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February 25, 2013

Sunshine Biscuits

Sunshine Biscuits

I sit in a window seat near the back of the plane. There's a bitter, nagging housewife sitting next to me. A tattered rag of a man fading beside her on the aisle.

The flying waitress says to turn off all electronic devices, but I keep tapping away on my cell phone.

The bitter, nagging housewife beside me is about to have a stroke. She's beside herself with angst, foaming at the mouth. Her husband joins into the fray.

"She said to turn those things off!" she spits at me.

Push the button on my iPhone to turn the screen off. It's still on, of course. I have my headphones on. Listening to music.

I turn my headhones around backwards so that the green power light is against the cabin wall (I'm in seat A on the port side of the plane).

I don't want to be alive. Fuck this emotional, shattered housewife. She's fit to be tied.

I'm going to make her have a stroke. I plan my move. I'll wait until we take off, and as we start down the jetway taking off, I'll turn it on and make her flip her shit.

So, over the roar of the jet engines as we scream down the runway to take off, I turn the deadly iPhone back on.

She's frantic. Sure that we're about to careen into the suburbs surrounding Houston Hobby.

Her eyes roll back in her head like Poltergeist.

"She said to turn those things off!" she stammers, foaming at the mouth.

"Have you ever been on a plane before?" I shoot back at her.

I can't hear her response. But I'm sure she's telling me she flies every week. She's livid. She wants to strangle me. I want her to want to strangle me. It's working out according to plan.

"Do what you're going to do," I tell her flatly, and continue pecking away on the deadly iphone as we careen down the runway to our deaths.


She's fit to be tied. Can't even understand what I've just said. So I lay it out for her again.

"Do what you're going to do," I reply flatly. Like, bring it. If you want to call the flight attendant, go ahead. They're not going to stand up while we're taking off. If you want to assauslt me, bring it. Othewise, STFU.

She's not happy, but she doesn't do anything, and I quickly fall asleep. When I wake up, we're making our initial descent over the perpetually verdant Sierra Madres.

Always, when I fly in, I think I'll get on my motorcycle and drive up into the hills around the Calaveras Reservoir. But never I do.

I watch with growing concern as the pilot deviates from the standard approach to SFO.

We're over the Sierra Madres outside of San Jose, so we're in the right general vicinity.

But as he turns north, he's definitely not on the standard approach to SFO. We're way too far east. I want to ring my flight attendant call button and tell the pilot to check his bearings.

But then, it dawns on me that we're landing at Oakland, not SFO. So, that would explain it.

We land at Oakland, and I catch the Air BART to the Oakland BART station. I hop on and watch the destroyed ruins of Oakland scroll by.

It's all razor wire and graffiti and squalor. A fading factory sign over the Sunshine Biscuit factory.

I exit from the BART at the Montgomery Street Station and I have to walk home now...this is the worst part. Past the homeless rats that people in the country never know. I have to walk through their living room.

It's Sunday, so they're not panhandling in the financial district today. They're sleeping in, tending their shopping carts of trash. Just hanging on until Monday.

I think about talking to them, like Rob and I talked about. But I don't have a camera. I want a GoPro camera so that I can capture our conversations. So I just go home. I think about driving up the coast North, or down the coast to the South. But I can trace out the roads in my mind. Nothing changes. It's all the same. I think about driving up to the Calaveras Reservoir, but instead, I just go to sleep, and when I wake up, the sun is setting.

I ride my bike around looking for graffiti in the alleys around Polk and Larkin and Van Ness. But everything has turned to shit. What was one beautiful murals, has deteriorated to a series of incomprehensible tags.

So, the city really is deteriorating. There's no honor any more. No repsect. Just vandals spray-painting tags over what were once beautiful murals.

I go to Amante and order a beer some old drunk guy comes out...he's telling me he's from Frog Hollow, Alabama.

"Keep your captains' quarters closed," he advises me in passing.

And now, a homeless guy comes walking down the sidewalk. Here's my chance. Here's my chance to do what Rob K. said. To talk to this guy, and try and establish a rapoir with him.

So I do. He's making his pitch. Shows me a sketch he's made on a free newspaper. And now, I'm on the Rob K. plan. I'm listening. I hand him $2.00. But, he keeps talking. I'm listening. He was in the Navy. In San Quentin. It's hard to know if this is true or not, of course. But this is what he's saying.

He keeps laying out this story.

He's telling me that Merle Haggard was in San QUentin. Not something I was aware of. He was there from '58 to '61. And then, he went back to play a concert for his buddies in prison.

Floyd was stationed on Treasure Island in the Navy. He tells me who was in charge in what year. This is not a pitch. He has verifiable names, dates, etc.

When were you in San Quentin? I ask him.

"I was there once for 9 months, then another time for 18 months. One other time for 10 months. "

He's laying it out. It sounds feasible. Sounds like me recounting the times I went to jail. I mean, I remember I went to jail a few times. I can spit out a few reasons why. But, looking back, it's hard to remember exactly.

"One time," he tells me, "we were in this place up in Ukiah...in Mendocino county...kinda work release halfway house place. And we busted into the pharmacy there and we took everything. The liquor, the speed, everythign they had. So, the guards came around and said...look...we know we're not going to get the speed back....everhone's running around high on speed...but we've got to get the rest of the contraband back and then, we won't have to report that anything happened."

So, this homeless guy is telling me all of these stories, which are pretty good. I mean, they say good sense makes for poor stories around the camp fire so probably the homeless have some of the best stories.

Where do you live?

I live here on the streets of North Beach.

Why aren't you in a shelter?

Well, there are shelters, but you have to go sit in a chair to wait and see if they have room for you. So, you might be sitting in a chair for half the night. In the streets, you can lay down whenever you want.

Floyd, I'm interested in helping people get off the streets. Is that something you'd be interested in? Would you let me film you to record your story?

Yeah. He's all in.

Now, as we're talking, this drunk idiot comes wandering out of Amante and sits down next to us and starts heckling us. Trying to interject himself into our conversation.

I make it imminently clear to him he is not welcome in our conversation. Rico has already left, and now I'm very close to getting into another fight.

Floyd Griffith, my new friend, turns to him and tells him "You need to quit interrupting us. It's rude."

So, we're both sending him the same message, but he's not getting it. I stand up to go inside for help, and he jumps up to fight. Floyd gets right up in his face and tells him to settle down, while I go inisde and grab Eric.

When we get back outside, they're telling my homeless friend to leave, but I'm like..."Oh no...not him..Floyd is my buddy...this guy has to go".

Only the guy I point out is good friends with the bar owners. And I'm like..."tell him to shut his mouth. I just want him to shut up. We're not talking to him."

Finally, they get the guy to go inside, or he leaves, I'm not clear.

Floyd tells me he was nose to nose with the guy while I was inside getting Eric.

Later, after we're through talking, he tells me that I made his night. I was the nicest, most sincere person he'd run into in a long time. And he could tell I was honest and trying to help him out. He said that I made his night.

Something happened tonight. Tonight, something that Rob Korotky told me to do worked. I gave a homeless guy $5.00, and he had my back. After Rico had left, the homeless guy had my back in a big way.

Drunk with power, I imagined myself taking over San Franisco with a homeless army.

Posted by Rob Kiser on February 25, 2013 at 9:01 AM


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