Saturday, November 13, 2010

Captain Skullcrusher

Today, a lovely warm autumn day, I took care of yet another chore that has been on my to-do list for a very long time: getting a carrier for Hammett, who has lived with me for four years. He doesn’t go out often, but when he does, it’s in the cardboard box Thelonious, now deceased, came home from the SPCA in 20 years ago. I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of that box (particularly considering that it was free), but I’ve always meant to get Hammett a real carrier, and today I finally did.

I rode my bike first to Pet Food Express at Dolores and Market, and then to Petco at 16th and Bryant. Both places had more or less the same stuff, but at Pet Food Express, they’d taken the trouble to assemble the carriers and set them out nicely, whereas at Petco everything was in random piles, so I went back to Pet Food Express to make the purchase. The checkout lady asked me what my cat looks like and told me she also has a tuxedo cat (Hammett is sort of a tuxedo cat, I guess). She pointed him out—her cat is featured on a large poster in the store, with the name “Captain Skullcrusher.” I asked if that’s really his name, and she said it is, so I asked what her favorite bands are: Blood Brothers and Nine Inch Nails.

I lashed the new carrier to my bike rack and took it home and then walked down to BART to go to Macy’s for another thing I’ve been meaning to buy, my first toaster oven, which will be more energy efficient for small jobs than the big oven. I figured I’d have downtown to myself on a Saturday, and couldn’t believe how jam-packed it was. I hit an unexpected snag when I came out of Macy’s with my biggish box and absolutely could not get a cab. One guy stopped, but when he saw the box, he shook his head and drove off.

What was up with that? Aren’t we supposed to buy stuff constantly? Here I’d bought a stuff, and no one would give me a ride home. After about half an hour, I caught the eye of a cab driver crawling by in the dense traffic and he agreed to take me home once he discovered it was en route to the airport, where he was heading. As he made a completely illegal turn across a lane of traffic, all but driving over a traffic island, he told me it fucking pisses him off when people jaywalk, and then he roared to the Mission at racetrack speed, using the car’s piercing horn liberally anytime forward progress ceased for any reason. It was quite exciting.

I unboxed the new item, puzzled for a bit over where to put it in my small kitchen, and walked to Sunflower on Valencia St. to meet a friend for dinner. On the way, I passed a huge cafĂ© I’d never seen before, gleaming and new and full of trendsetters, and next to that an upscale restaurant. These places are popping up seemingly overnight now, while old favorites disappear, like Amore, where I’d bought cat litter for years and years, stopping to chat with Efram. (Though it turns out Pet Food Express has the same thing for much cheaper, and Jeffrey’s on 18th St. has it for cheaper still.)

I got to Mission Pet Hospital this evening, which looks positively anachronistic on our newly glittering strip, and rushed in to make sure they’re not going anywhere. I can’t recall at this moment the name of the very nice woman I talked to, though she’s been there for years, but she called me “sweetie” and smiled at me and assured me, in low and soothing tones, that they have no plans to leave that spot, and she asked after Hammett by name! (Either she very craftily looked him up while I was pouring out my heart, or she remembers his name because of the conversation we had about it the first time I brought him in four years ago: “As in Dashiell?” “No, Kirk!”)

Sunflower has never been one of my favorite restaurants, but my friend proposed it, and I was willing to give it another try, and ended up really liking the vegetable fried rice I had, as well as the very sweet fresh-squeezed lemonade, so I’ll definitely be back.

After dinner, we walked to Mission Dolores for a concert by the San Francisco Mandolin Orchestra. They played Bach, Corelli, Mendelssohn—and an arrangement of “I Talk to the Wind” by King Crimson, featuring vocalists Sean Gugler and Loren Cheng. It was mesmerizingly beautiful. It gave me goose bumps and made me cry. Luckily, they did that song again for their encore, and it had almost the exact same effect the second time.

King Crimson is not much in evidence on iTunes, but when I got home, I found a live version of the song by Steve Hackett there, which is quite nice, though not quite as goose bumpy as Gugler and Cheng, who sang like angels.

During the concert, I had an important realization, which was that the toaster oven could probably go on top of the refrigerator, and it looks like that will work fine, which is good, because the boombox can go in only one place in the kitchen, but the new item wouldn’t fit on the table along with the boombox, and so forth. Introducing anything new into this small space while avoiding the appearance of clutter is like trying to solve a Rubik's Cube.
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