In the evening Fillmore is a strange conduit. From Lower Haight it runs downhill to the McDonalds on Golden Gate in all senses. In the drive-through the rims are more important than the car, and a former self recognizes the mood. In Poughkeepsie in the year two thousand we’d walk to a drive-through like this. Open all hours, unlike the interior, it served fifty nine cent cheeseburgers on Tuesdays. In the dark we’d surprise the staff, catch them chatting to each other. Without headlights we were invisible, though rarely quiet.
“Twelve cheeseburgers,” we’d request, having pushed the button and counted our change. Some days twenty five.
In San Francisco at two am I wonder what the staff of this McDonalds would say to a walk-up drive-through customer. And I wonder how much cheeseburgers cost on Tuesdays.
Fillmore heads up again, into a neighborhood of concert halls and Karaoke boxes, of Asian chains and bars I’ve never heard of anyone going to. Jazz and hip hop alternate, and on the corner women in shiny dresses complain about their heels to men in suits. Other groups of women complain about men to their friends in similarly spiked shoes. The men wait for cars, or wait in their cars, stereos adding to the neighborhood’s dull background throb. To the right a Panda Express sign winks out, the last workers shutting down.
Up still farther Fillmore runs into Geary, destroying any pretense of the small livable avenue. On the corners sit The Fillmore, famed venue to moderate stars of a likable nature. Ani will be back later this year the posters tell me. I will be in Shanghai. Opposite an establishment called the Boom Boom Room sounds correctly named. This is the end of my walk, this is where the 38 stops on its way out of downtown towards my foggy neighborhood.
Here at the top a hill and of Fillmore’s rise, just west of Geary’s peak, we wait for the bus and watch women doing likewise try to avoid the bus stop’s permanent tenants. Each time here I wonder about the Boom Boom Room, which doesn’t seem unappealing. At two am the club may perhaps have worn out the evening’s excitement, covered it up with cheap vodka, and pushed it out with continuous beats. I ponder this and watch silently, content to let the dapper post-club crew make large of their status as the most appealing conversation in the vicinity. A woman in heels is grateful for their attention. Behind her the man who’d been extolling his history with the piano shoves off, slightly too hard, from the bus stop’s shelter and staggers into the wall. From its exterior decoration the Boom Boom Room’s brick is accustom to this treatment.
On the bus out I am surrounded with chatter and games, the joy of the evening made mobile in small groups of friends. I hear stories of skateboards and girls, I hear stories of boys and first dates. The city is alive on late night busses, everyone slowly separating out into the neighborhoods of quiet housing, separating at the end of the evening.
This, I think, my companion asleep on my shoulder, is why we live in a city, why we love walking home late at night. Because we aren’t alone, and our stories may not be the best.