I don’t have much patience for those blogs that dwell on the minutiae of their authors’ lives, so I will probably hate this post. But, I can take some satisfaction in the fact that this post is about one of my favorite subjects: Tim. And Tim had an interesting week, so I’m calling this “This Week in Tim.” Tim’s agreed to go along with this, but isn’t sure if it will go over all that well. He thinks that if you don’t like reading about authors’ lives you should skip to another post.
Sunday, February 26: Tim decided he’d better get off his ass and go to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. How many people can say that? This, in many ways, was one of his grand exercises in procrastination, and it allowed Tim to put off working on his financial aid applications (the federal application—FAFSA—and the Columbia Journalism School’s aid applications), which were due March 2. But he really wanted to see the Chuck Close self-portrait exhibition, which was scheduled to close February 28. March 2, February 28, museum exhibit, financial aid—here’s where “urgency” and “priority” become muddled in Tim’s world.
Tim eventually made it to the exhibit, which he enjoyed. He was accompanied by his friend Katia and her family. It was a rainy day, but warm: San Francisco had been struck by a winter storm from Hawaii, the so-called “Pineapple Express” that brought rain up to 9,000 feet in the Sierras.
Tim had dinner with several friends later that night. He was able to put his latent puppeteering skills to use when he gave Katia’s daughter, Isabel, a little bear-in-a-sleeping-bag puppet. Isabel originally thought it was a backpack and all the rest thought it was an oven mitt. She promptly named the bear “Angelina.” Everyone was most satisfied with the evening, and when Tim discovered that his friend Vera had briefly been a mime in Bulgaria (and had gotten tips from Marcel Marceau), he thought this was a good start to what might be a promising Week in Tim. Plus, he realized that no matter how daunting all of that financial paperwork might be, on March 3, he would be free of it. Probably.
Monday, February 27: Tim arrived home from work at about 7.30 p.m—early for him. That is, he thought he was arriving home. A garbled message from his roommate Pablo indicated a tree near his house was blown over by high winds during a storm that evening. Upon arrival, Tim found his block blocked off by a firetruck and yellow tape and three firemen keeping people back.
A firefighter named Shane, dispatched from Station 5, apprised Tim of the situation.When the wind picked up (in some places, it picked up to 100 mph), said Shane, the phones all lit up. The tree in front of Tim’s house was a high priority site because the falling limbs pulled down a 1,500 kilowatt power line. The wire happened to touch down directly in front of Tim’s door. The firemen had to reroute traffic and watch the site until PG&E workers turned off the power. Then city workers would take care of the broken limbs. While Tim described the scene to Pablo on the phone, a nearby car rear-ended another car. A cameraman from the local CBS affiliate showed up to shoot some B-roll for the news. Because it would take hours to sort all of this out, Shane suggested that Tim should go get some dinner, or at least a few beers. Tim thought that was a pretty good idea.
Tuesday, February 28: Tim went to the Chuck Close show again at lunch and discovered that the new special exhibit at SFMOMA would be work by Alexander Calder. Tim was excited. That night, Tim finished his taxes, his FAFSA, and his Columbia forms. Two days early? Amazing! He stayed late at work to finish and left a little after 9 p.m. As he walked toward his subway stop, he noticed a large white van with its doors thrown open and a small storage trailer attached. Spraypainted on the door was “www.mypsace.com/michiganrawk!” Tim suspected it was a band.
A tall man with shaggy brown hair, thick brown earlobe tunnels, and a shaggy brown fur jacket stepped out from the small group clustered near the van and said to Tim, “Excuse me. Do you know any cool bars around here?” The tall man was polite and exuded a sort of rock star charisma. His friends, an assortment of young men in black leather or hooded sweatshirts and scruffy beards, all seemed excited to be in San Francisco, but had no idea where to go.
“What kind of a scene are you looking for?” Tim asked, suspecting he knew the answer based solely on the style choices of his interlocutor. But before the tall man could respond, a shorter, high-strung man dressed all in black leather, with massive mutton chops and clenched fists interjected, “Anywhere where there’s no fuckin’ rich pricks!”
“Fair enough,” Tim said. He was tempted to tell them, “You’re in the wrong neighborhood for that, if not the wrong city.” But Tim didn’t want them to be discouraged. He suggest they go to Zeitgeist, in the Mission. Tim was probably right on with that suggestion: the Mission is more their style, though it, too, is full of rich pricks (just dressed differently). But they wanted to go somewhere within walking distance. Tim eventually suggested the 21st Amendment Brewery, five or six long blocks away, and their eyes lit up at the word “brewery.” They seemed like decent guys, so Tim felt bad that he couldn’t make a better suggestion.
When Tim got home, he went to www.mypsace.com/michiganrawk and listened to what this band describes as hardcore/punk/rock music. It was sort of like Gwar and Rollins Band and unintelligible. Their band was called Mich!gan, and they were from Salt Lake City, unsigned, on their own little tour of the West Coast.
Wednesday, March 1: Nothing much happened today.
Thursday, March 2: Just kidding! Something happened on Wednesday. OK, let’s go back to Wednesday.
Wednesday, March 1: Really?
Thursday, March 2: Yes. Go ahead.
Wednesday, March 1: Tim went to lunch with Mike, the Sierra Club’s Webmaster. As they walked through the Financial District, they noticed a man walking parallel to them across the street. He wore headphones and, when not vaulting over fire hydrants, trying to climb over street signs, or jumping into the window recesses of buildings, he danced in place. Mike was entertained by the acrobatics and Tim speculated that the man was on drugs. At one corner, Tim tried to get a picture of him from across the street. Unfortunately, the photo came out blurry. The man noticed Tim taking the picture, but since Tim was fiddling with his camera, he failed to notice the man scowling and giving him the middle finger.
After a block or two, the man crossed to Tim and Mike’s side of the street. He pretended to walk in front of them for a short distance, then turned to face them. He slouched backward and yelled, “Why don’t you take a fucking picture? It’ll last longer.” He had a discernible Scottish accent, which meant he said “fooking.”
He also said, “It’s just a lark,” which Mike interpreted to mean the man was not high or drunk, simply very enthusiastic. In any case, Tim didn’t take his picture, though he now wishes he had. At lunch, Mike and Tim talked about corruption. Later that day, Tim wrote an embittered blog post about tilt-shift photomanipulation.
On the eastern side of the eastern block of Union Square, on Stockton Street, there is a tall man with dyed blonde spiky hair. He wears slick suits and wraparound sunglasses and stalks up and down the street. His job, apparently, is to hand out brochures and to direct people to an upscale men’s clothing store. He used to be somewhat massive, but in the last year and a half, he appears to have lost at least forty pounds. Tim sees the suited man as an enigmatic figure, tense and aggressive.
Tim thought it was strange to see the suited man out of his element later that night. Stranger that he saw him at Tim’s gym, and stranger still that the suited man wore to the gym a fine black turtleneck sweater, black dress slacks, and shiny Italian-looking black leather shoes. Alas, no suit. But he also carried a black and white tartan scarf to wipe down the equipment. Tim was profoundly embarrassed, because this is also his gym outfit, yet he still managed to grin and gleefully whisper to himself, “How bizarre!”
After pacing around agitatedly for several minutes, the suited man settled on the lateral pull-down, and yelled at a nearby person in an effort to ask if the equipment was available. Apparently, he was unable talk to anyone in a normal tone at the gym; the atmosphere inspired him to speak with loud-mouthed gruffness. Tim remembered that this is how the suited man always talks. On the machine, the suited man leaned far backwards and jerked the bar toward him with as much force as he could muster. He did this for about 20 repetitions, with audible exertion. After a short pause, he did another set of 20 reps. And then a third. During those breaks, Tim says the suited man tried to “pick conversations” with people, which Tim describes as being like picking a fight, except that it is aggressive engagement in conversation, not aggressive engagement in physical combat. Sometimes, Tim adds, the man tempered his aggressiveness with a dose of amiability. For example: “Not as easy as it used to be,” barked the suited man at one unwitting bystander. The bystander just nodded in agreement. “It’s not like when I was these guys’ age,” he added, indicating the other men at the gym. He sat back at the lat pull-down. “When I was 25, it was a lot different.” The suited man’s self-consciousness overwhelmed his coherency, and he half-barked, half-mumbled, “I’m just starting. I haven’t been doing this long. When I was younger, this was a lot easier.” And then, with special emphasis as he re-commenced pull-downs, he proclaimed, “I was huge.”
Thursday, March 2: Tim no longer works in the Conservation Department, but he still attends SNAX, the weekly Conservation Department ritual of eating sweets provided by a rotating host. The hosting had rotated to Tim, so he was a little on edge. Every SNAX host worries about the reception of his or her snacks, and that said reception will determine the participants’ perception of the host. No SNAX host gets to enjoy his or her own snacks. Of course, the participants almost never judge.
In an effort to allay his own concern, Tim decided that SNAX should be a tool to be wielded, not an obligation to be feared. The realization crystallized in his mind that he could view this SNAX as an opportunity to impose his dessert aesthetic on a ritual marked by rampant chocolate partisanship. He also realized he could view SNAX as performance. He notified the department of his intentions:
E-mail from Tim. 12.19 p.m.
Subject: SNAX: An opportunity for change
Brothers and Sisters,IT IS REVOLUTION!
We are overthrowing the TYRANNY of Chocolate!
Too LONG HAVE WE SUFFERED under the sweet, GOOEY thumb of Chocolate. It has grown corrupt and lazy with its homogenous corporate taste and insipid
style while we are left to chew mindlessly through the AGONY of its banality. We see through its DARK sometimes SEMI-SWEET curtain. We know the TRUTH.
No, Chocolate, no, you WON’T FOOL the Children of the Revolution.
JOIN ME! Our staging area is the Yellowstone Room at 3 PM. Bring any tool at hand to help us achieve this dream: your shovels and hoes and pitchforks and regular forks and plates and hearts (and/or minds), or possibly just your hands if you want the Paul Newman vegan-friendly GINGER-CREME OPTION.
THE REVOLUTION WILL BE CARAMELIZED!*
*Note: There will be no caramelized snacks at Snax. However, we will not be swayed from our plan to subvert the dominant chocolate paradigm.
Beside the aforemention Newman-O’s, Tim also brought a box of mandarin oranges and a mixed fruit shortcake from Tart to Tart. It was an astounding success, much to Tim’s satisfaction. People actually came up to him and said things like, “I’m at SNAX today because you don’t always get a call to arms like that.” Others said they were there to support the revolution. Nobody seemed to mind that Tim had asked his friend at the bakery to write “Down With Chocolate” on the cake in yellow frosting. It was all lustily eaten by the assembled.
Tim was prepared for an uproar, if not a full-scale counter-revolution, provoked by his criticism of chocolate. So uncertain was he of the reception and the viability of his revolution that he snuck a can of Hershey’s chocolate syrup into SNAX. He was prepared to sarcastically drench everything in syrup if the complaining got too loud. Not wanting to tip anyone off, he disguised the can like so:
And he prepared a statement to be read in case of popular dissatisfaction:
Even the most zealous revolutionary eventually learns to sacrifice principle for the sake of politicial expediency. Which is to say he’ll do whatever he can to keep his job. Even though one form of chocolatey tyranny may be deposed, another, simply in a different form, may rise to take it’s place.And since I can see the natives are getting restless, I have this….
Brothers and sisters, eat it and weep.
Here is another view of the label. The expression on Tim’s face was a point of much discussion. It was merely a file photo that he had on hand.
Friday, March 3: As I write this, it is Friday morning, and I’m not sure if anything interesting enough to warrant bloggging has happened. But something will probably come along. Maybe at the airport—I’m going to see Alisa in San Diego. We’ll see. But in the meantime, I have posted what one successful blogger has termed “too much content.” So we will leave it at that.