WE COME TO CONQUER, read the t-shirt in front of me Tuesday as I stood in line to board my morning Jetblue flight to San Francisco. I was tired, though, and had a moment of what I call Freudian reading, and read it as, WELCOME TO CONQUER, and thought, Oh, funny shirt, and then watched as the words reformed in front of my eyes.
The night previous I’d had almost no sleep, after first a beautiful meal at Mary’s Fish Camp in the West Village (heirloom tomato salad, grilled 1 and a half pound lobster, glass of white bordeaux. It was a small perfect moment that I’d been after for a while, and I sat, ate and balanced my legal pad on my knees as I wrote out a rough draft for a chapter idea that had come to me as I was packing to leave. Afterward, I met my old friend Joe out for a drink at the garishly redone Paris Commune restaurant, surrounded by hideous drawings of Moulin Rouge dancers that looked like those old Sears pattern catalogue drawings.
At 1AM, I drove out to Jamaica, to the Days Inn JFK, slept a bleary five hours in a sort of clean room off the hotel lobby, and left on a morning flight.
Now I’m in a suite at the top of the W Hotel in San Francisco, a guest of an old friend from college. In the mirror behind me I can see the cloud-lined mountains. Ghosts of how the neighborhood used to be when I lived here in 1990 are almost mute, except for a moment ago, when I walked up to shop the strings of new stores on Kearny and Post, and heard drums. I thought it was the Radical Faeries, and remembered protesting the first Gulf War down near here in the 80’s. But it was a high school drum corps, and I don’t know what they were doing or why.
In general on this trip so far, I feel a little of a disconnect as things that were once familiar enter new combinations: being in San Mateo with my sister and her family on Wednesday, for example, at their new house, all their furniture in new surroundings made everything look new, even though I’d seen all of it for years. And my old college friends, in this suite, also. Last night I sat with a hundred polaroids of parties from 20 years ago, and watched my old look go by.
I’d forgotten how much I’d committed to looking like James Dean.