Wednesday, December 03, 2003

The Two Most Interesting Freaks I Saw Yesterday
Belle reminded me that I failed to mention in my earlier post the two Polk Street denizens who each had profound effects on me and my nose during the brief time their stars shone brightly in the sky of my life.

The first: I'm walking up Polk toward Victor's Pizza, through the fairly funky stretch of that street as it passes through my neighborhood (anecdote: guy walks up to me and says, "Which way is the good part of Polk St.?"; I thought, "Good as in gourmet food, or good as in transsexual prostitutes?"); suddenly I feel my nostrils spasm as I detect an awful stench. I look down and see a scruffy, mumbling man crouched on the corner, his hands agitating a big sack of what look like decomposing animals. A woman from the crêpe restaurant-by-day/Korean nightclub-by-night storefront in front of which he's set up shop looks on helplessly, no doubt trying to figure out how to get him to move his project elsewhere. I pick up the pace to try and put some distance between my nose and this tableau, and as I pass a group of skater kids I hear one of them say, "Did you see that guy? He's selling rotten onions!"

The second: as Belle and I are sitting a few blocks east, drinking beer at a watering hole known for its preponderance of Elvis Costello and Tom Waits look-alikes, I suddenly see a scrawny arm (I know, I have no room to judge) in front of my face, accompanied by a voice shouting, "Excuse me, could you smell this?" I look up to see a skinny art school kid, and quickly get out of the way to let Belle handle this one. She does so admirably, and the two spend the next few long minutes talking about their shared love of the printing press while I think about how I might get home without subjecting my sinuses to another pass by Ye Olde Moldy Onion Shoppe. But our friend and his cargo had moved on, perhaps to a happier place, where everyone is anxious to buy rotten vegetables and smell each other's arms, late into the Polk Street night.