Shut Up, Little Man!

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Neighbors Little Bit Loud — Moving into the Pepto Palace

The Sauce-mobile
without Automatic Sauce Pilot

I awakened on the floor of my friend Tori's apartment in the upscale Marina area of San Francisco. I had only moved to San Francisco four weeks ago, but I had drank enough for twice that long - and not one of the nights of excessive drinking had been as vicious as the one the previous evening. I looked at the clock; it was 10:40 AM. We were going to be late. I struggled to get up and find the phone. I needed to call my future roommate, Mitchell D., to make sure that he could pick me up immediately. We had to make our appointment to view a possible apartment. My hands were shaking, but I managed to punch in the numbers. Someone answered in a creaky half-drowned voice and said that they would 'try and find Mitch.' Minutes later Mitch came on the line: “Hello?” “Hey, man, it's Eddie Lee. It's late. We have about 15 minutes to make the appointment for that place in the Lower Haight.” Mitch was incredulous: “Shit! All right, homeboy, I'll jump in the Sauce-mobile and see you in like 10 minutes.” The Sauce-mobile was Mitchell's black Chevy sedan. It was endowed with magical homing powers; no matter how boozed we found ourselves, it miraculously navigated us home safely. As a Christmas present to Mitch, I actually bought a little switch at a hardware store and typeset the words “Automatic Sauce Pilot” on a label that I stuck on the face of the gadget just below the switch. Mitch fastened the switch to the dash of the vehicle. Whenever we got sauced to the gills, he could throw the Automatic Sauce Pilot switch, and the Sauce-mobile would shuttle our juiced asses all the way home with unction. The previous evening we had made use of the switch. It was a good thing too.

My head was pounding and my stomach was unsettled and queasy; it felt like I had a live electric eel attempting a jailbreak from my belly. I walked gingerly toward the bathroom, threw some water on my face, and looked up into the mirror. Tori's roommate, Stacey, was a helpless neurotic and had taped little pithy self-help sayings all around the apartment and inside the refrigerator. The one on the bathroom mirror said: “You are a beautiful and ecstatic Goddess!” I read the note and looked slightly to the left at my pale face; with the dark hangover circles around my eyes I looked less like an ecstatic Goddess and more like a ravaged Gothic raccoon.

I heard the horn beeping outside Tori's, so I made my way for the door. Mitchell looked as bad as I felt. That made a lot of sense - I had matched him tequila for tequila the previous evening. He told me that he thought he may have thrown up some time during the night at his friend's house. I asked him if he had made it to the bathroom. He said he didn't want to talk about. We laughed a little at what we had done to ourselves, even though the laughter hurt our heads.

landlord letter
Landlord letter to
Pete and Ray

The Sauce-mobile revved across town, and we glided into the Lower Haight district. We were meeting the landlord, a woman named Nancy Lee, at the apartment. We found Steiner Street rather easily and then slowly scanned the addresses on a series of handsome Victorian homes. “Wow!” I pondered, “How great would it be to move into one of those classic San Francisco homes?” However, the numbers kept ascending until the address we were looking for - number 237 - finally came into view on the facade of an imponderably ugly boxy hovel immediately adjacent to one of the Victorians. 237 Steiner Street. The building was painted in a discolored chalky pink, the color of Pepto-Bismol. Which, frankly, sounded good right about then, as the hangover eel turned over a few more times in my stomach. I guess when you are considering moving into a place that looks like a giant box of Pepto-Bismol, you should be prepared for some sick shit.

A diminutive middle-aged Asian woman came running out of the gated entrance and greeted us. “Mitchell? Eddie?” We nodded. My head was pounding hard. I went to speak but my mouth was so dry, that the words came out muted and half-strangled: “Hmm. . .glaob miggrun.” Flashing back to the face in the Goddess mirror, I thought to myself: I would never rent to a prospective tenant sumbitch that looked as devastated as I do this morning. Nancy was really wiry and spoke in stilted English, but with machine gun velocity. She seemed unusually nervous and sped up like someone who breakfasted on diet pills and Pepsi. We walked through the heavy iron security gate that acted as a front door, and Nancy Lee led us down the long cement walkway at the base of the building and up the back stairs. (Later, I realized that she did this deliberately so that we would avoid the human skull staring out meancingly from the window of Apt. 3.)

Mitchell and I stumbled into the place and took a quick look around. Two bedrooms -- okay. Little kitchen - okay. Decent-sized living room - Fine. Bathroom - Great. There were bars on all the windows (even though the place was on the second floor). That made me almost think for a second, but thinking hurt too much. While we did the brief walk-through, Nancy was racing around behind us, jabbing her finger in pointing motions and barking out what she must have thought were selling points: “Clean carpet!”