Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Hair that Launched a Thousand Votes
So you suckers who either, a) through no fault of your own, don’t live in the Bay Area, or b) through much fault of your own, didn’t come to my gig Tuesday night, missed out on some history.

No, I’m not talking about the music, although it was historically rockin’—in the eloquent words of a drunk guy who will crop up later in this story, “You guys fuckin’ kicked ass!”—the historical event in question actually occurred after we had finished our last set.

Let me back up: as locals already know, San Francisco is embroiled in an occasionally noisy hotel workers strike, resulting in motley crews of locked-out workers marching up and down the sidewalks in front of the hotels, banging on cans and tiredly droning their dogged call-and-response:

“Whaddawe wannh?”

Anyway, the venerable House of Shields, where I periodically ply my craft, happens to be across the street from one of these union-busting robber baron hotels, so our performance was frequently punctuated by the mellifluous sounds of the Unite Here Local 2’s strike brigade (at the beginning of our first set, about 20 people dragging themselves across the sidewalk lethargically and one dude with a microphone).

However, by the time we’d finished our three hours of magical music-making, the crowd of agitators had swelled to 50 or so, and they were unleashing their rhythmic near-English with a vigor not heard since the early days of the strike (last week). Suddenly we (bandmates, friends, Romans, countrymen, C-baby) noticed some commotion outside, including a definite swarm of police presence. I headed outside, where camera crews were hastily setting up while potential miscreants like myself were ushered back on to the sidewalk, and asked a bystander what was happening.

“John Edwards,” he said.

Could this be true, I wondered? Was the real star of the Democratic ticket wasting valuable campaign time visiting our sleepy little uncontested town? Surely, I thought, he should be in Missouri somewhere kissing baby coal miners.

But behold, after several long minutes of extensive security/press/P.R. jockeying, a buzz went up from the picketers, and His Royal Hairness stepped out of one of the giant black sport utility behemoths parked in front of us. I found myself clapping and hooting as he dove into the crowd, even as I thought, “What are you clapping for? He’s not doing anything.”

“Bush!” shouted the fat drunk guy mentioned above. People like that should be illegal here.

(The WULAD News Team has obtained this photo of the event, enlarged to include our protagonist and his significant other.)

“Fuck Bush!” shouted our saxophone player in response, but he was quickly shushed by the crowd, according to the age-old commandment, “Thou shalt not curse in front of a vice-presidential nominee, unless it’s Cheney.”

Meanwhile, the hunkiest candidate in this year’s field (How hunky? You’re lucky I’m straight and you have all those bodyguards, Sweetness!) made his way along the picket line, surrounded by lights, camera, and action, shaking hands and “energizing.” (This quality was beautifully distilled in this week’s Onion.)

And then, as quickly as he appeared, our sweet prince ducked back into his bulletproof Popemobile Jr. and, with a shadowy wave in our direction from behind tinted glass (“He’s waving at us!” I thought, involuntarily jumping up and down), he was gone.

A half hour or so later, as we stood at the doorway saying our farewells and trying to hide the emptiness with which the Golden Boy's departure had left us, a visibly shitfaced white guy in a Phat Farm sweatshirt stumbled down the sidewalk toward us.

“Whazz this shit?” he slurred, waving in the direction of the much-diminished group of strikers, who had returned to their dreary megaphone-mumbling.

“They’re on strike,” I said.

“Uhhn. Ain’t got nothin’ to do with Bush, duzzit?” he drawled.

“No. They’re hotel workers,” said one of our group.

“Cause you know, I’m Bush,”—here he hit his chest for effect—“till the day, I die,” he growled.

“Probably,” I said.