol' ontuh tha' disk... Iss free... iss free." he says, making a pushing motion with both hands. I thank him profusely as he falls face-first onto the filthy sidewalk. As he rolls over slowly and starts trying to get up, demanding to know who just hit him in his face, I repeat that he still cannot come into the club, but I'm not sure if he hears me.

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