Posted in Commentary

Public art

‘Twas our first day in San Francisco, and after a late lunch of excellent pizza at Uncle Vito’s, Beth and I decided to cable car our way down to Ghirardelli Square because I had noticed that in my 7-day Muni pass there was a coupon for a discount on sundaes at the Ghirardelli ice cream shop. The fact that it was 50 degrees and dropping fast made no nevermind to us. Hot fudge is hot fudge. It will not be denied. So we tooled up and then down the hills of San Francisco as our cable car operator hurled abuse at an elderly lady and any tourist unlucky enough to catch his eye. It wasn’t friendly, amusing abuse; he was just a crabby jerk. I amused myself and Beth by repeating the “Alcatraz” bit from Eddie Izzard’s Dress to Kill, (a bit which is really only funny if you know Eddie, and if you don’t, you’re likely to turn off the video right then, which would be a shame, because you’d be missing out on tons of hilarity). However, Beth has been converted to the joys of Eddie by yours truly, and appreciated the bit as we paused for folks to take pictures at the top of Lombard’s crookedness.

The Ghirardelli ice cream shop was packed with tourists, but we managed to get 2 seats outside and we ate ice cream until Beth’s teeth were chattering; I was half-way through my ice cream when I realized I had forgotten to use my coupon, but decided that I could probably live without the $1.30 it would’ve saved me. We wandered around the square a bit until my foot was tired and begging to be iced and we were ready to head back. Of course, about 150 other people were also ready to go back, so there was a line for the cable cars.

We entertained ourselves taking pictures, talking to the couple behind us who shared their adult-themed fortune cookies with us, and watching the cable car workers turn the cars. I love the car-turning. The turnaround is a clever design that works as well as ever, and I appreciate that. Sometimes the old way is the best way.

Turning the car


We also got to listen to a new busker who actually knew quite a few songs. The old busker, who had been playing when we arrived, only knew 3, and “Stairway to Heaven” was two of them. Little did we know that the entertainment was about to get edgier.

We noticed the man in the ski mask arrive with a buddy right behind. At first we weren’t sure that we weren’t going to be on the national news, but when the buddy started getting his friend wrapped in a straitjacket and chaining him to a lamppost, we figured we were safe.

He started his performance as we rounded the corner, announcing in a loud, practiced voice that he was “Escape Man! Related to the famous Bondage Man of London, England.” Escape Man probably should’ve consulted someone before he committed to that uninspired name. There was something about every dollar he collected going to his college education, though somehow he didn’t really seem like the collegiate type.

After his bombastic introduction, he started writhing, grunting, and pulling against the chains that held him, trying to free himself. Soon, he’d gotten enough slack that he could start moving the chains towards his feet. By the time they’d reached his calves, our collective attention was unexpectedly brought to his costume choices, because the sweatpants he’d worn for the performance had slipped down enough that half his keister was visible.

Soon, he’d fallen backwards to pull his feet out of the chains, giving the relatively captive audience a full view of his full moon. Only in San Francisco can you be standing on line and see a stranger’s bare ass. It was nippy enough at this point that one would’ve thought he’d feel the cool breeze across his bum and hurry to take care of it, but it seemed an endless 90 seconds more before he pulled up his pants and took a bow.

I gave him a buck when he came around with his hat to collect tips; a man shows me his naked butt, I kind of feel obligated.

We had a really great, really fun trip. A few pictures here, if you’d like to see them.



I've been doing some form of creative writing since 9th grade, and have been a blogger since 2003. Like most bloggers, I've quit blogging multiple times. But the words always come back, asking to be written down, and they pester me if I don't. So here we are. Thanks for reading.