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Litquake: the Police Blotter, Barroom Brawl Edition
Bob Calhoun
  After criminal suspects were apprehended and crazed party girls were ejected, I read the blood match segment from Beer, Blood and Cornmeal at this year's Litquake.


I thought they were prostitutes. Now I’m not the kind of guy who thinks that every gal in revealing clothing is out there turning tricks. No, these gals were dirty and drugged out looking. The way they were randomly yet suggestively sashaying in their tight denim shorts on Polk and Hemlock as night was falling made me think that the Tenderloin Districtof San Francisco was returning to its old illicit glories. Even as late as the late 1990s, the neighborhood used to be full of male/transsexual and actual-female prostitutes locked in a consumerist competition for the patronage of carloads of leering creeps. That was before the Tenderloin became the Trendyloinand all of those wine bars started springing up on Larkin. But there were those women on Geary and Larkin looking all crazy. One good stock market crash and the prostitutes were back.

I was there for a reading at the Hemlock Tavern. It was part of Litquake,San Francisco’s annual literary festival. It was crowded in the Hemlock’s back room. I was surprised. I’m always surprised when people show up to readings, even now. Yes, that’s a stupid thing to say as an author. You mean that somebody’s going to speak and Chris Jericho isn’t going to come out and hit them with a steel chair in mid-sentence? Amazing.

People kept on crowding into that back room. Right before the reading was about to begin, about three or four uniformed police officers walked in. That was a shocker. Somebody they were chasing had tried to duck out into the Hemlock’s backroom. The cops asked me to move out of the way in case he caused any trouble. He didn’t but that was already more excitement than you usually get out of your usual literary event.

Just as things were starting to calm down, those suspected prostitutes strolled in and took some seats. “Rad,” I thought to myself, “the hookers are here for the reading.” Michelle Richmond, author of the NY Times bestseller Year of the Fog, went on first. She was doing a really funny riff on Sarah Palin. All America’s doing a funny riff on Sarah Palin but Richmond’s was better than most. Unfortunately, the hookers wouldn’t stop acting up. They were laughing amongst themselves and going into convulsions. It was then that I realized that these weren’t in fact whores, but they were nothing more than the flotsam and jetsam leftover from the previous Saturday’s Love Parade. Just some wayward raver chicks (or whatever they’re called now – I’m getting old) who couldn’t bring themselves to go home even by Thursday.

Alan Black (author of Kick the Balls, emcee of the evening and the man behind just about the SF lit scene as we currently know it) finally took command of the situation and attempted to toss the girls out. “That’s a dangerous situation,” I thought, “women, they bite.” But Alan easily shepherded the gals out of the room. All of his years as a bartender at the Edinburgh Castle came in handy. He returned to cheers; Alan the Conqueror. “That was a rush,” he announced, “It really made me want to be a bouncer again.”

Alan Black
Alan Black, fresh from tossing out rowdy dames, rallies the crowd at Litquake on October 9, 2008.

Richmond concluded her piece with a composure lacking in her subject matter. I went and tore into a reading of the section of Beer, Blood and Cornmeal about when The Cruiser and the Oi Boy decided to start hacking each other to bits with razor blades in New Jersey. Some of the lit crowd seemed to be on edge by this but Ron Turner of Last Gasp said “Spirited reading! Spirited reading!” Sylvie Simmons, the goddess of heavy metal journalism followed me and read a piece where the main character didn’t like the fingers of bass players. This made me look at my hands a lot.

Jack Boulware, Alan Black, Beth Lisick, David Henry Sterry, and Mickey Disend followed that. Sadly, there are no more disturbances to report.

2 Comment count
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That you know of.

Max, Heather, and I all had a good time that night, too. But just because you have nothing further to report doesn't mean nothing happened. ;-)

You're right, though—Polk Street, which never completely shed its seediness even during the boom, seems to be sinking again. I kinda liked it better in the mid-'90s too.

Huntington Sharp, Red Room

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A lot happened, just no more

A lot happened, just no more disturbances -- at least no more random ones.