The Vesuvio Chronicles [An Exercise In People Watching]
On April 20, 2015, I wandered around San Francisco for a good 12 hours. I saw a whole lot of things that I would not be able to un-see and I was totally cool with that. BFD affiliate and fan club representative, Matt Kuhr, egged me on to go to this bar that was “really cool”. Luckily it was around the corner of my hostel, so I had no excuse but to go and see what the hell it was all about. Exhausted, thirsty and inspired, I found myself inside Vesuvio Cafe, a historic bar in North Beach that was frequented by all the beat writers that mattered. As a total break in character, I sat in the middle of the upstairs balcony, opened a notebook and started writing everything I saw and thought. I learned a lot about myself, the world around me and made a couple of friends. I also got drunk in the process. This is the result of 5 hours, a large bar tab and a lot of pen biting. Enjoy. I dare you to.
We’re Starting With Part One Because We Need To
12:00 – A table of four. Very different people, none of whom feel at home. The long haired fellow appears to be embarrassed of his companions. The guy in the hoodie pensively places his chin on his fist, trying to look intellectual as the girl, who had clearly just finished a jogging sesh and will surely tell you all about it, tries to muster out something that she thinks is meaningful. Add +1 girl on her cell phone and you have a table.
1:30 – A couple that has clearly been together too long. You can tell by the tired look in her eyes and general “Is This Going To End Or Change Soon?” posture. And he just has his hands on his head, clearly disinterested in being there or alive or anything at all.
3:00 – A clearly older man tries to utilize his wits, arm gestures, knowledge of beat writers and expensive glasses to impress his suitorette. She’s considering a quick jump out the 2nd floor window and probably grabbing a slice somewhere or just masturbating and falling asleep. But instead, she plays with the buttons on her jacket.
4:00 – A clearly “different” girl tries to utilize her wits, arm gestures, her “look at me, I’m extremely liberal and loud” disposition and stunning bangs to impress her suitor. He’s considering a quick jump out the 2nd floor window and probably grabbing a slice somewhere and making sweet love to a bleeding girl he met at the pizzeria. But instead, he orders another drink.
6:00 – I can’t see 6:00, but here’s my assumption: 2 college friends meeting up again. One just got married to the man of her dreams and the other is considering getting a 3rd cat. I turn around. I’m probably right.
Intermission: 11:00 sits down. 2 people on their phones.
9:00 – A man, most likely a Berkeley graduate, talks on and on about the Kama Sutra, while his Asian Chic™ girlfriend sits there in that typical Californian-Too-Much-Weed-Or-Xanax-Or-Both affectation that always makes me pissed off and lonely. They are the only ones having sex tonight.
And then there’s me, at the center of time. The guy that awkwardly sat at a balcony table, tried giving the air that he’s waiting for somebody, gave up and started furiously writing for the first time in days.
Kerouac is spinning in his snowglobe.
There Is A Part Two. This Is It.
Being in the center is unsurprisingly overwhelming. I step outside for a tobacco reprieve. I’m struck by loneliness. I’ve been struck with loneliness. He’s been my best friend in my travels, striking me when I get to the top of every hill and wish someone else was here to see this and not this unappreciative sack of rocks that decided to make me as a companion. A ghoul rounds the corner. Gender is indiscernible with an unsymmetrical chest and hairy knuckles. It asks me for a smoke, which is very typical of ghouls these days. As it struggles with my lighter, I’m approached by a staggering man. He mumbles something to me and I emit no response. We shake hands. He mumbles again. “No” can be my only answer. As the ghoul and mumbler stagger away, I can hear loneliness snickering behind me. This was all his doing. An old man in a suit canes his way across the street. He’s shouting for somebody to “stop it”. It becomes apparent that the person that needs to stop is me and the man looks strikingly like William S. Burroughs, circa ’88.
So I stop.
Or at least I try to.
But watching the waitress from the balcony, I can’t help but to think about the decisions I have made. How I’m unable to overcome my insecurities. I could definitely go for something unconventional as her. She’s not even unconventional. She’s just—
The waitress walks up and I slam the book shut. Loneliness winks at me. Another Wild Turkey and Ginger Beer, please.
Of Course There’s Also A Part Three
The girl at 4:00 is recalling a terrible date that she went of for 2 hours, 40 minutes and 30 seconds, because apparently she goes on dates with a stopwatch. I should start doing that. She’s also getting fatally smashed. I should do that. I should do her, but her blind date looks like a poor mans Hannibal Buress, which allegedly has more worth than a middle class Coze.
This time of night is hard on the West Coast. All sports end at 10, so then I’m left with no TV to watch and no stats to refresh. I guess around here, this is when people have conversations. This is the only way I can compensate:
Followed by something meaningless.
I’m Scheming My Part Four
12:00 – Some douchey artisté that spent too much coin trying to look like Andy Warhol slumps down with a girl that looks just like 4:00, but with no personality. They decide to sit next to each other, facing me directly, gawking, probably making some smart ass comments about how I’m trying to write some beat diatribe, while intentionally pausing to stare at the waitress and the 4:00 girl, trying to figure out what to write next. They have me figured out. But I would never give them the satisfaction of confessing my artistic sin.
[But wait, there’s more]
He’s trying to put his arm around her and she immediately darts to the corner of the booth. I should keep an eye on those two. Make sure they don’t steal any loose change…
…Nope, nevermind, they’re making out.
Ugh. Part Five.
There’s something compelling me to stay. Something gravitational, cosmic, insert overused word here. I’m seized by the prospect of something happening that’ll make me not regret my drink tab, which I’m sure will be atrocious. But all I’m seeing is fake 6:00 [Ed. Note: At this point, I start referring to the girl named 4:00 to 6:00. To avoid confusion and ruin artistic integrity, I will change every 6 to a 4.] playing with Douchehol’s hair, two Europeans studying a travel guide and Poor Buress, trying to make his move on 4:00 and failing miserably. Now they’re clearly talking about me. She knows “his type”. But yet…I’m acting out of character. This harlot is dead wrong! I feel like I definitely know her and she knows me, but we are just THAT generic. Very easy thing to accomplish in this age. But still…I wish I knew her. I wish I had the guts to drop this notebook on her lap and say “You’re welcome. My train leaves tomorrow night at 9.”
Wow. This drink is much stronger.
Maybe If I Start Part Six, Something Will HAPPEN…
Those fuckbags at 12:00 just took a picture of me. I hope when they have a post-coital look at the picture, I won’t be there and the phone will ring and some other Japanese horror movie shit would ensue.
I slam the pen down and give them the evil eye, but they just laugh.
4:00 and Poor Hannibal are talking in hushes. They’re on to me.
My jig is up.
Wait, no. Poor Hannibal has to pee.
But he won’t, because he knows that I’ll swoop in and by the time he gets back, she’ll be gone and I’ll be back in my seat, embarrassed as hell.
[The situation is not properly assessed in the writing. Poor Hannibal went to take a leak and I went outside for a smoke. Upon arriving, I could barely get a sentence written before 4:00 approached me. She inquired what I was writing. Stammering [and grateful that the visible page only had a few words] I told her it was some “thoughts”. She gave me a pen and encouraged me to write sideways, which only made me more attracted to her. Because I had become an active character in the story, I found it best to stop people watching and actually start writing something meaningful, which doesn’t quite fall flat, but…well, you’ll see…]
I was given a pen by 4:00. It’s close to dying
and I want to die okay now is not the time for a Dennis Louis reference [It’s also not a Dennis Louis reference. Oy.]. She told me it was “more creative” and I should start writing with the pages longways. I’m not sure if either work, but let’s roll with the punches. When I look back at the last few hours, I have concluded that everyone is laughing at me noticing me because I’m not wearing a baseball cap. Whenever I walk into an artsy place expecting to fit in, all my expectations falter because I’m repping the Dodgers or the Biscuits or the LBC. But now that I’m noticed, I wish I had something real to pump out. A real part seven. But this one is also a fraud, just like we all have tendencies to be sometimes. Even Fake Warhol, who looks more like real Andy Dick.
A lot of this had something to do with fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of strangers, fear of myself. As it turns out, none of it is true. There was nothing there at all. It’s just me, in different places, among different people. We are all defective earthlings, raised to fear what it is that makes us fear in the first place. If we could all take in any given situation with the assuration that we’re all in it together, the world would be a very frightening place, filled with self-assured go-getters.
That’s why we’re defective.
I’ll Stop At Part Ten. I Swear.
Just as I promised the waitress that this is my last drink, 4:00 is drinking me under the table, but yet making more sense than me. The bar has cleared out, whatever that needed to be said has been said. What tomorrow will bring will never happen, because tomorrow never comes. Anything that I said will be processed and forgotten. Nobody in this bar can list their Top Five Kerouac Quotes. Nobody remembers Gerald Ford. Bowling is a dead sport. The Beatles are a novelty.
This has all meant nothing.
One Last Thing[s]
I’ve been thinking a lot about the people that have been here and the people that will come after me. What this was 60 years ago means something different today. Today, it means something to us because it meant something else to somebody else. This fact
confuses me assures me that that’s why we live in cities. Every city has its own sense of nostalgia and without that, nothing would ever mean anything to anybody. So now, tourists come in and out as well as fuckers like me.
In hindsight, I should’ve went to the strip club.
Upon paying off my $60 tab, I had a brief talk with 4:00 and Poor Hannibal, whose real names I have since forgot because, well, I was drunk. I told them my story, what I was writing and the name of the website it would be on. Chances are, they were also too drunk to remember my name, let alone baseballfordinner.com. But if that is you out there reading this, well, now you know what was on my mind the whole night. You’re welcome.