Toronado Fest

If a holiday doesn’t require visiting my family I’m usually unaware that it’s happening, so I didn’t realize it was Valentine’s Day. Celebrating love has never been expected of me as my past relationships have the decency to crumble in early winter and I’ve been allowed to examine February 14th as a major marketing coup by Hallmark which exposes people’s inability to communicate their feelings without prefabricated constructs and popular notions of meaning ala’ roses and chocolates. Okay, I’ve used flowers and chocolates and shitty cards for a variety of purposes, but this always makes me feel cheap and defeated.

Getting ready for work I noticed a crowd gathering across the street, queued up in front of the local alterna-frat bar Toronado. Another extravaganza I had neglected to remember was their annual Barleywine Festival and prospective revelers stretched down the block at ten in the morning waiting for the doors to open. It was a sad sight to behold, this teeming mass of people who had somehow become barleywine aficionados eagerly anticipating participating in an annual event tailored to their specific interests. Conversation wafted up from the street in pleasant tones, easy laughter and light banter. Arguing the merits of their preferred brews and sharing memories of festivals past, no doubt.

Work was work, normal except for my showing up late with my shoulders and neck refusing to unclench. Another exception being an in-store performance by The Master Musicians of Jajouka, a group from Morocco (or having roots there) which plays hypnotic traditional North African music on strange foreign instruments. They had decided to parade into the store and I accidentally on purpose timed a half cigarette to coincide with their arrival. A small group of wizened old men marching down Haight in flowing green garb bleating horns and banging drums, surrounded by cameras and towing a line of curious passer-by, descended and it was a moment of pure, honest joy in spite of the fabrication and the taint of photographers and video cameras. I watched two of their songs before returning to my airless, windowless and tense office.

A very dear friend was spending her last night in town before moving away. Nothing would stop me from stopping by to say goodbye, not fatigue or muscle aches or the very real possibility of rain. There was a message on my machine from the girl I would have been investing cards and chocolates and roses in had she felt the same way about me as I do her reminding me that she would be at work if I wanted to stop by. My evening seemed full and it had been a while since we’d seen one another, the last time being our opportunity to clarify some feelings not shared, so it wasn’t really a priority. When she called again and caught me on the phone she was bored; the evening was dead and complaints were made about the stupid people and their Valentine’s plans passing by.

I was heading to my friend’s when I made the last minute decision to see the girl who was bored at work. We chatted and made plans to actually hang out soon as I had some place to be. She asked me if I had Valentine’s plans and instead of pointing out some seemingly obvious evidence I just left it at no. She passed me a chocolate heart that had been sitting by her things behind the counter. I told her recycling someone’s Valentine on me wasn’t really a nice thing to do and refused. She drew me a bunny rabbit with a dialogue bubble containing three hearts. As we talked she filled the hearts in and I asked why they were black hearts now and she said they were bloody. Indications of dripping were added, then the bunny got a knife and some scars. She held the drawing up to me and said, “Beware”. This was all in her planner so I wasn’t actually allowed to take it but I had a camera in my pocket and I really wish I had thought to snap a picture. I hugged her goodbye and went to see my friend off.

Later in the evening as I dovetailed into an early stupor I heard a skirmish beyond my blinds, some smashing glass and “dude!” and whatnots. The commotion outside the Barleywine Festival seemed to end with a small and hyperactive guy waving his arms in the face of a giant doorman who kept repeating, “I don’t know what’s going on”. I went back to my movie but the sonorous shrieks of irritation continued to violate my privacy and I heard a girl telling someone rather loudly that she was a strong, strong, strong, strong fucking woman and if he had actually touched me he would be fired. I wandered to the roof. The small and hyperactive guy was being pushed towards the corner by a couple of girls while a taller but small friend flipped off the giant doorman and another doorman from a safe distance. The doormen said, time to go, and the friend continued to turn around and flip them off from even safer distances. Hyperactive guy made several attempts to shake off his other friends and attack the doormen while someone pleaded with a cab on the corner to stay. This went on for several minutes until both hyperactive guy and his friend were corralled by force to the cab which decided at the last minute to bail. Hyperactive guy made a couple more attempts to break free once and charge the doormen at Toronado but they had grown bored of the spectacle and drifted back inside. I took their cue and went to bed.

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