My formative years were concentrated on the north-east face of Potrero Hill, so naturally there’s a desire to keep up with what’s going on in the old neighborhood, from the continued defilement of an old warehouse district by infusions of development and cash to whatever news makes the local papers. Unfortunately I’m not in the habit of reading the local paper because the San Francisco Chronicle is, without a doubt, the most offensive major city daily I have ever attempted to digest. Microwaving my lunch in the breakroom at work required a couple moments distraction and the Bay Area section, despite poor writing and questionable preoccupations, proves a more valuable resource than attempting to relate to whatever my coworkers are discussing.
I feel a surge of pride when I see my former stomping grounds gain notoriety. On Friday, according to the Chron, two cops saw their police-brutality case dismissed. Charges had been filed by 76-year-old Raymond J. Miller who accused the officers of excessive-force when they burst into his home:
When officers arrived, Mr. Miller, who appeared to have been drinking, was wearing only swim trunks and watching pornography, according to court testimony. He began screaming and cussing when the officers approached him and then moved toward the officers in a threatening manner, prompting the takedown.
Apparently Miller had insisted his ex-wife cozy up on the couch for some quality time and when she refused he began to to cuss and threaten her, throwing around furniture. She called the cops but the call was disconnected– Miller denies her claim that he wrestled the phone from her. The injury was described by Deputy City Attorney Daniel Zaheer as a “minor chip fracture” and there was no supporting evidence that the damage resulted from Miller’s arrest.
While I’m not excited about two cops wrestling a 76-year-old to the ground, even a 270-pound one, I was wildly ecstatic to see Mr. Miller lived on Texas Street. That’s where I’m from. That means I might happen to know him, and I suspected the guy who lives across the street from my parents. I’ve seen him being arrested before, although without any need for force of any kind, and I’ve certainly seen him not wearing pants.
The House Of No Pants was the single greatest threat to my family’s dominance in lowering the block’s property values. Our house looked like a drug den with cracked paint, a garage door hanging off the hinges and front steps that were rotting out. After my dad totaled his truck it sat in the driveway, engine block disappearing into the passenger cab, for months until reality settled in and he had it towed away. As the 80’s gave way to the 90’s the largely undeveloped Potrero Hill was invaded by lofts, boutique businesses and artist friendly habitats such as coffee shops and Bottom of the Hill. Restaurants replaced the largest liquor store on 18th Street and thrived, crime rates dropped and needles laying on the sidewalk in front of my home were becoming rare. Through this transition my family continued to dwell in our crumbling abode, concentrating on repairing the inside over the years on weekends and summer furloughs.
During highschool new neighbors moved into the building across the street. A Texas Street lifer owned several concurrent addresses on the block and his ex-wife, along with their two children, was taking residence in one a few doors down from him. Papa No Pants was a renowned alcoholic, recovering drug addict and operated exclusively in rent revenue and legal-lite activities. His ex seemed like a normal middle-aged woman who went to work every day and her children were as normal except they had inherited their father’s trait of partial dress. He would often be seen driving a junker Olds around the block with no shirt on– they wore long shirts with no pants. On weekends Mama No Pants would often join her brood in similar attire.
The Boy With No Pants was some years younger than me, scrawny and pale with unfashionable hair. One afternoon, sitting on the rotting front steps of the house, I watched as he followed a line of ants from the front door to a tree on the edge of the sidewalk, spraying Raid along the way. When he reached the supposed source of the insect invasion he emptied the contents of the aerosol around the base, whooping war-cries excitedly the entire time. My sole contact with him was when I got home from work one day and found him sitting in my living room playing my Nintendo. My sister had found him pantsless and locked out after school one day. I said hello, immediately forgot his name, and went to my room to pass out.
The Girl With No Pants was a more fascinating portrayal of odd behavior. She didn’t work or go to school which afforded her late hours mirroring my own. She courted a long line of stewards which resulted in, according to other neighbors, a stunning collection of spent condoms and smashed liquor bottles in the gutter. Her voice was grating and I had ample opportunity to enjoy it as she often had arguments on her cell phone at two in the morning. Sometimes she would sleep in a car in front of her house, opening the door to retch and smoke cigarettes. A collection of broken cars grew and sketchy dudes could be seen pushing them from one side of the street to the other when the street sweepers came. Although we saw each other all the time we never spoke, except for once when I was returning home late at night and crossing the street near her and her hoodrat friend. “Hey, can I borrow a dollar?” she screamed at me. I looked over my shoulder and then turned away without a word. She yelled, “It was a joke” when I started up the steps. She was definitely her father’s girl as he was often found sleeping in cars or working on them for days at a time, had a grating voice and bellowed at all hours down the street.
Time wore on and the family changed. The Boy With No Pants quickly realized upon entering highschool that being a scrawny white kid on the 22 was challenge enough without wearing tiny shorts under long shirts and began to adopt a more hip-hop form a dress, made friends and stopped crawling on the sidewalk warring with ants. The Girl With No Pants ended up pregnant and found her normal routines of drunken sex in cars and fighting with dudes at two in the morning interrupted. Papa No Pants really enjoyed being a grandfather, and while I imagine Mama No Pants had similar feelings she eventually moved away taking The Boy With No Pants with her. The Girl With No Pants remained on the block, moving in with her dad, and as soon as the grub was old enough she began to resume some of her classic pursuits but less emphatically than in years prior.
Between the dismantling of The House Of No Pants and the incarceration of our multiple-felon neighbor a couple doors up, that stretch of Texas is a serene scene. Still, I receive an occasional update from my mom. Upon last report there was a new beau in the picture, one who liked to ride his motorcycle up and down the block at all hours. One evening he was heard in the middle of the street, screaming about poppin’ a cap in someone’s ass. My dad’s deserved reputation for being a unique problem solver (by repeatedly chasing people down the street with a baseball bat/golf club) was dealt a vicious blow by my mother’s restraint and unfortunately we never really got the full story. Well, except that no caps were popped on the block that particular night.
Using the power of the internet I tracked down Raymond J. Miller and was crestfallen to learn he lived several blocks away on the south side of The Hill. I was certain that being wrestled to the ground while watching porn was something I could expect out of my old neighbor, and I’m quite disappointed to learn the truth.