At exactly midnight I land in the bizarre fever dream of San Francisco. My Lyfts keep cancelling and when I snag one he goes to the Departures gate instead of arrivals and I'm slapped with a no-show fine of $5. I chat with a robot in the app, who waives the fee based on my good behavior in the past, though not without a note of admonishment. At last a Lyft takes the bait of my dangling e-dollars, and I hop in a Line (shared ride) headed for downtown.
Downtown San Francisco at one in the morning is a busy place. Every corner has a crowd of individuals in a wide variance of cleanliness smoking and gabbing and drinking. Some of these parties are lit with the flashers of a cop car. Side-streets and alleys are lined with wheelchairs, or sheets, or sleeping bags, or nests of newspaper in makeshift dormitories. At the corner where my Line companion alights, three men sit on the curb holding a sheet over their heads, passing around a pipe.
In the morning I walk through Golden Gate park. Maybe it's my imagination, but the wealthy people I pass all seem to have the same smug look of contentment on their faces. They're clean, and fit, and well-dressed. They talk on their phones about important things like business and dinner plans. They push strollers with cargoes of precious young aristocrats.
I sit at bench in a hole-in-the wall diner and eat an omelette that's actually worth the $10. I'm weaning myself off coffee so there's no abyss to stare at while I feign contemplation. After breakfast I force myself into a Star Bucks to deplete the gift card I was given. They want my name and email address to flay me with ads, just for access to the wifi. I enter "Go Fukyrslf at firstname.lastname@example.org." It works.
Howard Schultz really needs to shut the fuck up.
A homeless man leans against a mailbox, cackling. He's listening to a radio playing what sounds like WW2 propaganda. It's a bright blue day, warm in the sun, cool in the shade. The air is fresh and salty. I can almost hear the purr of the Pacific.
San Francisco is a beautiful place. San Francisco is a horrible place. San Francisco is the future. San Francisco is the past.