lattes and rental cars
tourist, 2003 -- by chad
Just a quick FYI about that picture...I anonymously snapped that photo, from my "Ordinary Day in San Francisco" series, while having a latte in Caffe Trieste here in North Beach one sunny afternoon over a year ago. I had been eavesdropping on that woman's conversation with her friend (another attractive and well-dressed and accessorized woman about her age), who was sitting across from her, gleaning some basic information about them in the 20 or so minutes they were sitting there. I was quite taken with them...not only were they well-dressed, they had smart little overnight cases with them, and appeared to be seasoned travelers (always, ALWAYS appreciated by us locals). They had flown up here for the day from Los Angeles, taken BART from the airport, and planned on staying a night at the Commodore Hotel near Union Square. They had not rented a car, instead opting to explore the city on foot, and of course, do some shopping in Union Square, the Upper Fillmore, and of course, Union Street. They were definitely not your average mall rats and just so, so cute...I almost wanted to tag along with them and hang out. I'm usually pretty good at remembering snippets of conversation, and theirs went something like this:
Woman in picture: You know, Carol...we should have done this a long time ago.
Unseen friend: I know. You deserve it. We deserve it. After everything you've been through...
Woman in picture: I know, I know. Don't talk about it, I want to enjoy myself. Besides, I've been working way too much and forgetting the things that make me happy. I love this city...it's so beautiful...magical. Sometimes I just think of saying "screw it all" and getting the hell out of there and just moving up here. [sips latte, savors it, sets it down on the table] You know what?
Unseen friend: What?
Woman in picture: I can't think of anywhere I'd rather be with right now, than right here, in this cafe, in the beautiful city, with you...my best friend.
Unseen friend: Oh, Barbara, you're going to make me cry! [both started laughing]
(Note: In response to a question asked by several people over the past 24 hours via e-mail, yes, that's an absolutely true story. That's not their entire conversation, just a snippet after they talked for awhile about everyday stuff, such as shopping, tampons, and croissants. For real. That particular part of the conversation stood out to me, and I almost had to check twice to make sure they weren't reading off of a script or something. But yeah, that's a true story, and I didn't fabricate any of that.)
At this point, *I* almost started sobbing and half-expected someone to start singing, "Celebrate the moments of your liiiiife..." I felt like I was living in some Maxwell House commercial.
She then gazed out the window, taking it all in, savoring everything, and smiling. Total bliss is a beautiful thing, quite difficult to photograph, and I wanted to remember it. That was when I feigned camera trouble and anonymously snapped this photo. She had no idea she was being photographed; had I asked to take their picture, it would have been stiff and artificial - nothing at all like what you see there. I'll never forget Carol and Barbara.
Anyway, the point of this whole post:
One of the things I like about living in San Francisco is the fact I have no car. I don't need one...my neighborhood is quite well-served by public transportation, and every single parking spot available is always, always, always taken. Always.
I'm serious, every goddamn spot.
Parking lots, in addition to being few and far between, are prohibitively expensive; the lot across the street from me costs $10 a day (a relative bargain, but you have to leave the keys with the attendant and there are no in-and-out privileges) and $275 a month. In addition to that, my building doesn't have a garage, or even a driveway. There isn't even any street parking...I live at the intersection of two steep, narrow alleys. As a result, anyone who wants to come visit me and asks, "So, how's the parking situation in your neighborhood?" makes me laugh, especially if they live in San Francisco themselves.
I'm like, "Fool, it's North Beach. Take a goddamn taxicab."
However...sometimes renting a car is inevitable. Chris A. has had his rental Pontiac Bonneville for a week or so now, and yesterday, picked up his new car, a 2001 Jaguar XJ8 out in Richmond (an east-bay suburb). He named it "Eddy" after the Absolutely Fabulous character, Edina "Eddy" Monsoon. His old car, a 1990 Jaguar Sovereign XJ6, was named "Patsy" after, of course, Patsy Stone from the same series. Patsy was so named because, in Chris A's own words, she was an aging beauty WAY past her prime. Every time it wouldn't start, he'd always yell, "Damn you Patsy! You stayed out all night drinking Stoli-bolis and snorting coke, didn't you?"
Chris is probably one of the biggest, gayest homosexuals I've ever met in my entire life. AND he's from New Orleans. AND he's an attorney. Gay! Gay! Gay!
When he picked up the car, he tossed me the keys to the Bonneville and said, "Do something with...that," waving his hands toward the general vicinity of where it was parked. "It has to be turned in tomorrow at the Budget place on Van Ness at 1:30 in the afternoon...have fun." Thus began my Bay Area Bonneville Adventure...I suddenly had a very large, very powerful, rented American car at my disposal. I drove the snot out of it...and actually got it airborne at the corner of Eddy and Gough streets in San Francisco. If you've ever gone flying down Gough (pronounced like "cough" for those unfamiliar) you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about.
I know, I know...I'm such a kid. But it was so fast! And it handled quite well! And it was a rental! (For the record: Don't EVER buy a used rental car from San Francisco. BAD idea.) It was great being behind the wheel of a car again...especially here. Flying up and down the hills is so much fun, and made me forget, if only temporarily, what's been weighing me down lately. I drove EVERYWHERE, to the top of Twin Peaks, Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill, Fisherman's Wharf, out to the Cliff House...I was a tourist in my white rental car. I was tempted to do the 49-mile scenic drive, but I want to do that in an old convertible when I eventually get around to it. So this morning, I had to get up extra early to move it out of the parking lot across the street to avoid that $10 charge, and ended up just parking it on the sidewalk in front of my apartment building with the blinkers on for a few hours.
After the gym today, Chris tossed me the keys to Eddy and said, "Wanna drive her?" Unable to resist such arm-twisting, I slid behind the steering wheel and decided to drive out to Crissy Field, so I could take the official "Chris With His New Jag" portrait with the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop. Here it is:
It's actually quite a fetching automobile...and I loved driving it. It handles quite well, understeers perfectly, and cruises with style and grace. It's also quite fast...it's like a BMW without being so cold and Teutonic, or like a Lincoln Continental without being so...cushy. I positioned Eddy just so for this picture, and Chris posed. It should be noted he wore that outfit just for that picture...his pants match the interior color of the car.
Told you he was a big homo.