The Night of Early Morning Stragglers

grant-street-night-trevor-johnson-web

This week’s column for the S.F. Examiner is about misadventures while working the early morning crowd on Thanksgiving Day…

Lately, I’ve been playing with days, trying to carve out a schedule that’s not just lucrative but also conducive to the mind, the body, the kid, the wife and BART.

As part of my experimentation, I take a chance and work the day before Thanksgiving. Business is respectable during the first part of my shift, but after midnight, the streets are deserted. No cars. No pedestrians. No panhandlers. Just the occasional straggler. And Mr. Judy and me, rolling from one bar to the next, pulling up and looking through the doors for any signs of life …

“It’s really dead,” I say.

“I love it like this,” Mr. Judy responds cheerfully. “This is the San Francisco I miss.”

Despite the lack of paying customers, San Francisco is magical during the holidays — and Burning Man — when most of the transplants have gone home, leaving The City to those of us who have no other home. For a change, the majority of people you see out and about look like they could be your friends.

Once Mr. Judy gives up and I take him home, a regular calls me. She needs to drop off the keys her boyfriend accidentally left at her place in the Mission.

When I pull up, she climbs in the front seat, which is her wont, and plugs my aux cable into her phone.

“I’m so annoyed right now,” she says, manipulating the settings in the cab’s stereo.

“Where are we heading?” I ask.

“Outer Richmond. Take the long way.”

As I meander through the night, she doesn’t say much. The music plays, and we watch The City stream past.

On my way to drop her back home, I pass a flag on Valencia. Once free, I quickly swing around the block. The guy is still there. He gets in on the left and sits right behind me.

“I’m so glad you picked me [up],” he says, “Otherwise, I might have done something stupid.”

“Oh yeah? Like what?”

“Well, I’m just drunk and stoned right now. Oh, and I’ve been doing blow all night. But if you hadn’t got me out of there, I would’ve ended up smoking crack and doing crystal … and that … that would be bad.”

“How so?”

“When I smoke crack and snort meth, I always seem to let some dude give me head.”

I’m not sure how to respond, failing to see the problem.

“I’m not gay!”

“Oh.”

Read the rest of the column here.

[photo by Trevor Johnson]

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