a map of san francisco
(words as pushpins)
The official draw of Philz coffee is that it is some of the most potent coffee in town. Phil himself urges you to take the first sip immediately so that he can carefully study your reaction.
The unofficial draw is that Phil, an older, distinguished Turkish man, is an avid womanizer and his personal dramas unfold themselves out in the coffeehouse like a stageplay. When I was last there, a woman was standing by the counter and exclaiming with her hands: "This man has broken my heart!" She was also eyeing all of Phil's counter girls: they seem to change every week and are inevitably young waifs who seem down on their luck.
I always ask Phil to make me my coffee. As he was ringing me up, the phone rang. He answered and started nodding sympathetically. I can hear him whisper soothingly into the phone: "No, no... You're a strong woman. Yes....Ok, why don't you come by and see me this afternoon.."
Remember, this is where I was that night when we lost each other. Your friend Mira didn't recognize me at first. I told her I'd be wearing a black velvet coat on top of a black t-shirt. Reverting to my anxious young days of a high school Goth. It was dark and she must have confused me with a shadow.
The bands were playing in the tiny back room. Wild, loud, crazy music that reminded me of when me and Tom used to sit in his room in college and play the Sex Pistols at indecent volumes. This is the place in the city to see bands in their youth, playing loud, screaming with energy. The band that got us going was Radio Vago (they flayed like muppets). We stayed and dance longer than we intended. Restlessly I went looking for you, in every shop and bar. I found you later, sulking quietly with your cat-like eyes in the back booths of a dirty establishment.
cafe la boheme
Aging latin american revolutionaries. Salsa dancer gentlemen with their careful suits and tucked handkerchiefs. Chess players who look like they sleep in the street. A language tutor reciting Italian phrases. Medical students with their shuffles of paper, their tired gaze . Dancers from the dance studio next door waiting for their ride. Arguments about Central American politics. A couple girls with purple hair. I am here to order an espresso.
This is cafe la boheme. Sitting at 24th and Mission, a true cultural crossroads where bible-wielding zealots yell at commuters. Latin music blares out of windows and Chinese restaurants double as donut shops.
Secrets (left as notes in my pocket) told me that the food, the experience would have that flow of a smooth dance, those invisible transitions and discarded time-sense of a settling twilight. I went with MB there for her birthday. I told her how much her presence had become a vital sensation, this tangible treasure in my life.
We shared Manhattans and got stinking drunk. By the end of the night we had forgotten our sense of time; we had misplaced anything outside of the immediate moment. As when you lean forward in the middle of a garden and surprise yourself with the frenzy of the ants or the thinly veined leaves of a wildflower.
hotel biron wine bar
This was the secret hideaway. On the way there, I pulled you out of the path of a car.
A small cavern that feels like you have stumbled on an underground affair (I'm still looking for a place like the one in Paris, where we stumble through tunnels in the middle of the night and emerge on a hidden cinema...there is a place like that in San Francisco but I won't reveal it so casually.) I am trying to compile a list of refuges.