So a few weeks ago my wife and I had the opportunity to take a brief vacation. She’d always wanted to go to San Francisco, and we had friends there, so it seemed like a good choice. I’ve visited San Fran several times throughout the years and it always makes for a great getaway.
Escape From San Francisco
So about a week before we fly in, my friend Alise mentions that the Bay bridge will be closed the whole weekend we arrive, making her original plan of picking us up logistically hellish. But don’t worry, she said. There’s a public transit system (BART) and they’ll run trains 24/7 to help with bridge closure.
So we pop off the plane and take the train to meet our friend, no issues. She mentioned that there’s a cool club (the Cat club) that’s having a “New Romantic” dance night. Now getting me to dance isn’t easy. I hate it as a general rule. But one thing that will change that is if there’s any element of Goth. Although New Romantic mainly includes bands like Duran Duran, Human League and Spandau Ballet, I’d high hopes they’d make way for the darker stuff, and luckily I was right.
I like my entertainment as a whole, dark and atmospheric. Whether that means Goth music (here’s one of my faves by The Sisters of Mercy), or film ( Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner & Alien” come to mind), or any other medium, if it has an unnerving texture I’m pretty much drawn to it. Goth music is weird in that it’s very depressing, harrowing stuff yet great fun to listen to. A weird paradox, but it works for me.
So getting back to our trip…we decide we’ll once again take the BART downtown. Alise’s boyfriend Inzo (as in Inzo Der Barrakuda, bass player for the badass band Arnocorp.) advised against it. He said he tried to take it the last time the bridge was closed and it was anarchy. On our way out the door he told Alise to “watch your corn hole bud”. Suddenly a throwaway line from “Office Space” took on an ominous new meaning. As we left for our destination I felt slightly unnerved but it was too late to turn back now.
The ride took us about 45 minutes and then we hit the club. When we walked in and heard Jesus and Mary Chain, I knew we were in good musical hands. The Cult, Siouxie, The Cure, etc followed. Upon hearing the opening cheesy refrain of Real Life’s “Send Me An Angel“, I did what many of friends know me for. I annoyed people I’ve never met for my own amusement. During the chorus with the falsetto, faux-Angel billowing vocals I parodied it in a nails on a chalkboard shriek that drowned out the song and killed the super serious goth ambiance. Did I mention that my wife and Alise were also annoyed?
As any goth haunt is want to do, you find a group of amusing weirdos. Some weird guy in a gas mask in a cage, a woman wearing clothes way too tight for her frame doing the freak out herky jerky movement that any goth aficionado knows by heart, and some drag queens thrown in for good measure. I’m also 90% convinced that we saw Kim Fowley, former manager of the Runaways (played par excellence in the film biopic by Michael Shannon) dancing in the corner. The years have not been kind.
So we leave around closing time and head off to the Bart station from whence we came. It’s closed. A bit of tension fills the air. But not to worry there’s another station a few blocks down. Also closed. Now we begin to slightly panic. Had we misheard about the train schedule?
We keep walking from block to block looking for another station. At this point my wife’s feet are killing her from her high heels and is walking barefoot on the street, trying to navigate around a pool of urine on one street and what looks like a blood stain on the next. I feel like the Goth music from the Cat club has expunged it’s dour mood onto the entire city.
As we crossed the dingy street corners I think of “Escape From New York“. Looking at the closed station I feel like Kurt Russell stuck in no man’s land. Thinking that at any moment one of the Crazies would pop out of a manhole and drag us down in to the sewer where they’ll dine on our flesh. There’s a lot of sketchy folks lurking around our area, and I don’t find it inconceivable that we could be stabbed.
Finally we flag down a taxi. The cabbie says no worries, they’re still running the trains, just not at every station…he’ll take us to the one that’s open.
So he drops us off and we’re feeling confident and back at ease. Until we go down the escalator…
On the platform there are hundreds of people, most of them drunk, all of them agitated. The trains are running, but they’re only coming every 45 minutes (we have 35 minutes to go). If we don’t make this train, then we’ll be stuck there for even longer. Keep in mind it’s almost 3am, and we haven’t adjusted for the time change from central to pacific.
Down on the train platform, I think of the great film “The Warriors”, where all the rival gangs are about to create a truce, only before the peacekeeper is murdered fending every gang again for themselves as they scramble towards the subway to escape the cops (Can you dig it?).
At this point the tension is quite palpable. I realize there’s likely going to be a stampede to get on this train. Everyone’s drunk, tired and ready to go home. This could get ugly. This scenario brings to mind another cinematic element, the one of a horror film where people are either trying to escape some disease contagion or a zombie outbreak (or in the case of “28 days later”, both).
People start moving closer in position to board the train. Then a drunken idiot falls on the tracks. I think to myself that seeing someone flattened by a subway train might put a damper on our trip, but I’m staying right where I’m at, thank you very much. Luckily they crawl up to safety. We then see a charming gentlemen show up. He’s about 6 ft 5, bald and morbidly obese. He tells his friend (who could be his twin brother) that he didn’t know why he was getting dirty looks when he tried to urinate on the escalator. Let that thought spin around your brain for a few seconds. Why would anyone be upset about that?! Upon explaining to his friend, he finished it off by saying (in a surprised tone mind you) “Everyone was looking at my dick!” I wanted to say “When’s the last time you could see it yourself?” but thought best to keep quiet. Alise would later comment that due to his general grotesqueness and sallow complexion that he was “the worst kind of white guy”. The fact that all 3 of us who are of Irish descent were in total agreement speaks volumes.
The train pulls up. I tell my wife and Alise that we’re gonna do what we have to do to get on this train, whatever it takes. The doors open. People go nuts and spill in like panicked cattle. We barely avoid being trampled.
Alise with impressive speed and maneuvering snags us our own bench. Yes! At least we don’t have to stand up endlessly on the ride back ahead.
But now we’re back to horror movie mode again. The conductor is screaming for people to stop boarding the train, we’re at capacity. People are pushing against the glass and pulling at the doors for what seems like forever. My claustrophobia is kicking in pretty good now. Finally after what seems like forever, we’re off. I begin to calm down. And then the girl standing to the left of me vomits.
People are twisting and turning to get out of the way. Thankfully we avoided getting any spray on us. The girl begins apologizing for something that really you can’t be forgiven for. Being puked on by a complete stranger has gotta be on the top 10 things you just shouldn’t do list.
The train lurches forward and the vomit streams back. We all pick up our feet. I mention how disgusted I am as I try to avoid getting any vomit on me. The guy across from me tells me I shouldn’t worry about germs, with as much liquor as this woman consumed any bacteria has been killed off. This calms down my germophobic nature until he tells me that the cloth seats we are sitting on have never been cleaned. A psychosomatic burning rash emanates over my body. Bastard.
The more stops we make, the less crowded the train and we all start to relax again. Then they call out the next (and final) stop. And……..it’s an hour away from Alise’s home. They just decided to close down the station where she’d parked. In exasperation we do that kind of frenetic manic laughter that can only be summoned to calm down the rage. She calls Inzo and asks if he will kindly pick us up.
We arrive at the station and make our way to the curb. A Mustang pulls up. The window rolls down and a man screams “Party, (or to do the correct enunciation, Par-dee!”. It’s Inzo, our hero. We get back to their house around 6:30am, rocking out to his band’s excellent song “I’m Ballsy.” After surviving this crazy night, I think we all felt pretty ballsy.
Now that’s a way to start off a vacation….
You can buy the awesome Arnocorp album in the Amazon link listed below, along with some additional movies and music that helped inspire this article.
About SLISMiddle Aged Gen-Exer obsessed with Alternative rock, metal, cult movies, comic books and cable TV.
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