Thursday, June 13, 2013

Fantasmas de San Francisco: Ricci’s Market Foods

My first household in the foggy city was a flat on the east side of the Mission. It was an all-dude operation. There was Herman (a.k.a. Chaos, a.k.a. DJ Chaos, a.k.a. Punk Rock Herman, a.k.a Chiflas—Spanish for “whistling” since he liked to do just that to chubby chicks with pretty faces or skanky punk rock floosies), Roberto (a.k.a. Robbie, a.k.a. DJ Tozz Grave), and Ace (a.k.a. Hace Frio, a.k.a. Ace of Spades). Our band of hermanos were all in our early to mid-thirties then. Our flat was like a post-frat pad with heavy dabs of punk rock, Latino ska, and reggae/rocksteady to accompany the clouds of Maria Jane that swirled around the turntables in our living room. Their friends dubbed our house “Casa Pacheco”; pacheco is Mexican slang for “stoned,” which is what we often were in that flat, mostly due to the ginormous amount of marijuana that Robbiecito smoked every day, and almost always shared with whoever was around (like me!)

A typical night in Casa Pacheco—weekday or weekend—often consisted of two or three or all four of us hanging out in the living room/kitchen, drinking some beers, passing one of Robbie’s joints around, getting stoney baloney, maybe even rowdy (usually me or Herman), and taking turns playing some musical sets on DJ Chaos’ turntables. We were all fairly godless. The closest we had to religion was good music, potent joints, and greasy Mission burritos. Our altar was our turntables in the living room, The Clash’s London Calling poster looming over us. Sometimes the spirit that infuses everything—the birds chirping outside, the music these musicians created, the joy and emotion their songs would induce within us—would beat mightily within us during those nights. Sometimes DJ Chaos, Ace, and I would stay up past one in the morning on a weeknight, listening to an epic DJ set. Our poor neighbors somehow tolerated us even when Chaos and I would hoot and holler to a song that fit perfectly into the one that preceded it. It was a holy exchange.

During these nights of immaculate stoniness, I would often, of course, get the munchies. I would announce a liquor store run and ask the guys if they wanted anything. We all reciprocated in this way. Being the little ball of energy I am I would sometimes put my fuzzy slippers on and say that I would be back in five minutes. And I would make it back in that time, no matter what I wore. If it was late into the night, it was not unusual for me to already be in my pajama pants wearing my blue bathrobe over it. I would scurry out the door, down the winding stairwell, and then out into the dark night to Ricci’s Market Foods a block from our home. This was like my Latino Duderino act—minus the long hair, goatee, and sunglasses. Once I collected my munchies of choice—Twinkies and Twix with some delicious strawberry Nestle milk to chase it—I would dart back down York Street to our flat. Once I pulled this act a few times—something I never did in Fremont—I got brazen and would stroll over to Ricci’s on the corner of 24th Street and York, hands in my bathrobe pockets with only my chonies underneath. I would parade past the beer-swilling patrons at Pop’s with this great big smirk on my face, my mind lost in the music playing through my iPod headphones (usually The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, or early Van Halen). The Middle-Eastern men who worked and probably owned Ricci’s never paid me any mind.

It was San Francisco, after all.

I was just another nutball in that wacky parade.

Now when I walk or cycle past Ricci’s Market— usually on my way to or from San Francisco General for an oncology check-up—I remember those youthful antics, my Casa Pacheco Bros (especially Herman who bequeathed me with one, if not the most treasured compliment I have ever received when he said, “You’re more punk rock than anyone I know.”), and the craziness we manufactured. Inside I always smile, wrapped in that cocoon of memory. I remember those times with fierce fondness though I could never be that version of myself again.

And thank god for that.

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