Monday, August 21, 2006

Bibliophiles Seek Kitsch

John and I have the perhaps unfounded notion that it is possible for us to work on our dissertations together at local cafes. It is true that we have done something of the kind in the past, with reasonable success. So far, however, we have had only marginal success here.
On my birthday, we had plans to meet in Berkeley in the late afternoon. Since neither of us have cell phones here, and various family obligations on John's part took up surprising amounts of time, we both left several messages with my mother before getting together at some point in the evening, when we were more hungry than interested in our dissertations.
We then thought we would meet in San Francisco and work for awhile before making a trip to City Lights to explore its surrealist offerings. Some work was indeed accomplished, but between my thinking I had left behind the book I wanted to work from, and John having failed to charge his battery or bring his laptop cord, we were only moderately productive.
Before heading for City Lights, we embarked on a neighborhood search for San Francisco goods to send to John's Slovenian relatives, whom he met at a recent reunion. It was not difficult to find acceptable T-shirts, but the amazing variety of kitsch available along Mission provided us with hours of unwholesome fun. I was very disgruntled that I had left my camera on his bedroom floor. At some later date I will have to do a series on 1) animated, lighted scenes of San Francisco Bay, usually in clock form; 2) blinking lights on religious figures; 3) bespectacled Chinese athletic figurines; 4) glowing figures with flapping wings. Well, there is far, far, more. Mission around 24th St. BART is the land of kitsch emporia, embracing pretty much all races but a little short on Jewish and Muslim kitsch compared to Christian and Buddhist. We were in an altered state and had to be revived with burritos. Only then did we have the strength to tear ourselves away and catch the bus to North Beach.
Admittedly, we did not take the bus all the way there. Since no bus came along while we were on Broadway, John assured me that a walk through the Broadway Tunnel would provide a unique sonic space. (Musicologists are always saying this kind of thing to me about noise pollution.) It is true that I had not previously been a pedestrian in the Broadway Tunnel, and I do like to explore new places, or familiar ones from new perspectives. You could, I suppose, argue that the highlight of the walk was when a bicyclist repeatedly rang her bell at us so that she could pass. The bell had a climactic sound to it.
It had been quite a few years since I had gone to City Lights. My excuse is that I don't get to North Beach much anymore. In fact, it has been so long that the Condor, famed for the stripper Carol Doda, has been turned into a fish restaurant. I really didn't think that was acceptable, even though Carol Doda is probably in her dotage by now. Somewhere in my postcard collection I have a card of Ms. Doda. I'm not sure where I acquired it, as I never attended her show. Perhaps it was handed to me outside the door.
Anyhow, City Lights looked much the same as when I last stepped in: lots of books, and several customers leaning on the counter discussing film with the staff. John immediately joined them in discussing something or other, while I scanned the surrealism section. Since I rapidly picked out several titles I felt were required for my dissertation, I declined to look around the rest of the store. When one has just bought a new laptop with accessories, paid for 24 hours and more of intensive veterinary care, and bought a relatively expensive transatlantic plane ticket, the last thing one needs is to drop a few hundred dollars on books. John felt the same way, so we fled before we could be so tempted. An evening of avant-garde and folk music videos followed by Repo Man finished off the day. (I had seen Repo Man before and was surprised when John assured me I was the only one of his friends who would put up with its adolescent humor. Somehow I thought he had a wider acquaintance than that.)
Incidentally, has anyone else found that Blogger has been extraordinarily slow and temperamental lately?


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