THE BIG SWEEP
San Francisco. Tuesday - Outlaw Day. They interviewed Jesse James after his death in this weird docudrama I saw sometime in the 'seventies. What was your lifetime ambition, they asked. To make it 'til Tuesday, answered the outlaw.
Joe Salzano's WOODLANDS FLUTE mixes with incense smoke curling towards my open rooftop hatch. Mixes with illicit smoke curling from my ashtray, which happens to be sitting on Jennifer Lopez' face. VANITY FAIR imitating VICTORIA'S SECRET. Art imitating lingerie catalog.
Last night the gang pulled out and headed down the coast. Nick, Ruth and Z from Cell. Alexa and I standing on the sidewalk about to wave them off when Nicholas creates a way for her to go with them. Something about going home a day early. She brightens like somebody just turned on a set of Kleig lights.
They finish organizing Nick's van. Richard the French artist brings a bottle of red wine and cigarets. I have a hand rolled Bugler and a schwag fattie in my pocket.
When they're ready to take off we all pile into Tennessee Tom's big blue van, ducking as the parrot attacks from her perch by the door. Bitch... We smoke a couple happy trail joints. Another phase ends, another begins.
Sure feels good to hit the road I say to Z. Yep, and I need a break, he grins. We all say goodbbye to Tennessee Tom and pile into Richard's custom poptop parked next door. Haven't seen the inside before. Very custom. So full of carpentry that I wonder where he sleeps. Looks like a production studio in one compartment. Shoulda looked closer but I was antsy to get home. I mention my rig, parked some three spaces over, and Z comes to check it out.
An extremely interesting conversation ensues. I say I'm a writer and a filmmaker/video shooter. He says they have the capacity to broadcast video on the internet.
The revolution is on your desktop, man.
I prefer to say 'evolution', he sez.
Remember the song, THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED by Gil Scott Heron? The revolution is on your desktop.
Oh, we got revolution, he sez. State of the art. Whatever you want.
Table that for further discussion. Suddenly he's excited about what I may be able to contribute to the community and I'm excited about the neighborhood again. Even with most of my friends gone, I'm excited about the possibilities for my art. To think there may yet be a fit. My art may be a piece of a puzzle that only comes into focus when a certain piece falls into place.
* * *
After 9 AM. Batten down the camper. About to change into street clothes when Tom the Mechanic stops by in search of smoke. He takes off with a hand rolled Bugler behind his ear. I go back to tidying up and thinking about getting dressed when I glance out the window and spot the police van parked outside Tennessee Tom's big blue van a few spaces up the block. Shit. Light incense, put it in the bathroom with the window open and the door shut. Turn off radio, grab my bag and hop out the back door.
Walk casually to corner, not a care in the world. (Thought I heard a guy call out. Didn't turn around.) On the corner I put on my sunglasses and look back to see the cop at my door. Rapping with a night stick.
Rapping on my chamber door.
I walk back. As I approach, I point to the camper then to myself. He points to the camper then to me, his eyebrows raised and the obvious quesion in his blue eyes. I nod. Yep, that's me.
"We've had a complaint," he begins, and I dread the next few seconds.Don't tell me somebody complained about pot smoke out here on junkie street. Out here where crackheads ply their trade in a tent on the sidewalk up the block.
"We've had a complaint about overnight camping," he says and I relax while his probable cause to climb aboard with a search team and seize my meager stash evaporates.
"Oh man" I say dramatically, putting my palm flat against my troubled brow. "Now where can we go?" Kind Officer J. Lewis says, "Try Potrero between 26th and Army. It's not residential."
And Florida between 18th and 19th is? Anyway Officer Lewis says he just wanted to let me know there's going to be a sweep tonight.
I said I was planning to move for street sweeping later anyway. No, he says. A SWEEP.... a BIG sweep. As in police.
Oh, sez me. "And what will happen then?" I remember all the hard boiled private detectives that fill my waking hours, try to think up all the right questions.
What will happen then, he says, is we'll tow anybody that doesn't move when we tell them to.
He cites a state regulation that says if a vehicle is disabled, the cops have the right - nay, the OBLIGATION - to haul your sorry ass away.
What did I tell you? The hammer's coming down, man. It would serve the motherfuckers right if I went straight.
My visit with Officer Lewis begins to wind down. "I called your number in. You're on the list."
"I don't want to be on the list."
"We're all on the list, ma'am," he says and saunters on down the street with his big stick.
Tuesday, May 22, 2001