Skip to content

Runnin’ Around With The Rag-Top Down

“Gonna drive to Atlanta, live out this fannn .. ta .. sy” – Gillian Welch

I wasn’t thinking a rag-top, but this was the general plan: head south and do some charity work. Maybe rent a muscle car and play the out of town asshole. I checked out Habitat For Humanity and several others, and had the loose idea to teach writing in Georgia or Louisiana or some such spot. I know California, I know New York City. The south was the third piece of my personal puzzle. These plans were derailed by way of Wuhan, but things are opening up a bit now. It may require a vaccine passport and selling a bit of my soul but hey, I pursued British citizenship a while back for similar purposes. “Willie tells me that doers and thinkers say ‘movin’s the closest thing to being free.’ ” And all that good stuff. The South will rise again whether I ever do or not. That’s the thing about plans, they tend to change. You can head down to the station with a suitcase in your hand but best to have no expectations. That’s four somewhat obscure song lyrics before making it out of the first paragraph. A sure sign of lazy writing.

At least it’s writing. And at least it’s still Il Pollaio, my favorite Argentinian grilled chicken spot, operating on Columbus Avenue in North Beach. They’ve apparently now got a sister outlet in the Mission as well. And here I thought this pandemic would be the end of all that was familiar. Turns out to be a force-multiplier. I stuck my head in last week for the first time in over a year and my waitress asked where I’d been. “How long you been open?” I asked, and she looked at me strangely. “Long time,” she said, “I thought you left town.” Sure they’ve been “open” for takeout and sporadic outdoor seating but everything seems to operate in degrees these days. On this particular day there was an available indoor table so I walked in and pointed to the courtesy mask on my face, asking “Will I need this?” “Only walking to your table or the restroom,” she explained. Makes perfect sense. I can sit with fellow maskless diners, yacking away in this tiny hole in the wall bistro. But something about rising to my feet signals viral danger.

No worries, though. I’m fully vaccinated (though I refuse to brag on it or list it in personal ads profiles.) I’m no kid anymore, so I went with the “I’m no kid anymore” reasoning. This train of thought basically asserts that you’re more at risk from a lab-leaked Chinese virus than you are from a largely untested vaccine. But it’s a personal choice, at least for now. Can I see clear to not calling those who would balk at getting their five-year-old vaxxed selfish conspiracy theorists? Of course I can, but I’ve always been a little rough around the edges. A “plucky contrarian” according to one friend this week. I was quite satisfied with that until a few days later, when listening to Christopher Hitchens comment on the word in an interview. He was objecting to the title given one of his books by a publisher — “Letters To A Young Contrarian.” He said the word is often used in the same vein as “eccentric uncle” or “colorful kook.”  He also pointed out that we are in desperate need of real contrarians these days. (And this interview was quite a while back, as evidenced by the fact that he wasn’t dead yet.)

So I’ll take “contrarian” in light of the likely alternatives (“crank”, “asshole”, etc.) Maybe I can combine it with my delayed Dixie sojourn and write my memoirs. “Southern Contrarian” has a nice titular ring to it, inaccurate as it may be. These days, I seem to be testing my few remaining friendships left and right, but like my vaccine-reasoning I’m going with being the better of two self-determined personal evils: jerk or phony. (There’s another book title.) The chicken was a bit dry, and I’m chalking it up to the young, tattooed woman, womaning the grill. Il Pollaio has always had male chefs anchoring the cooking nook, usually south-American ones. Maybe they’re stretched thin, given the pandemic and new location in the Mission. I’m perfectly willing to give the young lady a chance, but it’s always been a “do one thing and do it right” kind of spot. After the chicken there isn’t much left, save questionable chops, fries and salad. All things in time.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *