30 May 1999

write from a height

One reason I'm never leaving this overpriced and conceited city is a small open space on the slopes of Twin Peaks called Kite Hill. All of San Francisco looks like it was built for the pleasure of looking out from this bare acre of weeds and crumbly red rock, and that pleasure is accompanied by comfort. The walls of Eureka Valley, patterned with peaked Victorians, enclose the space before you and fortify it against pernicious invaders from the west: fog, post-quake architecture and urban planning, political conservatism. To the east, the bay and the bulwark of Berkeley protect us from everything between here and New York, the other endangered habitat I can tolerate but not afford.

Perching on this scraggy patch is free, and it is endlessly entertaining. Someone's tattered and faded flag of the California Republic is wrapping itself around its pole, silencing its own clatter. Intermittently a hammer resounds through the valley, and there is a three-part counterpoint of white noise as wind sounds in my ear and in the trees while passing cars on Market Street approach, balloon, and taper in haphazard sequence.

A man approaches the bench where I am seated and says as he walks past, "You took my spot."

"Sorry," I reply. Then, because he wasn't being an asshole about it: "There's room for two."

"Do you mind if I join you?"

I move my gym bag to make room; he sits and we both fall silent. Still looking out at the city I size up the sexual opportunity. I don't have anywhere to be for the next several hours, and I don't have any other more abstract commitments to honor. The pause in conversation lengthens to ten minutes, then fifteen, then twenty, to such a length of time that it becomes the conversation, and finally perhaps the sex too. As much as any sexual interlude executed on short acquaintance this encounter has its own insubstantial intimacy. Pleasure has more than one altar: he and I share a desire and its satisfaction, and above all I feel I have found another soul, a fellow traveler, who does not want to watch television.