THE WONDER 500
What happened when 'that infernal racket' was me.
A humor piece I wrote and performed for We Have Questions, a monthly storytelling event at The Second City, in Chicago Illinois. Every month has a theme, this being my response to the question: "What's That Racket?"
In the summer of 2005, I was at work when one of my favorite customers came in, and after a short chat, he revealed that he had digs on a party that night. I gave him a free beer for the tip and started rallying the troops with my flip phone while I closed the cafe. By midnight when I would be locking the door soon, five or six people were waiting for me outside on Haight street, ready to make the short jaunt to Oak and Fillmore.
When we arrived, the party was in full swing. A DJ was in the living room playing deep cuts from the B52's, some weird stuff from Judah Nagler's debut, and the last Spoon album that I or any other sane person ever listened to. I opened a PBR from a half rack that we had bought and did a lap looking for people I knew.
I had lived in San Francisco for about three months. I was pretty new, but my job at the cafe afforded me the ability to meet anyone who mattered who lived in Lower Haight, so I was cool with trading about 50 hours of my week for the privilege. But being even a few blocks from my usual stomping grounds—Oak and Fillmore being nearly in goddamned Hayes Valley—I didn't really recognize anyone in attendance that I hadn't brought with me, but one dude did come over to say hi.
"You're Miranda, right?" he said to me, making a sort of finger-gun motion that somehow didn't look idiotic. I told him yes, that's me. He explained that his roommate Sam and I were friends, and he was Bryan. Like every other party I ever went to in San Francisco, I drank copious amounts of alcohol that night and don't really remember the details, but I do remember being in Bryan's bed in a matter of hours.
It was one of those genuinely excellent one-night stands, like the kind that is somewhat unexpected and so skillfully executed that you comment on it while it's happening. I did precisely that, saying something like, "Wow! You're great at this!" to which he replied, "I know right? Omigod I love you! No wait, that's gross. I don't love you."
A few days later, he came into the cafe on my shift. "Hey, Miranda!" He hollered as he strode toward the counter. I waved and met him there.
"Can I ask you a favor?" He said. Thinking it might be a sexy favor, I folded my arms, cocked an eyebrow, and leaned toward him saying "anything."
"My grandpa in Arizona just died. I have to leave town for a bit. Do you know anyone who would want to sublet my room?"
Now, this was not what I thought he would be asking me, but he was right. I was the exact person to know someone who would want to sublet his room. I had just been there: there was a mattress on the floor, some weird stoner nonsense was drawn all over the walls, and some blood was smeared on the door. It was a hard sell, but I knew everyone within five blocks of Haight and Fillmore between the ages of 18 and 27, so I was sure I could find somebody.
I got off work that night and walked the four blocks home to find my 7 roommates all there and huddled around a flyer that one of them, Milo, was clutching in his hand. We were being evicted--probably for having eight people living in a three-bedroom apartment--but in any case, I texted Bryan that instant and told him I'd take his room.
Bryan dropped off a key to me at the cafe the next morning and promptly got on a plane, but not before reminding me that his roommate, Sam, was in Thailand and was subletting her room, too, meaning that I would be living with people I had never met. But when I got off work that night and looked across Haight street, all the windows in Bryan's place were dark. I was unsure if anyone was even home as I opened the door to the apartment and then my bedroom, but I tossed my bag on a milkcrate, shoved a laundry basket of my belongings in the corner, and crawled into bed. Memory serving, that was the last quiet night we had while I lived there.
In the morning, I met my roommates. Sarah, a Boston transplant via San Diego, and Richard, her brother. They were sharing Sam's room and had teamed up to take care of her dog, a pitbull named Julio, while she was away. And I know you think you know how this story is going to go: I got mauled by Julio or Richard started wearing my panties or Sarah ruphied my PBR--but actually, that night after I closed the cafe found the three of us swilling un-poisoned PBR's in my bed, laughing and carrying on, listening to that goddamned Spoon album.
Some people I knew from the cafe came by: Sally, from 516, Will from 545, and an 18-year-old named Violet who had just lost her room at 555 that day. Sarah and I, who by 2 or 3 in the morning were absolutely best friends, told Violet she could just stay with us. By 4, when we were all properly drunk and stoned, I was halfway onto the fire escape screaming "omigod Sarah I love you!" but upon realizing I'd only actually known her for less than a day, I countered with "wait, no, that's gross. I don't love you," to which we all laughed our fucking asses off.
And that is how we quickly became the most terrible, drunken, oversexed kids on all of the Wonder 500, which, for the uninitiated, is the 500 block of Haight St. We didn't have any loud neighbors or horrible roommates—because we were them.
Most nights, I'd close the cafe and head down to O'Looney's, on the opposite end of the block, to grab a half rack and a pack of Camel Lights, and then go straight home. There were usually at least five or six people already hanging out in my bedroom by the time I arrived. Most nights were like this—a kind of general debauchery involving alcohol and The Buzzcocks blasting as loud as my slight speakers could handle, kids from the neighborhood yelling at my window to throw down my keys, maybe the cops would come. And most mornings I'd wake up with Violet next to me in my bed since we didn't have a couch nor a living room, and maybe a couple other kids were asleep on my kitchen floor. This seemed totally normal at the time, I mean, don't the cops show up at your apartment three or four times a week?
But then there were the worse times.
One night I looked out my window to see my friend Luz across the street in her own window at 528. She was shooting bottle rockets at cars, which I thought was so hilarious that I wanted her to shoot them out of my window, too. A half an hour later, we finally quit having startled several people riding the 71 bus.
Oh, and also because shooting a bus with a bottle rocket is a felony. I know this is true because that's what the cops told me.
Violet, being a bit of a Hibernophile, was known to bring home Irish guys from the slightly-Irish themed bar across the street, Mad Dog in the Fog. She eventually stopped bothering to even go downstairs to pick them up, preferring to just yell at the hot ones smoking outside from my bedroom window. This would lure young lads into my apartment, whom she'd fuck in my bed before I returned home from work. Sometimes they weren't done.
But on the upside: Irish guys always brought Jameson.
To get back at her, I brought home a Dutch guy from a party one night at Sally's house. Her roommate, Jeffrey, worked at Amoeba and was a reasonably popular DJ, so this party was so packed I could barely get inside. But I ran into this dude from the Netherlands who's name escapes me now, and within 15 minutes had placed him squarely in my bed across the street.
Violet had to sleep on the kitchen floor that night. She was pissed.
And once, very memorably in my circle of friends, I heard someone calling my name from outside right around bar time. I looked out the window to find that Malibu —lower Haight's resident crack dealer--was standing out on the sidewalk.
"Hey Miranda," he knew me because everyone knew me, basically, "you gotta let me in, these dudes down the street are shooting at me!"
There are dudes SHOOTING at you? And this is the reason I HAVE to let you in? Even now, that seems insane: that would be the reason we WOULDN'T let him in.
I mean, obviously, we let him in, tho, some guys were shooting at him! Plus, He gave us a dime bag for our trouble.
Eventually, the cops stopped even coming. They'd just shine their spotlights in through my window as the drove by, signaling that it was time to turn my music down. Animal control came and took Julio. Sarah got fired from the Rainforest Cafe and took a job at a bar in SoMa. Violet got a treatable STI that likely spread through all the Irish bars in SF. And by the time Bryan came home? I had 13 parking tickets as I was always too drunk to move my car for street cleaning, and I moved to the Tenderloin. Where I started a gang. Oh-so-cleverly called Team Tenderloin.
Within sixth months Sarah had disappeared. She stopped showing up to her job, deleted her MySpace, and moved out of her new apartment in the middle of the night, leaving her roommates to wonder what the fuck happened.
Violet fucked all our boyfriends, including mine, and stole a thousand dollars from a friend of ours to move back to Arizona and open an essential oils store. That store is obviously out of business now.
Bryan moved to my hometown, Seattle, and just opened a bar in bell town a few years ago. He married a woman who is so stereotypically half-Japanese Seattleite that I frequently wonder why I wasn't best friends with her in high school.
Sally lives in New York and is a curator for an arts organization. I lived in Brooklyn too a handful of years ago. During Hurricane Sandy, which fell on my 31st birthday, Sally and I got so drunk that we spent the evening waxing nostalgic about our reckless days together in Lower Haight while trapped in her apartment in Greenpoint.
And I made it around the world a couple times and ended up in this stage in front of you, here in Chicago, and I'm so grateful to y'all for listening to my ridiculous fifteen-year-old story that I'm thoroughly convinced that I love you.
No wait, that's gross. I don't love you.