Like a Phoenix From the Flames

A year of the plague took out most

of the Tenderloin dives that had managed

to survive the San Francisco rents,

and it became so I didn’t know

where to drink anymore.


Yesterday I walked the neighborhood

and was surprised to find the doors

of The Outsider at the corner of Geary

and Larkin thrown open to the streets

after months of being shuttered.


I had figured the place was gone for good.


I went inside, a couple

of old men sat at the bar.

An elderly Chinese woman smiled

from the other side, her husband seated

next to her, apparently the new proprietors.


They were glad to have another patron

and gestured me towards a stool as if it

were the finest table at a five star restaurant.


The man was all grins and nods

and his wife jiggled a bit to the jukebox

as if to suggest the party was in full swing.


They asked what I was drinking

and I glanced about but didn’t see

anything on tap and the shelves

just held a few dusty bottles.


I said a beer and she told me

Budweiser or Heineken so I took

the lesser of the evils and she pulled one

from an icebox that sat upon the floor


then danced around some more to show

that things were really happening now,

the husband nodding and grinning.


I went out to the sidewalk

where a table propped open the door.


I sat and watched the junkies

and the crazies and the generally



go about their business

like ants without purpose

as they always have.


When I went back in to pee

even the old men had gone

and the couple asked if I

wanted another and I said no.


They told me to come back in an hour

because that’s when the girls would be there.


I came back in an hour and the girls

were not there, just different old men


and outside the door there was someone

with their pants around their ankles

screaming in dirty underwear

until they tripped over themselves

and fell into a puddle of something bad.


Somebody punched Hank Williams into the jukebox

and it was almost like old times.

What are you looking for?