Where you from?

Having lived in Los Angeles’ Koreatown (where I famously stepped over a fresh dead body), it’s unnerving to be asked: “Where you from?” and even stranger still to answer.

Even now that I’ve moved out of the Mission and into a nicer area, an area with windswept trees and spectacular views, I still flinch.

Anniversaries

A little over a year ago I took a chance on love and haven’t looked back since.

Hunter’s Point: Where Gully Happens™

After going to a couple of bars and dancing with my roommate I decided to meet up with a friend of mine at another bar. By then I was sufficiently toasted and was simply wandering from spot to spot not really aware of the scenery. Before I knew it, I was in the backseat of a cab.

I rolled down the window and got some fresh air and it occurred to me that we were going through a part of San Francisco I’d never seen before. “Yo where the fuck are we?” The cabbie explained that he was taking us to Hunter’s Point based on directions that someone scrawled on a napkin. My eyes widened; I sobered up immediately. “Are you serious!?! No cabs go out there, how do you expect us to get back? We’re gonna get fucked!” My friend was able to calm me down and eventually I resigned to the fact that I’d soon be robbed blind and left for dead.

A bit about Hunter’s Point. It’s located in the extreme southeastern part of San Francisco, strung along the main artery of Third Street from India Basin to Candlestick Point. The boundary to the west is Interstate 280 and to the south Highway 101. The entire eastern portion of the neighborhood is the San Francisco Bay and the former naval base of Hunters Point. Most of it is landfill from the Bay. Pizza delivery services refuse to go near it. The city stopped allowing hybrid MUNI buses to service HP because hoods would do stickups by flipping outside emergency switches that instantly shut-off all power to the buses. Two-way radios would die, all the lights go off, and if the bus was climbing a hill, it’d start rolling backward.

Don’t get me wrong. Hunter’s Point is still not Camden. No one that I could see was cooking rats over a burning oil drum. Young boys weren’t perched on rooftops flipping pigeons. Crackheads resisted pressing their faces against our glass at lights.

Were some of the houses we passed trap houses? Probably. Did it seem like we only made rolling stops and right-turns? Yes.

I sunk lower into my seat, hoping to pass off as a Puerto Rican.

Eventually we turned onto a long dirt road and about a hundred yards in we see a huge cattle gate type entrance with barbed wire on both sides. This was it. We pay the cab driver almost double for his troubles (hazard pay) and hop out. A guy in a hoodie slowly walks up to us and asks us if we have our tickets. We tell him no. He sounds sincere when he informs us that the party is sold out and he can’t let us in, but my friend pulls out two fresh twenty dollar bills. No go. We up it to 60. 100. He shakes his head. This isn’t even the doorman! This is just the guy that hangs out by a cattle gate! Reality eventually sunk in and we realized that no matter what we tried, we wouldn’t be getting in to that party. I looked back into the darkness and saw the cab disappearing, headlights sweeping as it turned on to the main road.

I don’t think I’ve ever run that fast in my life. Our legs became blurry ovals.

Fortunately we were able to flag down the driver. We told him the news, and eventually he took us to Mighty and I danced some more and went home.

What I kept thinking about, even now in my hungover state was the cattle gate man. He could have taken the money. No one would have known. They would have probably turned us away at the door but he would have gotten paid and we wouldn’t have said shit because he was huge. So why? Why not just take the 100 dollars? 

I thought at first maybe it was this innate sense of discipline. You don’t hire guards, good ones anyway, that are subject to outside influence. They have a very simple job to do, and there are no exceptions. I could accept that theory.

My second theory was that maybe he felt sorry for us. He knew we’d get turned away at the door, with our cab driver long gone and marooned in the ghetto.  Maybe there were roving bandits just past the gate and he was feeling particularly magnanimous. This is where kids threw an old chinese lady off the Muni platform. Hunter’s Point: Never not gully.

But my final theory, and I think the most compelling, is that he was honor-bound to preserve the hype. That’s how these things work. Legendary parties, the ones you hear stories about, are all cloaked in secrecy and exclusivity. That’s why even lame clubs have velvet ropes. Did this party have a vintage stock of top shelf women? Probably not. Maybe there wasn’t ant hill-sized mounds of coke on platters. Maybe it didn’t really go ‘til eight in the morning. The truth is you never know.