"If you are looking to get in a fight, stabbed, mugged, shot, raped, killed, crack, pot, San Francisco's Tenderloin District can deliver." -- Thomas Michael Corcoran)
Do you ever do something really, really stupid and think about it later and say to yourself, "Holy crap! What was I thinking? I wasn't thinking."
Well, that was Wednesday night.
That's when my boss, a friend and I meandered over to a party being thrown at a club near the paper by one of the exhibitors at Macworld. We aren't back to the 90s yet when these types of parties typically would feature such luxuries as ice sculptures amid a fountain of champagne. But as they say, close enough for government work, right?
So we're enjoying the free sushi and drinks and it gets to be 10 p.m. and I'm thinking, I need to get this butt in bed if I'm going to function at work tomorrow (isn't that lamely early?). So I bid farewell and start walking up Sixth Street to get a cab, as I at least was smart enough not to try to drive.
If you're not familiar with Sixth Street, all the better for you. It's a depressing corridor lined with homeless people, addicts smoking crack and shooting up and proffering tricks, and all manner of people Down on Their Luck.
As I approached the corner of Market, one of these people, a woman, offered to "keep me company" for the night. I politely declined.
Then I made a strategic error: Instead of turning onto Market Street, which still would be filled with nastiness, but at least the squalor would be well-lighted and I'd have a better chance of catching a cab, I crossed the street and headed straight into the Tenderloin. Again, if you're not acquainted with it, all the better for you. While I don't believe the old tale is true that the name comes from a time when policemen were paid more to patrol its scary streets, thus affording them the finest cuts of meat, it's still pretty dismal.
So there was I, striding along unfazed to calls of "Look at the white girl!" I made a left on Turk, past the corner store that always annoys me with its misspelled sign advertising "sandwhichs," following -- in my drunken haze -- the route I drive home from work. I don't even like driving through this section, and here I was tromping down the street like I was right at home, chatting with the various people who approached me (one first told me his name was Joe and then a block later that it was Ramshki and when I pointed out that he had just told me two different names, he shrugged and said, "I like the Russian sound"), who on the whole were quite gracious.
I continued up Turk, desperately looking for a cab ("Oh, girl, they don't pick up here, you're never gonna get one"), trying to outwalk Joe/Ramshki, who wanted me to join him in laying out his wares on the corner for a latenight "flea market" ("Oh, I've seen you on that corner!" I told him. "The cops always shut you down." "Yeah," he said.).
Here I must describe what I was wearing, as it plays into the next vignette, which is -- really -- the whole point of this post (burying the lead, I am): Sleeveless black turtleneck sweater, short black pants, shiny black high-heeled pointy boots, and a long black sweater draped around my shoulders like a shawl. (I'm a freak; I love the cold.)
I was crossing Jones Street when a man started calling to me and running across Turk to meet me at the corner. "My name's Tim," he said. "I'm a paralegal. Can I have your number?" No, I said, I'm just trying to catch a cab. Undeterred, he procured a notebook and wrote his own number on scrap of paper. As I slipped it into my purse to be polite, he said, "I was across the street with my friend and I saw you and I told him I was gonna go meet that girl. And he said, 'Dude! That's not a woman -- that's a dude! Look at her arms!' "
I assured him I was a woman and that I just have muscular arms.
"I told him! I told him you were a woman!" he said as a taxi mercifully pulled up, another one of my new TL friends held the door for me, and I was whisked home.