People seem to be flipping out more and more these days. This morning I was in McDonald’s for only about 20 minutes, and I witnessed two different ugly, weird scenes.
The first one was, I was waiting on line to order. And just when it came my turn, this guy, this big lug, jumped in front of me.
“You gotta’ wait in line,” I said, stepping in front of him.
I think he did it more out of confusion than from being an asshole. There’s sort of a semblance of a line at McDonald’s, but there are also all these other people milling about, waiting for their orders. So it’s sometimes hard to tell where the line is. At any rate, the guy stepped back. Which was a relief. Because I’ve seen fights break out over less. And like I said, the guy was big. And he was grinding his teeth like he was under some kind of mental strain. Ya’ know? Like he might be drunk or drugged or mentally unbalanced. Or some strange combination of the three.
So then I’m waiting by the front door for my order to be filled. I guess the big lug got into some other kind of complication while he was trying to order his food. Because suddenly he turns from the counter and comes rushing towards me. As he passes me, he lunges at the door with this flying kick. Kind of one of those flying karate kicks. He bashes against the door with the bottom of his boot. WHACK!!! The door flies open and smashes against the wall, and he storms off down the street . . . . No Happy Meal for that guy.
Then I’m huddled in the back corner drinking my dollar large coffee (an excellent deal, by the way). When I hear another commotion coming from the front counter.
“GET OUT OF HERE OR I CALL THE POLICE!!” It was the manager’s voice.
“WELL THEN, FUCK YOU !!! GO AHEAD AND CALL THE POLICE, MOTHA’FUCKA’!!!”
From the sound of his voice — this gravelly, raspy drawl — I knew exactly who it was. Spider. (I’ve known Spider for years on the Berkeley street scene.) I spot him as he’s strutting away from the counter. Doing what I always call “the Jailhouse Walk” — this very distinctive strut where the person walks really jaunty with their chin jutting out and their fists clenched on their sides, like they’re the toughest, baddest asses you ever did see — I can always tell they’ve done a lot of time in prison when they do that walk. It’s mostly a bluff, by the way. I think the scared ones use it to try and bluff off the predators. But one thing’s for sure. Spider’s done his jail time. One of his favorite conversational gambits is to give you a guided tour of the countless prisons and jails he’s been incarcerated in over the years, all across this great land of ours.
I’m sort of hiding behind my cup of coffee, hoping Spider doesn’t see me as he passes by and decides to engage me in conversation. (When we pass each other on the streets, we always push knuckles together as we pass — this sort of manly handshake. Spider likes me, and he’s generally a friendly guy in between fucking shit up). Fortunately, Spider doesn’t spot me. Struts out of McDonald’s and down Shattuck in search of god knows what (one of Spider’s distinctive character traits is that he walks around in a seemingly permanent state of inebriation).
The first time I met Spider I found him more than a little unsettling. He looks exactly like a neo-Nazi skinhead. With his arms and chest (he often struts around bare-chested) covered with tattoos. Including numerous spider web tattoos, including a big one across the side of his neck.
But, as so often is the case with street people, there’s often more under the surface than you’d guess. When I was doing my vending table on Telegraph, I always had a big ghetto blaster for music. And I’d play lots of rock and metal and punk and even rap (when I felt like shaking things up a little). But I’d also play the classical radio station at times. Spider, by the way, is a total music freak. And he’s always drawn like a fly to a light bulb whenever there’s music around. So, of course, he made a bee-line to my table, and stood there, quietly but intently listening to the classical music I was playing.
“That’s Wagner,” said Spider. And he even pronounced it correctly. Vogg-ner. “He’s always one of my favorites, because it reminds me of my Mom. She use to listen to Wagner all the time when I was a kid.” Spider stood there listening to the music with this wistful, faraway look on his face.
“Did you know my Mom conceived me right up there on Durant Street near the Food Court about 40 years ago,” said Spider. “I’ve been hanging out on the Telegraph street scene from before I was even born, man”
Turned out his mother was a Jewish hippie in the ’60s and ’70s. Don’t know about his father. I’m not sure Spider knows much about his father, either.
But the point is, things on the street scene, often things are quite different than they seem on the surface.