Last Train to Emeryville

NOTE: The following is a work of FICTION. All characters, events, places, and emotions described herein are

something invented,” from L. fictionem (nom. fictio) “a fashioning or feigning,” from fingere “to shape, form, devise, feign,” originally “to knead, form out of clay,” from PIE *dheigh- (cf. O.E. dag “dough;” see dough). As a type of literature, 1599. Fictitious is 1615, from M.L. fictitus, a misspelling of L. ficticius “artificial, counterfeit,” from fictus, pp. of fingere.

I leave the office around three. Go home, grab my extended move-in shopping list, jump in the borrowed car. Take a misguided loop around Precita, where I should just turn around to go the other way up Folsom. Whatever, it’s cool, the windows are rolled down, we’re driving, life is good. I’m borrowing a coworker’s car for a week while she’s out of town. I had grabbed some promo CDs from the office, tried something out called the “Knw-Yr-Own Compilation.” It’s OK, sounds a bit like a lower-case K records, or something. Middle-aged lady in a Subaru pulls up alongside me at a four-way stop, hears  my tunes, sees my Jewfro, gives me a sexy, astonished look. Hey, momma! I take a long pull off the day-old chai I left in the car the evening before. Life is gooooood!

I try to get to Bed Bath and Beyónce for the 2nd time in a week. First time encountered major difficulties. Haven’t learned my lesson. Get so confused and frazzled circling around that SOMA freeway/one-way industrial turning-lane vortex that I actually end up getting on the I-80 East, the on-ramp after which there are no off-ramps until Treasure Island. This is a huge misstep. This is the point at which the playful swishing of ice cubes in one’s glass without regard for droplets sprinkling out now and again becomes a soaking lap full of gin and tonic. Yowch!

I decide to go to Emeryville. Fuck it; I shall lean into the curve. Like all great jazz musicians, I am turing my mistakes into improvisatory innovations. Of course! Ikea is Bed Bath and Beyond 2.0! I’m going to buy a fucking Swedish meatball!

I walk into Ikea and immediately feel alienated. I walk directly to the restaurant and eat a buffalo chicken wrap and a plate of meatballs with gravy. I try to read the Ikea catalog, which makes me realize I hate Ikea and don’t need anything from Ikea. There is a pair of college-age girls nearby, with a half-finished plate of fries in front of them. One of them has polished off a garden vegetable soup, too, from the look of it. They seem like they’re having fun when I sit down, but by the time both of them have watched me furtively, despondently eat my meatballs and dip my chicken wrap into the little tub of bleu cheese, they have fallen silent. I bus my tray.

All I look at in Ikea are the Swedish design books they use for display on the showroom’s bookshelves. There is nothing for me here. I get lost. I start walking very quickly without regard to where I am going, hoping that if I walk quickly for long enough I will arrive at the exit. I end up following a skinny, short-haired woman into one of the bedroom displays. We are in what looks like a film set——a hive of half-built bedrooms. I imagine how I would feel if I turned the corner and saw one of the many young couples roaming the store on this Tuesday afternoon half-dressed and fucking on top of one of the made beds. I would not hold it against them. Go for it, guys!

I end up accidentally stalking the short-haired woman. She picks up a pillow, sets it down, continues walking. I then automatically decide that I am interested in pillows, too, pick one up, put it down, follow after her. Thankfully, eventually, I lose her. I am following the floor-arrows in reverse, walking as fast as I can, searching for the next arrow pointed toward me, (I’m going the wrong way), so I can walk into and against its vector. I pick up a pair of book-ends, carry them for a half-acre, then set them down in a grove of lamps.

When I finally find the exit, proud to have purchased nothing beyond my “early dinner”, I have an urge to buy several hot dogs. Instead, when I hit the sidewalk, I jog all the way to the car. It feels like escape. The self-loathing is strong.

Driving back across the bay bridge, I listen to another promo, the Flaming Lips’ Christmas on Mars soundtrack. It’s not so good, but the bombastic, pretentious alien melodrama soundtrack suits my purposes. I make up lyrics to the instrumentals, glare at other drivers, pick my nose, roll the windows up and down, etc. About halfway across the bridge I spot the Golden Gate. It’s nice to see one major landmark bridge from another. I feel connected. I remind myself of my love for the San Francisco Bay Area. “These bridges are like webs of jizz spinning out from god’s cock,” I think. “Hot spurts of love that connect the people and places I love.”

I make it to B, B & B with significantly less difficulty. Eat a seven-layer bar from Peet’s Coffee. The clerk is ostentatiously more efficient than any of his customers could ever be. He is clearly too smart for his job, and he’s paying way too much attention. He is driving himself insane. I have a bite of the cookie in my mouth before I’ve left the coffeeshop.

Walking in to BB&B, I set off the security alarm. I realize I’ve forgotten to retrieve a shopping cart; walking out of the store a moment later, I set off the alarm again. Same thing as I return with my cart. The security guard is frazzled and good-natured. A new customer enters the store behind me, setting off the alarm.

I make up for my alienated consumerist Ikea panic by buying lots of things in BB&B. As I’m checking out, I see Dodie Bellamy. It takes me a moment to recognize her. We lock eyes as I’m leaving. I hope she doesn’t notice the fucking awesome cutting board in my shopping cart. I want her to imagine that I only eat home-dried apricots, that I am a poet, that I cannot afford a cutting board, or things, beyond apricots, to cut.

Then I drive to Rainbow. I’m breaking the bank. I’m on a shopping spree. I need to stock up the shack. The shack is a bomb-shelter. I buy many, many cans of vegetables. I almost buy a beeswax candle, but realize I’ve gone too far and set it back on the shelf. A Rainbow employee says to a customer, “What are you looking for, Gary?” Gary says, “Where’s ya ghee??” Everyone smiles.

Returning to the car, the sun has gone down. I have to drive home in the dark with my severe night blindness. I don’t kill anyone (that I know of. I often imagine that I’ve probably unwittingly killed several people while driving, that they get silently mowed under my car without my even noticing, Mr. Magoo–style. I’m just tapping along with the cuica on a deafeningly loud Tom Zé song while a newly widowed woman in sweatpants weeps and shakes her fist at my car’s receding ass.) I find a parking space directly in front of my house.