Welcome to the Hungry Neighborhood

1 Oct


Upon arriving at an SRO in North Beach on July 1st, I assumed I was leaving behind the interior noise of a hotel housing miscreant behavior. As with the drug addict whose name I’ve blocked from my mind, four doors away, knocking at my next door neighbor’s door at any hour of the morning; when Jose did not immediately answer, she would speak through the door as if the barrier were a mere inconvenience to the conversation she was determined to have. Sometimes Jose would wait a very long time to respond, perhaps hoping she would go away, but in any event prolonging my misery. Of course, miscreant may be too harsh a term. During the course of sixteen months at the St. Clare I met really decent people, people who, like myself, had become unmoored from the stability in life many others take for granted.

The interior of this SRO is quiet. My neighbors are for the most part older Chinese Americans who live peacefully and treat their neighbor with respect. Their children are grown living with families of their own in the East Bay.

Yet, ironically, the noise, although not internal to the building, surrounds it on almost every side. Besides the boisterous camaraderie I hear emanating from the interior of The Basque Hotel restaurant and bar across an alley, the street noise along Broadway is exceptional at times. This is a block with five nude lady businesses on or close by: Little Darling San Francisco, Condor Topless A-Go-Go, Roaring 20’s (with a Play Girl Love byline), Hungry I Club Topless Entertainment, and Garden of Eden (“A Taste of Paradise” just beyond the entrance). Granted, the barkers and occasional show girl standing near an entrance are discreet in their greetings; “hey buddy, come in and relax a little” in a familiarly coaxing manner like your best friend offering a Bud during televised football or your mother tempting you with fresh-baked cookies.

The noise results from the fact that these businesses attract a host of miscreants along the sidewalks, people who will spend half their evening under the neon canopy of the block. They are predominantly male. They don’t always get along with each other.

I cannot imagine a single one of these businesses having an iota of the breathtaking artistry of Crazy Horse saloon in Paris. (For a look at a visually stunning, yet at moments tediously long, documentary about the Parisian pleasure stop, see the 2011 film of the same title, directed by Frederick Wiseman). My own experience by comparison pales. I have seen many go-go boys at small bars attempting gyrations as if unseen hands were moving them through physical therapy following hip replacement. The exception was Splash! in Chelsea, equipped with an actual shower behind the main bar, where the boys always put on a show.

North Beach, though, is a haven of many small quiet blocks. I am glad I arrived.

One Response to “Welcome to the Hungry Neighborhood”

  1. Julia Montrond October 3, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

    Beautifully written David. Julia M.

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