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The Adventures of Joe Blade (unlicensed) Private Eye!

bogart

Author’s note: I wrote this in 1995, and lost it for many years. It’s a very politically-incorrect Private Eye Spoof set in 1990s San Francisco. I found it recently, while going through boxes of old papers and stuff to get rid of. The writing is a little rough, but hey this was written twenty two years ago. (I cleaned it up a tiny bit–but not much. If I rewrote it that would be cheating.) It’s still a nice memory piece of my days in North Beach before San Francisco was completely taken over by super-wealthy stuck-up techies. This was written right around the time I was the editor and a regular contributor to the now-defunct zine The Dagger. Shortly after this, I went to work as a reporter for the AVA (Anderson Valley Advertiser) in Boonville, CA. Mark Heimann and I teamed up as investigative reporters for several years.  In 1999, we moved back to New Orleans, Mark got his P.I. license and we worked together as private investigators for a few years before Hurricane Katrina.    SJ 2017

The Adventures of Joe Blade, (unlicensed) Private Eye

Fiction (Written in 1995)  © Copyright 2017 by Sara Jacobelli

San Francisco

1995

Chapter One

“The Big Fish”

(Heaton Fenton gets a new name and a new career!)

I rented a depressing windowless dump in the Tenderloin on Hyde Street. So this is San Francisco. Big Fuckin Deal. Started drinking in neighborhood dives Bacchus-Kirk and the Overflo. It was a miserable rotten rainy January. My unemployment checks would run out on February 1st. “Fuck,” I said, taking a drag on a smoke while walking down Powell Street. “It’s like knowing when you’re gonna die.” Picked up a free paper called the Learning Annex, flipped through the pages while sitting at a grimy lunch counter. “Get a new career!” “Take a class!” I stubbed out an unfiltered Camel.

“Tuna on toast. Whole wheat. Black coffee.” I ordered. “Yes, yes. Coffee, coffee” said the old Chinese broad. What can my new career be? I wondered. All I’ve ever done is: cab driver, bartender, bouncer, heroin addict, alcoholic, pick-pocket, second-story man, drug dealer, prison convict, security guard. Hmmm, what do they got here? “Be a screenwriter.” Nah, can’t spell, got that dyslexia thing. “Underwear model.” Nah, beer belly. “Cake decorator.” No way. Sounds too fruity. It’s gotta be something the babes go for.”Run a day-care center.” Fuck no! I hate screaming brats. They’d probably run a background check on me and find out I owe all that back child support. What else? “Be a clown at children’s parties.” Ditto. Here’s one! “Learn to be a real Private Eye. Attend a one-day seminar with licensed Private Investigator Sam Black, author of “Be Real Nosy and Get Paid for it!” Only $49.95. “Hey, that’s it. That’s me. I can sign up for this here class.” I emptied my pockets. “Only twenty bucks left. Can’t really afford it. Uh, fuck this Sam Black dude, stupid yuppie. I’ll bounce a check on em.”

I took a gulp of coffee. “Let’s see, now all I need’s a new name. Heaton Fenton’s a lousy handle for a Private Eye. Hmm. Sam Spade. Taken. Sam Black. Ditto. Hey, sweetheart, can I take a look-see at them there white pages?” Flip. Flip. “Lemmessee,  Antonio Anzollone. Nah, too ethnic. Barry Baggot. Too wimpy. Heh-heh, here’s one. Joe Blade. Macho. Sexy. Easy to spell. Got that dyslexia thing. Hope this dude’s got good credit. That’s me, Joe Blade. Private Dick.”

“Well!” The cute blonde with the big boobs sitting next to me split, gave me a dirty look on her way out the door. “Hey, I ain’t talkin nasty or nothin, honey, I’m a Private Eye. It’s my New Career.”

“Very nice. Private Eye. New Career.” The old Chinese broad plopped down my sandwich and refilled the coffee.

“Oh fuck.” I looked around the dingy, forties style diner. “Soon’s as the cases and cake start rollin in, I’ll be eatin at the–what’s that joint fifty stories up? The Cornelius Room? Cornelian Room? Whatever.” I crunched on potato chips.

I paid the tab and swiped the buck tip the blonde left. “This here’s for you, babe.” I put the dollar under my coffee cup.

“Thank you very much! Good by! Good luck, Mister New Career!”

“It’s BLADE! Joe Blade!”

“OK. Bye Mr. Joe Brade! You come back soon! I’m Mae, Mae Wong!  Welcome to Mae’s Diner.”

I headed toward Market Street. Stopped and listened to a fat black dude sing some dynamite blues. “The thrill is gone. . . oh yeah, baby.”

I walked past the chess players and incense sellers near the cable car turn-around. “I need a fuckin trench coat. Like Bogart. Sam Spade. William Powell. The Thin Man.” I marched to Union Square and walked into Macy’s like I owned the joint. Might as well get the best. I selected a grey London Fog, it fit like a glove. Found the perfect dashing black fedora. Slunk out the door without paying. “Hey, my career’s movin right along. Tomorrow, I’ll take that class. Then–before you know it—I’m on a case.”

*****

That night I hung out in North Beach. Shot nine-ball for ten bucks a game at Gino and Carlo’s. A hot, young red-head sidled up to me. “Whadda-you-do?” She winked seductively. How else do you wink?

“Can’t tell you, babe. It’s a secret.”

She wiggled. Ran her hand along my neck, tickled my ear with her finger. Jesus Christ. I was glad I kept the trench coat on.

“Sounds exciting. Can I have some money for the jukebox? Do you like classical music, like the Stones and the Dead?”

“Yeah, sure. My stones ain’t dead. Heh-heh.” I gave her two bucks. I knew I had to win the pool game. I was down to three dollars and would have to back-door it if I lost. I watched her squiggle through the crowd. “Hey, play some Coltrane while you’re at it.”

“WHO? Hey, Mister, I’m twenty-three. I don’t know EVERY has-been sixties rock band.”

“Hey, Casanova, your turn.”

“Right.” I stuck a cigarette between my teeth. I slammed the balls into the pockets. Twenty fuckin three. Great. I’m forty-six. It’s depressing being exactly twice as old as some babe. What am I gonna do? Invite her to my one room cell with the Murphy bed, black and white TV and no cable? She’s probably never even SEEN a black and white TV.

I slurped my Budweiser. I finished it and crushed the can. I decided to switch to gin. Sounds more Bogart-like.

“Hey pal, ya won.” The dude handed me a crisp ten-spot. “I’m surprised, you seemed distracted. The name’s Sergio.”

We shook hands. “I’m Joe. Joe Black. I mean, Joe Blade.” I pocketed the ten. “Guess I should get some card’s printed up, so’s I can remember my fuckin name,” I mumbled. Seems like ever since I became a Private Eye, I couldn’t stop mumbling.

Yeah, I’ll have some business cards made. Soon’s I can afford a phone. Blade. Joe Blade. Private Eye.

*****

maltese-falcon

Photo Credit:  “Bogart Wearing Fedora.” Hub pages. http://tinyurl.com/z95rhfs

“The Maltese Falcon.” Misterio Press.  http://tinyurl.com/jmogr92

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The Heiress and The Transvestite: Part Three

English: A pair of high heeled shoe with 12cm ...

The Slice of Life series

Fiction

“The Heiress and The Transvestite”

© copyright 2013    Susan S. Barmon

All Rights Reserved

The Heiress and The Transvestite: Part Three

Monday when I arrived I could hear the vacuum running. I called up the stairwell and started up. I was almost at the top of the stairs when the vacuuming stopped and I heard The Transvestite calling out as he walked down the hall. Those weren’t Reeboks I was hearing on the wood floor. He came through the door exaggerating his walk and posture, reminding me of an emaciated runway model. Kids playing dress up also came to mind. I almost started to laugh. He looked like someone’s brother dressed up in his sister’s clothes. It was our first meeting, and when he saw me he said, “Ah Julia, How nice to meet you. I’m Marty Sparks and I’ve heard so much about you from The Heiress. ”

What really surprised me was his face, pock-marked and nicotine lined and makeup-less. His hair was cut mullet style with a short ponytail. The cut-off jean skirt and nondescript knit top capped off the outfit. It was all very disconcerting. He looked like a “wanna be”  drag queen in early training. (Although I don’t believe any self respecting drag-queen-in-training would be caught dead in that outfit).  He gave me a big hug hello as if this was the norm and we’d been friends for years. I was a little uneasy and at a loss, not knowing how to respond. He seemed very unpredictable. I didn’t know if I should make a humorous crack or be really serious, although it was really beyond me to take this man and his clothes seriously.

I opted out of saying anything, just standing there feeling very stupid. At that moment I missed my mother so much and wished we could have a good laugh when I called to tell her what was happening. Knowing that wasn’t going to happen, I pulled myself back to reality. Smelling faint traces of The Heiress’s perfume, mixed with his strong smell of cigarettes, he threw his arms around me as if we were long lost friends, announcing that he would take me to The Heiress. “She’s downstairs.”

Guiding me to the back stairs, he carefully sashayed down the narrow, winding stairs teetering in his four inch black patent leather spiked heels and forties style seamed stockings. When we reached the side of the basement where The Heiress was he dramatically threw the office door open, announcing my arrival as a bunch of leaves fell off the Balinese Tinker Toy jungle just outside the door. The Heiress’s jaw dropped when she realized what he was wearing. He slithered in, grabbed her ass, rubbed up against her like a horny dog, asking if we need anything else. I think he was disappointed when she didn’t say, “Yes, you.” But she did say,”Pick up those damn leaves and reattach them when you go back upstairs. And the girls will be home from school soon.” The girls being Ali and Hannah, his daughters.

I didn’t say anything to her about him and she ignored what had just transpired. We just started to get on with gallery business. Later I saw the future flat and was excited to share the news with Matt. It would be the largest space we would ever have in San Francisco, in a terrific neighborhood. And best of all we would be able to get rid of our storage unit in the East Bay and have all of our belongings in one place. Seemed like the tide was turning.

I brought Matt over to see the flat. No one was around except The Heiress. He liked it and the neighborhood as much as I did and we started to discuss money and move-in schedules with The Heiress, figuring that it would probably be another month before the current tenants were gone and the space made ready for us.

Looking back on the timing, we were ready for the change but blind to the future pitfalls. I think we were just slow learners.

A couple of weeks later at the gallery, The Heiress told me we “were a go” to move in at the end of the month and, “The French boy is also moving in that day. He will be staying in the office side of the basement.” Who, I wondered, was the French boy?

to be continued. . .

 

**********

Photo Credit: “A pair of high heeled shoes with 12 cm heels,” by Wikipedia.  Public Domain Photo.

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The Heiress and The Transvestite: Part Two

English: A pair of high heeled shoe with 12cm ...

Slice of Life Series

Fiction

©  copyright 2013  Susan S. Barmon

All Rights Reserved

The Heiress and The Transvestite:

Part Two

 We met The Heiress through her Mexican Folk Art gallery in the Fillmore neighborhood, while walking around looking for “For Rent” signs. It was hard to get our heads wrapped around another move, but with little left to lose and most of our stuff in storage it became a matter of safety. We had been robbed recently and thought it would be a good thing to look for another place a bit more secure than our tiny garden apartment in Pacific Heights.

 The Heiress’s gallery was a storefront in a Victorian building with two rental flats above. The MJMoore Gallery, neatly painted on the deep green awning, was inviting. We had been collecting Mexican folk art for years. After schlepping it cross country and throwing it all into our storage space in the East Bay, we were curious. The large room had a lot of natural light from the window facing Post Street. It was filled with folk art: from Day of the Dead statuary on strategically placed pedestals, reliquaries on the walls, and wonderful fabrics from Guatemala. There were the requisite cards, posters and jewelry from local and Central American artists, and a small office space and bathroom way in the back. Her small desk was near the jewelry display case by the front door.

 After introductions we told her about our collection and our interest in hers. She wanted to know if we wanted to consign anything with her. It hadn’t occurred to us up until then but Matt told her we’d think about it and get back to her. We then asked if any flats were for rent and she told us her four-unit building in North Beach was going to have an available apartment in a couple of months and she would love to get it rented before the current tenants moved out. That would alleviate any stress on her end. After exchanging information we left, continuing on our apartment search. Matt and I discussed selling some of our art and figured we could consign a few pieces and see if they sold.

 When The Heiress called a few days later we set up a time to meet the following week, giving me time to get to our “home away from home” in the East Bay to dig around and find what we were willing to sell. Meeting at the gallery was good. She liked our selections, suggested we run across the street to grab a cup of coffee and come back to the gallery to talk.

 The Heiress started telling me about her life. You have to remember I knew no one and was amazed I was actually speaking, in the flesh, to someone in the same area code. She also told me not to call her Mary Jane. She preferred The Heiress. It was her favorite over the several names she had used in her life.

 The Heiress was a small woman, about 5’5” with perfect posture and a tiny waist. She always stood and sat ramrod straight, hands manicured and folded, never speaking much unless the conversation was about her. Her breasts had been lifted after her daughter was born twenty-five years earlier and they had stood the “perky” test for a woman in her late forties. Her wiry long burgundy hair was piled on her head for lack of anywhere else to put it, except perhaps under hats, which she wore often.  The Heiress had an awkward way of waving her hands around when she spoke, as if  she wasn’t sure what they were and why they were at the ends of her wrists. The clumsiness of the movement always made me think perhaps her nail polish never dried. She wasn’t comfortable with her hands, but I think she thought the gesture was feminine and ladylike, something I learned later she always strived to be.

 The Heiress had a nervous habit of pursing her lips whenever she was asked a question. She thought it gave her a contemplative, thoughtful “look.” She had great lips, full and heart-shaped, that is until she had them altered with plastic surgery after her mother died. Then they were caricatures of their previous beauty; looking as if a duck’s bill was about to sprout out of her face.

 I realized after I’d spent some time with her that MJ didn’t laugh much. I later found out she wasn’t lacking a sense of humor but more importantly she didn’t want her face littered with laugh lines. Her wardrobe was stylish, mostly consisting of expensive long black skirts and pants to accentuate her small waist. (The Transvestite would later tell me, “Julia, I like to stand at the bottom of the staircase and when she comes down the steps I like to photograph up under her skirt.”)

 She asked me to come back to the gallery in a few days because she got lonely sitting there all day and thought perhaps my background in Art Direction and location photography might help her self-promotion efforts. She couldn’t pay me with money but had wonderful connections to Mendocino Gold which she could give me in exchange. She told me her dealers came to the city about once a month from Mendocino and stayed in one of the empty spaces in her basement. The other basement space she had turned into an office with a small stand-up shower and a tucked-away toilet in a closet.

 I said “Yes.” I knew no one and I was tired of talking to the cat. “Any port in a storm” was my motto and if it came with a little weed, so much the better. It was a lonely existence. When I showed up at the gallery the following week to help she closed up, locked the door and lit a joint.

 Then she proceeded to tell me about her life. I was discovering that we shared some things in common. My mother had just died and hers was starting the process. We both had a daughter with a troublesome past, and thinking back on it, I think we were both “oddities” to each other and that created curiosity.

 The phone kept ringing while we chatted. Her boyfriend and his two daughters, she explained, lived with her in her North Beach building. An electrician by trade, Marty worked little, which was a constant source of irritation to her. He was calling to tell her he had done the laundry and was cooking dinner. She told him not to bother because she didn’t want to eat, forgetting that the kids might be hungry.

 She met him when she finished taking some neon classes at the Art Academy and wanted to open a neon studio with two friends. They found a cheap space in the Tenderloin neighborhood. He was the electrician they hired. He really screwed up their studio electricity- wise, which infuriated the landlord when they left. They sold nothing and left the studio because they couldn’t pay the rent and The Heiress wouldn’t pay everyone’s share. The Heiress said, “Julia, I love a project and I needed a man around to do everything in the house I couldn’t and those two little girls were adorable and needed guidance. I had just bought the North Beach building, with help from my mother, and it didn’t matter at the time that he was a crummy electrician. He and those girls were as cute as they could be.”

 She didn’t let on about his proclivities but when I went to use the gallery bathroom I got a nasty shock turning on the light. She said, “Oh, he did that when I moved the gallery in here and he just won’t come and fix it and I won’t call anyone to do it because it’s his job.” She went on to say, “We were supposed to do this gallery together, but he was constantly challenging me and the arguments got to be too much. So I just did it on my own. There was also supposed to be  wood work from Bali in here. On a vacation trip to Bali (Bali and Goa being the preferred vacay spot for monied San Franciscans) he bought all kinds of Balinese flower and leaf carvings that fit together like Tinker Toys. You know any configuration you want as long as the carved post fits into the carved hole.” Immediately I imagined a Balinese Tinker Toy jungle forest.

 Continuing she said, “I begged him not to buy them but he said even if they didn’t sell in the gallery he could sell them mail order. I didn’t want them in the gallery and refused to have them here.” I asked if he knew about the mail order business? Negative. The Tinker Toy jungle was now set up outside her basement office and many large boxes were stored on the side of the basement where the dealers slept when they were in town.

 I left that afternoon saturated. We made plans to meet the following week at her home office in North Beach. We could work on the mailing list and other mundane stuff for the gallery. MJ told me to come in the door as it was rarely locked, and come up the stairs. In the kitchen was a door leading down to the basement. She would see me there and show me the flat that was coming up for rent.

to be continued. . .

*********

Photo Credit: “A pair of high heeled shoes with 12 cm heels,” by Wikipedia. Public Domain Photo.


 

 

 

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The Heiress and The Transvestite: Part One

It is with great pleasure that I introduce guest blogger Susan S. Barmon. Susan and I met in San Francisco’s North Beach in the 1990s. The City was still reeling from the AIDS epidemic, and at the same time undergoing rapid gentrification. We enjoyed walking and talking around North Beach, dropping into various cafes and bars. The views were gorgeous, the people quirky. And due to skyrocketing rentals, we knew our days in the hood were numbered. Susan will be periodically presenting her Slice of Life Stories here on Capitare a Fagiolo. SJ

My story started unbeknownst to me when we moved to San Francisco in 1992. Four years later we returned to our planet, east of the Mississippi, and I began sorting through the unforgettable people I met while living in the west. The Slice of Life Series began with The Heiress and Transvestite.  

  Susan S. Barmon

 

Slice of Life Stories

Fiction by Susan S. Barmon

© copyright 2013  All Rights reserved

The Heiress and the Transvestite: Part One

English: A pair of high heeled shoe with 12cm ...

There’s a “Raver” in North Beach who spends most of his days in Washington Square Park disrupting traffic on Columbus Ave. He’s in good shape and appears to work out regularly. Briskly marching around the park he rants to fat people about the importance of exercise, inevitably belittling what he perceives to be their rich, comfortable lifestyle. When finished he turns abruptly, picking up his pace in preparation to deliver his message to the next “victim.” It was a warm spring evening when he marched in front of us. Not being overweight I was a little surprised to be face to face with him and got a weird feeling in my stomach wondering what the “message” would be. The Raver had another mission in mind. His destination was the three foot tall concrete column latitude marker, engraved 37 degrees, 47 min., 57 seconds N., embedded in the grass yards from where we were sitting. Jumping up on it and balancing precariously on the pointed top, he started to rant.

“North Beach and San Francisco are all about money and trust fund kids.” He got louder, complaining about the selfishness of “the idle rich in North Beach and their lack of soul.”

Little did he know how timely the message was for us. That very morning The Heiress had given us our thirty day notice to vacate our apartment. Illegally evicted. Shocked, we were trying to wrap our heads around what eviction would entail, when the Raver screamed at the top of his lungs

“It’s all about the money!”

In the weeks following the eviction notice our lives were slipping out from under us like a cheap rug. We needed a lawyer. Careening between feeling murderously angry and total despair at the thought of being homeless, anyone within earshot knew we were looking for a place to live. Betty, who owned the cleaners two doors from our flat, let us put a sign in her window. She hated The Heiress because the Transvestite, whom she  lived with in her North Beach flat, never paid his cleaning bills. Actually, he always “forgot” his wallet until “the next time.” The Heiress, embarrassed and not willing to settle his bill, went to her competitor up the block.

Once again our lives were a big question mark at the whim of someone else. It was those exact circumstances that brought us to California. My husband’s twenty-three year airline pilot career ended in the company declaring bankruptcy and my job in retail advertising went out of business. When employment in the west was offered, Matt had been teaching flying and wondering how much longer he could hold life as he knew it together.

Seemed like we couldn’t afford to take the job and we couldn’t afford not to. And, he told himself, being an executive at a professional flight school could be a good thing. My mother was ill and I wasn’t thrilled with the prospect of leaving her or my daughters and friends. We were still reeling from our perfectly good lives being sacrificed for someone else’s wealth. It almost sounds like today instead of 20 years ago in the early nineties. Then interest rates were double digit, cell phones were new (although huge and still very expensive) and a laptop weighed in at eight to ten pounds. It wasn’t a good time for either of us and certainly not an optimum time for sound decision making. Our house went on the market and we drove west into the unknown. It was the only port in a very heavy storm. Here we were four years and several apartments later and we still hadn’t gotten it right. Deja Vu all over again.

Nick owned the corner market across the street from Betty and along with Betty kept urging us to get in touch with The Tenant’s Union. We were approaching desperation, with no appetite for apartment hunting. What a surprise to learn we were living in a city where tenants actually had rights. All it took was $35 to make us members of the San Francisco Tenant’s Union. It was no comfort to know “we belonged” somewhere. After reading The Heiress’s letter, the  volunteer lawyer on duty said the same thing as the man at the Rent Board. “This  isn’t legal. You don’t have to do anything.” He gave us a handbook with a list of lawyers that did tenant/landlord cases and sent us on our way.

That’s where we found Marilyn. We called her first because she didn’t charge for telephone consults. The initial phone interviews yielded the information that even if we stalled the process, despite what the Rent Board had told us, we would still have to move. It wasn’t going to matter that the letter wasn’t legal. No matter what the laws, “money would talk” and our recourse would be to wait for The Heiress to notify us that we could reoccupy. Legally, she had to, but so far she wasn’t concerning herself with too many annoying legalities. Her ideal scenario would be for us to quietly ride off into the sunset so she could raise the rent and be done with us. “Out of sight, out of mind.”  Our legal obligation, if we wanted to move back to the flat, was to notify The Heiress by certified mail as to our whereabouts. Being homeless, with all our belongings in a storage unit in San Leandro, we faithfully let The Heiress know our three different addresses that summer. We were biding our time until the project was completed in the fall, when we would get back in touch with Marilyn to apprise her of the current situation.

It was a big surprise when we got a notice from the Housing Board informing us that The Heiress needed an extension on her project and we were required to attend. The time had come to finally meet Marilyn.

Her office was located at the foot of Polk Street, just North of Market. Not a great neighborhood. All the buildings surrounding the one we were entering cast permanent dark shadows on the grim doorway. The whole building was grim, with spare aluminum framing that enclosed dark green plastic squares. A facade reminiscent of the early sixties. Waiting nervously on the sidewalk to be buzzed in, this meeting felt like a seedy rendezvous, which amused me and I gave in to an irresistible urge to look both ways to see if we’d been followed. Only the wino on the corner gave us any notice.

We bravely trusted our lives to the rickety, old fashioned caged elevator which deposited us up a couple of floors to a dingy waiting area piled high with stacks of Gay Rights pamphlets, magazines and posters. Being a reader, I was immediately drawn into browsing the literature, keeping a lookout for any material regarding illegal evictions from one’s place of residency. Marilyn told Matt, “It is my specialty.” Not judging from the pamphlets, I thought.

Hearing heavy footsteps, I peered around the corner to come face to face with a gigantic woman dressed in huge denim overalls. She looked as if she’d just left the farm. Aside from being proportionally mismatched with a big body and a tiny head, her brown, curly hair cut boyishly short emphasized the distortions. Her voice sounded as if she had just had a hit of helium when she introduced herself. Her dog, a pit bull mix, was at her side. He appeared to be as fat as his mistress, with the potential for having a nasty disposition. Marilyn introduced the dog, “Chunky”, and her hand disappeared somewhere into the depths of her pockets to produce a treat for him. A bribe to keep him at bay. Listening to Chunky devour the rock-like morsel, I watched him sharpen his teeth systematically from left to right, knowing from the way his bulging eyes were regarding us, that he would happily eat our faces at the first false move. With this in mind, I stood very close to Matt and looked up at the woman brightly when she asked, “Are you afraid of dogs?” We replied in unison “No, we’re not afraid of dogs.”

“We’re the couple who have been communicating with you regarding the illegal eviction from our apartment.”

“Evicted by?”

“Our landlady,” I said.

“Her name?”

“The Heiress.” I resisted the urge to say, “With a capital “T.”

“I’ll need her real name.”

“Her real name is Mary Jane Moore, but she uses The Heiress as if it was her real name.”

I neglected to tell Marilyn that The Heiress had used several different names on and off during her life.

Marilyn’s office complex was shared by several lawyers. There were no secretaries, and a few private offices facing the street. We were the only people there. She and Chunky ushered us into her office. It had a large collection of legal books dealing with civil rights, and a window facing Market Street. As Matt started to speak, I gazed down the block thinking to myself that this was a fitting end to our lives in California. Here I am in this strange office with this strange woman and her dog, watching the new retro tourist trolleys roll by. There had been a lot of publicity over those trolleys because they looked like trolleys that ran on Market Street in the forties. Each car was painted either red, yellow or green and they created a pleasant backdrop for the homeless who were starting to panhandle in front of the shelter on the corner. It was as ludicrous outside as it was in. This was the icing on the cake. I smiled to myself, knowing we would be miles away when The Heiress and Marilyn met.

We told Marilyn the eviction letter was a total surprise. The warning signals were there, but we hadn’t wanted to see them. The last update Mary Jane had given us was in the early spring after her mother had died. She said the addition of another floor on her building wasn’t going to happen for at least nine months,  “…so you can relax. Don’t worry, when it does happen you can be assured of a place to live, at the same rent.”  She said she wanted to wait until her mother’s estate was settled. Then the order of financial priorities would be the facelift, liposuction and tummy tuck, followed—after the swelling went down—with a trip to Italy. A red flag should have gone up when The Heiress used any kind of reasoning, but instead we were relieved, not wanting to think about another move. Two months after this conversation, early in the morning, the letter was shoved through our mail slot. She waited until Matt left for work. Facing us would not be an option. It’s The Heiress’s Out of sight, out of mind philosophy.

She had been waiting a couple of years for her mother to die. With the multi-million dollar inheritance The Heiress could build her “dream home,” expanding her four unit building. She wasn’t going to let getting rid of unwanted tenants get in her way. When we asked for specifics she offered no information and told us to talk to her architects. They referred us back to The Heiress for any information because we were not clients. We didn’t know if we would be able to move back, despite her previous assurances. The Heiress had effectively “edited all of her tenants out”, just as her architects did when the rooftop postcard view was marred by a nearby building and the design altered.

Marilyn pushed her tiny little glasses a little higher on her nose, twisted her pretty little ring around a sausage shaped finger pinched in at the knuckle, and reached into the depths of her pocket to produce another treat for Chunky. Those pockets were a bottomless feed bag. Her pen and legal pad were ready for the facts. Matt and I looked at each other, took a deep breath and started to tell our story with the letter coming first.

“Dear Tenants:

Yesterday I made the decision to go ahead with the project. After examining all my options and having the hard earned permit from the city as well as a beautifully worked out plan, I recognize that this is the only way to resolve my own housing and art exhibition needs. I now have the financing and have downsized the scope of work enough that we are able to resume as planned. The new schedule will be finalized next week. What is being discussed is that the basement work will begin as early as mid-July. We would like to start the seismic upstairs sometime in August. I strongly urge you to look aggressively for another residence as things are moving along. The longer this takes to finish, the more it costs in lost rent so there is an urgency for me to continue in a timely manner.

Therefore, this is your official 30 day notice. You may take an extra week in August rent free to help facilitate your move. To be more specific, you have 6 weeks notice which includes the extra rent free week. I’m sorry the building department is making me conform to such an amazing degree. I have no wish to displace anyone but I will not abandon a project that means so much to me. Please advise me about your understanding of what your deposits are.

sincerely (sic)

The Heiress.”

Marilyn’s eyebrows were near her hairline when she said,  “Does she not know what your deposits are? This letter is ridiculous. She has acted in total disregard of every tenant-landlord law regarding eviction for capital improvement in the city.  I thought you said she had been a friend?”

That’s what we had mistakenly thought too.

To be continued. . . 

*******************

Susan S. Barmon grew up in New York and has been telling stories through photographic portraiture most of her adult life.

She was educated at Syracuse University School of Art and The Portfolio Center in Atlanta, Ga., where Ms. Barmon studied photojournalism with Dennis Carlyle Darling. Her career has encompassed retail and editorial art direction and location photography. A move to San Francisco presented her with the opportunity to photograph “The Littlest Cowboys” Jr. Rodeo portrait series, and begin “The Millennium” series. Both have been shown nationwide, and won several major awards. In 2005 Ms. Barmon entered the digital world with her botanical scans. They have been shown extensively and are in private collections. She began her “Drive By Shooting” series in 2006. It is being shown and is ongoing.

Ms. Barmon’s Botanicals are represented by Art Licensing for licensing and publishing. In Atlanta, Ga. her work is represented by Soho Myriad Art Consulting.

Contact information regarding the purchase of Ms. Barmon’s work:

http://www.susanbarmon.com    for botanicals

http://www.susanbarmonphotography.com   for portraiture and personal series

**********

Photo Credit: ” A pair of high heeled shoes with 12 cm heels,” by Wikipedia. Public Domain Photo.

 

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Dealing

© copyright 2013  by Sara Jacobelli

She knew she had to get away from Sammy. She just didn’t know how.

(Fiction)  San Francisco, mid 1980s

San Francisco by Night: Mission Street

“So the landlord tells Billy to get rid of these people, see, he didn’t want them in the building, and Billy, he’s smoking so much crack, see, you know what he does? He burns them out, burns them out, burns the fucking place down.” Sammy passed the joint, laughing and coughing at the same time. “Well, not the whole building, but he burned them out of the apartment.”

“Sammy, do you really think that’s funny? I mean, was anyone killed?” Sofia took a short hit on the joint and passed it to Dixon. Dixon looked oblivious, as usual.

Sammy flipped through his vinyl collection and selected some Coltrane. “Yeah, that’s kind of a fucking problem. It WAS funny, but turns out that one of the tenants was there, sleeping or some shit. Billy thought nobody was home.”

Dixon’s eyes opened wide. “What the fuck you talkin bout, man? Dude, I’m hungry. Let’s go eat somethin.”

Sammy opened the door and Dixon followed him down the stairs. Sofia called after them.

“Sammy, did someone fuckin’ die in that fire?”

“Nah, nobody died. I don’t think the guy died. He got smoke inhalation or some shit. But it’s still arson and Billy’s on the run and it ain’t good, see.  There’ll be arson investigators or some shit. Probably cops, too. They’re gonna connect me to Billy, see.  So if any cops come by—“

“Yeah. Just say I don’t know nothin’.” Sofia closed the door. She turned the stereo up, looked out the front bay window at Valencia Street. She loved living in the Mission District, loved the hood. But she knew she had to get away from Sammy. She just didn’t know how.  She lit a cigarette, listened to Coltrane.

**********

Sofia knew they were cops by the sound of the knock. Cops always knock in this loud persistent I-have-a-right-to-be-here way. She looked through the peephole. Two detectives, a man and a woman. Just like TV. Sofia remembered what all the old time North Beach dealers told her.     Grab your keys. Open the door just enough to slip outside. Lock the door behind you. Remember, if they could get a warrant, they’d already HAVE it.

She did just that. The woman smiled. The man looked at her sternly, a father to a daughter. A teacher to a student.

“We’re looking for Samuel Ruggerio. Is he home?”

Sofia looked the guy in the eyes. “Nope. And I’m going for a walk.” She brushed past them and headed downstairs.

The woman didn’t say anything. The guy yelled down the stairs. “We just want to talk to Sam. He’s not in any trouble.”

They followed her. Sofia went into the Checkpoint Diner downstairs and sat at the counter. Mae set her up with some hot tea. “Mae, I’ll pay you later, OK?”

“Sure, Sofia. No problem.” Mae looked suspiciously at the two cops who followed Sofia and sat on either side of her. “Menus? You want menus?”

They waved her away.  Mae looked pissed. “You must buy something. No free sit.”

The woman touched Sofia on the arm. “I’m Detective Berkowitz. Here’s my card. Sofia, we’re just trying to help. He’s Detective Martino.” She smiled again. She looked more like a social worker than a police detective.

Sofia didn’t say anything. She stirred sugar and milk into her tea.

The woman cop looked around the diner.  The décor probably hadn’t changed since the 1940s. “Uh, is the food here any good?”

Sofia laughed. She wanted to say, Are you kidding? The food’s fucking terrible but we all love Mae. But she remembered ole Ray Ray in North Beach and Cookie Bob in the Castro. Long time weed dealers. Ray Ray was dead, and Cookie Bob was dying of AIDS.  Never talk to the cops, kid. Even about the weather. Or the Giants. Or the 49ers. Once they get you talking, they’ll get to ya.

Sofia stood up. She hated to leave her steeping hot tea. The flavor was just right. She looked at the guy. Fortyish. Some gray flecks in his hair. Deep brown eyes. He was kind of cute, but it was wrong to even think a cop was cute. “Bye Mae, thanks.”

Sofia left the diner and headed to the Bart station on Mission Street. She walked fast, turning only once to look back. The cops were gone. She used a phone booth at the Bart station to call Sammy. They had worked out a system of codes to use on his beeper. When it came time to punch in a phone number, she tapped out 54. Like the old TV show, “Car 54 Where Are You?” Sammy thought his codes were achingly clever.

So Sammy would know not to come home. At least for a few days. The cops were looking for him. Sofia would have the cluttered studio apartment with the Murphy bed all to herself. Maybe she could get some books from the library and study for her GED.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Sammy was only gone a few days. Sofia didn’t bother to ask where he was. And the cops never came back. Sofia figured San Francisco cops had more to do than to bother with Sammy.

No one knew what happened to Billy. Or the guy who got hurt in the fire. But tonight, they were celebrating not getting busted. They went to that place in Chinatown with all the booths hidden by curtains.  The one in the side street where you had to know about it, and climb upstairs to get to it. Everyone would eat and smoke joints. The waiters would say, “Here your office,” and Sammy would say, “Yeah, my office alright. “

Sammy met clients there and sold them weed while he, Dixon and Sofia ate Chinese food. Sofia got tired of Dixon following Sammy everywhere, but there wasn’t much she could do about it. Sammy always had some loser guy following him around, running errands for free weed. Sometimes he’d have two or three of them trailing behind him, a poor man’s entourage.

After the last client left, a nervous middle-aged nurse named Allison, Sammy and Dixon really gobbled their food.

“I’m taking the GED next week,” Sofia said.

“The what?” Dixon asked, his eyes popped out more than usual. Sofia knew he was on more than just weed.  Crank, probably.  Although Sofia had never seen a crankster eat as much as Dixon.

“What’s the point?” Sammy asked. “I mean, whaddaya even NEED a GED for?”

Sofia dug into her Kung Pao shrimp. “Well, you can take classes at City College for free. And I thought—“

“Lemme try some a that.” Sammy scooped some of her shrimp onto his plate. “I took college courses in Chicago, when I was on probation. Film courses. And my student film was the best, see.  We even got busted by the cops once. Busted for filming without a permit. And they put us in the local film fest too, see—“

“Yeah. I know.” Sofia knew the story by heart.

Dixon lit a joint. The smoke wafted up to the ceiling.

“Dixon, can’t you at least wait til we finish eating?”

Sammy laughed. “I love this place. You can do anything behind these curtains. People probably get it on on the tables.”

“Oh. . . gross. I hope they at least wiped the tables off before we came in.” Sofia slurped her steaming hot tea. “Anyhow, I’m taking the GED. If anyone cares.”

“Cool.” Dixon nodded his head to tunes only he could hear.

“Well, the point of my story is, see,” Sammy continued. “I took a semester and a half of college, and I’m not exactly USING it now. Except, perhaps my education makes me more acceptable to some of my yuppie-type customers, see.”

The waiter peeked through the curtain. “You have nice business dinner in your office, yes? Time for fortune cookie.”

Sammy laughed again. “Thanks.” The waiters liked Sammy because he tipped generously.

Sofia stood up. “I have to go to the bathroom. I just hope I can find our booth again. I don’t want to peak through the wrong curtain, in case anyone’s screwing on the table.”

Dixon laughed. “She’s so funny. Wait, Sofia, we gotta read our fortunes.”

Sammy read his, crunching loudly on the fortune cookie. “You will achieve great success in business. Wait. How did THEY know?”

Dixon opened his fortune. “Mine says, You are a seeker of truth and knowledge. Man, that is so deep.”

“Yeah, you’re a deep one, Dixon.” Sofia bowed before Dixon. “O Wise One. You’re as deep as David Carradine in King Fu reruns.”

Dixon looked blank. “Who’s David Carradine?”

“What’s yours say?” Sammy tried to grab Sofia’s fortune.

“No, stop. I want to read it. It says, You are a true friend.” Sofia stuck the small slip of paper into her jeans pocket.

“That’s it? BORING!” Sammy looked disappointed.

“Yeah, that one’s boring.” Dixon nodded in agreement with Sammy.

Sofia went to the lady’s room.  Behind the locked stall door, she took out her fortune and read it again. “You will get a fine education, write many books, and travel the world.”  She didn’t want Sammy to see it. If he never saw it, he’d never be able to take it away from her.

English: Out of fog Bay Bridge and Golden Gate...

Photo Credits: “San Francisco By Night: Mission Street,” by Franco Folini. CC ShareAlike License.

“Out of fog Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco in fog,” by Wikipedia. GNU Free Documentation License.

************

 

Author’s Notes:

“Car 54 Where are You?” was a  popular sitcom about bumbling cops. It aired on the American TV station NBC  from 1961-1963.

“Kung Fu,” was an unusual western drama series starring David Carradine. It aired on the American TV station ABC from 1972-1975.

As for John Coltrane? There’s no excuse for not knowing who Coltrane is.

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Life and Death at Columbus and Broadway

I entered Esquire Magazine’s 79 word short story contest. I didn’t win anything, but thought I would post the story here. The story might have been too sad for them, plus the competition was very fierce. Quite a challenge, to attempt to tell a story in a mere 79 words.

http://www.esquire.com/fiction/fiction-contest-0612#slide-1

**************************************************************************

Life and Death at Columbus and Broadway

©  copyright 2012  by Sara Jacobelli

(Flash Fiction)

English: Violet Romer in flapper dress

Her name?  Rose or Tulip or Petunia. Nineteen, big eyed, flapper skinny. “I got this make up at Walgreens.” I rolled over, jealous that Giovanni brought her to the room to snort coke.

Story floats around North Beach she fell off a three story building or her pimp pushed her.

An old woman with a cane sits in Columbus Café fumbling in her purse, pulling out lipsticks, eye shadow. “I’m lucky to be alive.”

I couldn’t look at her.

**********************

Photo Credit: “Violet Romer in flapper dress,” Wikipedia. Public Domain Photo.

Update:

The finalists of the 2012 Esquire 79 word short short fiction contest have been announced:

Kashana Cauley, Angela Cummings, Alex Debonis, Kenneth Gagnon, Ivy Hansen, Daniel McGillivray, Courtney Sender, Richard Rauch, Bob Thurber, Casey Walker.

According to Esquire, “Finalists will gather in New York City to participate in a writing workshop taught by Colum McCann, the bestselling author of Let the Great World Spin, and attend “Fiction Night at the Esqure,” a celebratory party of the ten finalists.

Participants will perform their short, short fiction piece in front of a live audience of contest judges and literati: authors, celebrities, and publishing industry gurus. The grand prize winner will be announced at the party and will walk away with a full scholarship to participate in an advanced fiction workshop at Aspen Summer Words, Writing Retreat and Literary Festival, the Aspen Writers’ Foundation’s flagship program held each June in Aspen, Colorado.”

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This Museum Sucks!

English: Chairs on display at MOMA in New York...

(Fiction)

Fiction! Fiction! Fiction! Of course it’s Fiction, who would do such a thing???

© copyright 2012  by Sara Jacobelli

San Francisco, 1995

Excerpted from “Adventures with Ed”

This Museum Sucks!

Me and Ed dropped some Ecstasy and wandered around San Francisco, looking for some trouble to get into. We walked from North Beach downtown to Market Street.

“This shit’s no good, I don’t feel anything.” Ed lit a cigarette.

“It’s old. Maybe we won’t get off.”  I bought an iced tea in a corner store, popped it open.

“Let’s go to the new Museum of Modern Art, it’s the free day,” Ed suggested.

“I hate museums! I don’t wanna waste a beautiful day like this looking at some stupid paintings.” I was reluctant.

“We won’t be there all day, and hey, maybe you’ll learn something!” Ed was determined, looking at me with blue Irish eyes.

We get to the museum, it’s horrible, it looks like a bank or some other corporate monster. I don’t mind too much, since it’s a free day, and the Ecstasy seems to be a dud. I sure wouldn’t want to waste a good high in a place like that.

“This place looks like an institution.”

“Yeah, it really sucks,” Ed said. “What the hell is this?”

A bunch of chairs were lined up in rows, all different kinds of chairs. “It’s a chair exhibit,” some woman whispers.

“Why is everyone in here whispering but us?” I asked.

Ed ignored me. He brushed his hand on one of the chairs. The blue uniformed security guard scolded Ed.  Ed doesn’t take too well to being scolded.

“Alright.” Ed took his hand off the chair, folded his arms.

“I said, don’t touch the chair, you get kicked out, you touch again.” The security guard repeated himself, bursting with authority.

“Oh, this is great,” I mumbled. I started hoping that we would get thrown out. I could feel the Ecstasy starting to come on. I was hoping we’d get thrown out and go to the park or walk along the Bay.

“You told me not to touch the God-damned chair already.” Ed was yelling, red faced. “I took my hand off of the God-damned chair, so what’s your problem?”

“Don’t touch the chair,” the security guard added, with a little less authority.

“Let me tell you something, I’m an artist, I know about art, and a fucking chair isn’t art!” Ed was yelling. “The stupid chair should have to go, and I stay, ASS-HOLE!”

The guy gave up, walked away, looking for more chair-touchers and other art violators.

****************

Image result for custom made skis

Ed grabbed me by the hand. “Now let’s go see some paintings!”

“Uh, Ed, I wanna go. I’m starting to get off on that stuff. I gotta be outside. I don’t even like art very much. Let’s go to the arcade and play some pinball or one of those race car driving games.” Coming on to Ecstasy or acid makes me feel like a nine year old.

Ed ignored my complaints, dragged me around. “Now what in the world is this?” he asked. We looked at a bunch of brightly colored skis and ski boots, with their brand names prominently displayed.

“Well, I’m not all that educated, but it looks to me like a bunch of skis.”

“Very good, Sara. I did some time at the Art Institute, and you are correct. I know they’re a bunch of skis, but what are they doing in the Museum of Modern Art?”

A well dressed art patron type whispered, “I think it’s to show that even in your chair, your ski, there is art.” She looked at me, her eyes glinting with hope.

“Guess we can’t touch the skis either,” I said.

“Oh, no, no.” She shook her head.

“Why do they all whisper?” I asked Ed, loudly. He ignored me, approached another guard.

“Uh, excuse me,” Ed said to him. “We’ve seen chairs, skis, I feel like I’m in Sears or something. Are there any paintings here? Or is that too much to ask?”

“Third floor. Many painting,” the guard said.

Oh great, I thought. There’s more floors. We’ll never get out of here.

We climbed the stairs and walked into a huge room with a lot of floor space and practically bare wall space. A few modern paintings hung on the walls.

“Boy, they sure used a lot of space,” Ed said.

“Yeah. These floors would be neat for roller blading, though.”

Ed dragged me around by the arm, rattling off names of painters and styles. “You probably heard of most of these people,” he said.

“Nah, none of em. I like underground cartoons and stuff, this isn’t really my thing. Don’t they have any R. Crumb or Art Spiegelman?”

Ed knew I’d try to escape; he even stationed himself outside of the Lady’s room when I went to take a leak. He dragged me around to seven floors of almost bare walls featuring a few horrible paintings.

“What the hell is this?” I stood in front of a black frame, about three feet by two feet, nothing in it but a plain white canvas. “The least they could do is give us magic markers to color it with,” I added.

One of those art ladies snuck up behind me. “It’s to show how devoid modern life is,” she whispered.

“She’s kidding, right?” I said to Ed. “This dude is no artist, he’s a con artist. It’s a pretty good scam, I gotta admit.”

I looked around at all the polite museum goers. “Wouldn’t you people be pissed off if this wasn’t the free day? If you had to pay for all this garbage?” I waved my arms around. I was really getting wasted.

They backed away from us.

“Aren’t you tired of all this shit? They spent millions on this, whoever they are!” Ed yelled.

“Wow, what a beautiful scarf!” I said to one of the whispering women. “And look at that guy’s T-shirt, with the whales on it. Ed, I believe I’ve finally figured this place out. I think the art isn’t on the walls, it’s on the people’s clothes.” I looked around, wide eyed. I was peaking on the Ecstasy.

“You’re right!” Ed was beaming. “Look at the colors in that guy’s Hawaiian shirt. And that dude’s tie. I’ve never seen anything like it. The patrons are wearing the art.”

We wandered around, lost in bliss. Everyone stayed away from us.

“Everyone’s got the coolest clothes on, what a concept, what a museum!” I said, in ecstasy. “This is fun, after all. The art isn’t on the walls, the art is walking around!”

“I think I’m getting off on that stuff, but it’s hard to tell,” Ed said.

We gallivanted through the rest of the museum. “Let’s go watch the sea lions at Pier 39, let’s go to a bar and get drunk, let’s go for a walk!” I chanted.

“Quit whining,” Ed said. “We’ve gotta see the whole thing.”

“I think I’m high, I don’t wanna waste my high in here.”

“Sssshhh!” Ed said. “I thought you said it was fun.”

“Didn’t I tell you I have a short attention span? Let’s go!”

***************

Ed got tired  of it too and we split, stopping near the exit to admire a life sized ceramic sculpture of Michael Jackson and his favorite chimp, Bubbles. It was delicately painted white and gold.

“Now that’s beautiful, that’s a work of art.” Ed stepped back for a better look.

“Yeah, that’s awesome. It’s touching. That’s the best thing here.”

“Beautiful. Michael and Bubbles. Look at the love between those two. This thing here,” Ed pointed at it. “This is the only work of art in the whole, gigantic, piece of shit building,” Ed informed the passers by. A few of them nodded.

Ed planted kisses on Bubble’s lips while I pretended to take photos.

“Now let’s get outta here!” he grabbed my arm, dragged me out the door.

“You know, Ed, it’s too bad we didn’t get kicked out, when you touched the chair.”  I walked alongside Ed,  happy to be outside.

“Why?” He lit a cigarette. “That guard was such an asshole.”

“Because, anyone can get thrown out of a bar, but it would’ve been really cool to get thrown out of a museum.”

“Hey, I tried my best.”Image result for michael jackson and bubbles

**************

 

 

Photo Credits:

“Chairs on Display at MOMA,” Wikipedia. (Free to share under GNU Documentation license).

“Custom Made Skis.”www.skicycled.com

“Michael Jackson and Bubbles de Jeff Koons (Versaille) by dalbera.  Flickr. (CC Attribution only).

*************************

 

“Michael Jackson and Bubbles,” sculpture by Jeff Koons, ceramic, glaze and paint, 1988,  San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, worth approximately 5.6 million

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