Except THERE ARE
NO COINCIDENCES. The other day I’m walking down 18th Street in San Francisco and my eyes slide across one of those telephone poles that are always tattered with paper signs like LOST DOG. (You know the ones I’m talking about). Except instead of LOST DOG, this telephone pole has a paper 8 ½ x 11 sign that says: THERE ARE NO COINCIDENCES. Beneath the sign sits a deflated kiddie pool the color of cantaloupe. I stop to read the sign twice. Then I look down at the kiddie pool. The telephone pole, the sign and the deflated kiddie pool appear locked in one of those arguments that can outlive eternity. (You know the kind I’m talking about). THERE ARE NO COINCIDENCES.
Can you hear
me? Hey! Three passersby toss me a tight-lipped glower.
But I still want to know. The man I’m yelling at is short and stocky, wearing tan shirt and trim, burgundy suspenders. The man is carrying a large, foamcore ear hoisted up over his shoulder. The ear is pale and varnished to a sparkle.
Hey. I yell to the man, as he moseys on down the block.
Hey! The man doesn’t break his stride. I yell again.
Hey! Sir! Guy with the big ear! Hey!
Hm. Oh well. I shrug, giving up.
I guess he just didn’t hear me.
There, you can almost
smell it, a forbidding odor of reacted polyvinyl chloride overlaying the typical San Francisco mélange of piss, marijuana & bacon-wrapped fog. Across the Bay in Napa and Sonoma a legion of firefighters have sprayed recordbreaking tons of flame retardants and still have yet to halt the 21 wildfires.
It was 22 fires, Lisa says, but then two of the fires merged. 21. So at least that’s something, right?
It’s all because of those Diablo winds, Lisa tells me, winds strong enough to push down a power line, tease out a spark, spread it over acres of dry grass. Boom. The brush starts burning, the hills start burning. I think of Joan Didion’s essay on the maleficence of the Santa Ana winds. Didion: “To live with the Santa Ana is to accept, consciously or unconsciously, a deeply mechanistic view of human behavior.”
Walking next to me are two gray-haired male smokers, sucking on their filters with pucky lips & evident delight. She told me, she says: I keep having these bad relationships, why is that, and I tell her, I say: April, don’t you think there might be a bit of a pattern here? I mean for Chrissakes, you only ever date drug-addicted sculptors! Do you ever wonder about that? And you know what April says? She goes: Nuh-unh! That’s not true! I mean, the last guy was an alcoholic metalworker! The two smokers start cackling, hacking, cackling. They don’t seem to mind the burnt chemmy smell.
Across the street, a row of plastic skeletons hang in the window of a crêperie, anticipating Halloween. No one in San Francisco is going to tell a crêperie to take down its Halloween skeletons, just because of 21 wildfires killing dozens of people across the Bay. But today the skeletons in the window seem quite the Poeish macguffin, a macabre image destined to dangle for years from the closet ceilings of my memory.
make me one with everything
is the punchline to a joke in which the buddha orders a hot dog.
remembering the buddha’s smug grin in my imaginary picture of this punchline makes me recall that since becoming a noneater of meat products there is only one time i have felt tempted by a hotdog:
detroit, 2014: summer, i am visiting dylan from iowa and sitting at cafe d’mongos. because it’s friday at d’mongo’s, the the only thing on the menu is brazilian hotdogs.
not only am i hungry but i have been drinking brown liquor with dylan and so am extra extra hungry. finally i break down and order two buns with condiments: thousand island dressing and banana peppers and chunks of whatever relish cafe d’mongo’s has decided is brazilian.
eating two buns plus condiments will make you want a hotdog in a very non-zen style of wanting. it will make you want a hotdog more than you ever thought a hotdog was wantable.
the only reason he’s smiling, i think, bitterly about the buddha, the only reason he’s smiling in my imaginary picture of this joke’s punchline, is because he got a fucking hotdog.
he got the one. all i got was the everything.
Elizeya Quate is a loosely self-affiliated schema of nouns written in the Bay Area. Raised in Tenleytown DC, Quate’s first book The Face of Our Town (KERNPUNKT Press, 2016) is a fun series of interconnected stories about the serious fun of interconnectedness. @elizeyaquate