It’s been a cold, foggy, blowy day. The sun never came out, and tourists hurried into souvenir shops and Walgreens to buy crappy beige SAN FRANCISCO sweaters and hoodies. On days like today you wonder how the hell the city ever became known as the capital of free love, unless it was the urge to get back into bed, and when two people had the same idea, then… Yeah, that would work.
This morning I went to my favorite café, Progressive Grounds at 21st and Bryant. As I sat there reading The Savage Detectives I became aware of a woman with a braying voice having a loud phone conversation — unusual at that café. “I’m twenty-six,” she was saying. “I’ve got long hair, almost down to my ass. I’m 36 double-D. I’m real pretty, I work at Centerfolds…”
I looked up. The speaker was a frankly ugly woman with thin, straight shoulder-length hair. She was in her mid-30s at least, fat, and dressed like a Capp St. hooker in a dirty pinkish party dress and a bright pink puffy jacket. She had on weird hookerish tinted glasses and high-heeled shoes, and she was saying “I just got off work at 4:00 a.m. Yeah, I have pictures on disk that I can send you. Well, what are you looking for? No, I don’t have a cell phone camera. Well, why is that important?”
Then the party she was talking to apparently hung up. The woman went to the counter and ordered a complicated vanilla latte with lots of whipped cream. (The staff at the café treated her with as much respect and politeness as they treat everyone, I noticed. Did I say I really like that café?) Then she took her drink back to the table and, with her finger on an advertisement in the back pages of the SF Weekly, phoned another potential employer.
I was thinking two things at the same time: She is atrocious, but also, she is awesome. She had probably never been pretty. Her voice sounded like the dregs at the bottom of a bottle of beer. But she was working that camera-less mobile phone and lying up one side and down the other about how gorgeous she was. What was the point? What were people going to say when she actually showed up at whatever strip club or massage parlor she was calling? Did she look in the mirror and see herself as she described herself? And how much of the way we all present ourselves is mostly bluff and squinting in the mirror and hoping that other people never call us on it?
After the second phone call she checked her messages, collected her things, and departed.