As I’ve said before, It’s a tangled neuromuscular web we weave…so if you drop the occasional stitch, no big deal. The weave pleasantly opened this very morning when my massage guy failed to find any significant muscle strain in my neck or shoulders. So there, body. Take that, age. Still, it was good to have a massage. Relaxing. We need all we can get.
We also need all the political economics we can get. And I count myself very lucky to be attending another autumn course taught by David Peritz, currently on leave from Sarah Lawrence, living with his family in Berkeley and teaching old guys like me at San Francisco State.… Which couldn’t come at a better time. Or a worse time, depending on your perspective.
Being an old guy is guaranteed to make the technologically simple into something dauntingly complex…although it does occasionally unmask a certain faux simplicity in our tech culture. Being at a neuromuscular stage at which standing with good posture is essential…and standing and looking down at the page of a book posturally disadvantageous…well, what’s a guy to do but go aural. And since I’m going to play this audiobook through my iPhone, shouldn’t be any problem in finding it through iBooks which is a subset of iTunes, right? Wrong. I could find just what I wanted to on the iTunes website, but not via the phone app…the latter being all set up to sell you the latest music and books. Which would be okay, but actually the book I was looking for is a pop favorite among young urbanists. One of whom, my nephew, recommended the book in the first place. A major rend in the cultural fabric, as far as I’m concerned. But actually I’m not concerned to discuss this any further…the world’s general decline and fall being a little more than one can handle just now.
What one can handle is the Muni 49 bus. My massage session complete, I am waiting for it on Mission St., San Francisco. No, truth to tell, I am waiting for the 14, but, as the driver explains, the 49 will do. Certainly its flip-down wheelchair ramp will do. I rumble aboard. What’s aboard is the real San Francisco. The 49 describes an arc through the southern parts of the city that still linger on the outer edge of affordability. Accommodation may be crowded there, but so is this bus. At 12:15 in the afternoon, it’s packed. The prevailing language is Spanish, and the passengers near me include elderly out to do a bit of shopping…and by ‘elderly’ I mean my age, of course. Along with several Hispanic nannies pushing white kids in strollers. Also, probably out to do a bit of shopping. As the bus progresses southwest, the conversations will change. All those Filipinos currently at the back of the bus will gradually move forward. For they are bound for the outer neighborhoods and the adjoining suburb of Daly City. Not that I’m sticking around for this complete transit experience. At 24th St., I alight, hit my branch bank and continue toward Noe Valley, ground zero for sushi for Jane and me.
After lunch, Jane heads back to work and I am virtually driven home, right to my front door, by the 35 bus. It’s convenient, this muni route, and extremely direct. I am certain that on any map it follows a more or less straight line. What’s missing on any map is the third dimension. Within seconds of departure we are heading for Everest base camp. And although I’ve gotten more or less used to this, let’s put it this way…the left side of the bus where my functioning left hand can grip various bus components for support…is much better if you don’t like sliding.
A guy standing just ahead of me relays a question from the driver…am I okay? Yes, I assure him. This man is possibly in his 50s, even late 50s. And he has a retro look about him, 70s sideburns, period mustache. Slightly David Crosby look. He is carrying shopping in a cart, one of those low wire baskets with wheels. It’s a hot day and he’s wearing a tank top, also slightly period. He doesn’t sit, just lets the bus throw him around, trying to stabilize his shopping. He asks me how it’s going. I say he appears to be very burdened by his shopping. The man has gallon jugs of water in his cart. Gets them filled at Whole Foods, he tells me. Well, I opine, good thing we have mountain water here in San Francisco…the stuff schlepped hundreds of miles across the state. Yes, he says, but did I know that most concrete water pipes in the nation contain asbestos? No, I tell him.
What I don’t tell him is that San Franciscans fret over their air, water and dietary fiber in ways that are rather astonishing. Simply put, if our water was perilous, I would have heard about it long ago. I also don’t say anything to this guy about the obvious impracticality of transporting gallon jugs. A home filter system would accomplish the same thing. But I know this man is slightly off. And in a few moments he’s only slightly off the bus, having trouble with his heavy jugs. The driver lowers the wheelchair ramp, which doesn’t quite work on the impossible hill which tilts crazily just above my home. Kneeling the bus is all that can be done. I watch the man and his Sisyphean load disappear down the road.