Vonn Vs. The Trombone! (Weekly Photo Challenge: An Unusual POV) (Weekly Writing Challenge: Backward)

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Good Evening:

…but as I disembarked, the 40ish woman with shoulder-length curly black hair said, “It would be nice if I could look like Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs when I needed it.”

Perhaps I should back up a bit and start over.

First, a caution: this is not just another post inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge, this is also my first post inspired by the Weekly Writing Challenge: Backward. My story might seem a little confused. For the sake of my fellow photographers, the photos represent “An Unusual POV” in that they represent examples of what I call The 30 Shot, with my camera held low to the ground. For the sake of my new fellow writers, both this story and many of my more recent pictures deal with the same theme, homelessness in San Francisco, an appalling problem even in, especially in, America’s boomingest boom town, and I will write more on this anon.

Incredibly, this is the misogynist belligerent drunk who harassed women on the 6-Parnassus, which inspired my blog post, "I Meet Clark Kent--Yes, That Clark Kent--on the 6-Parnassus."

Incredibly, this is the misogynist belligerent drunk who harassed women on the 6-Parnassus, whom I removed from the bus with the aid of a man who looked exactly like Clark Kent, which inspired my blog post, “I Meet Clark Kent–Yes, That Clark Kent–on the 6-Parnassus.” The drunk did not recognize me–too drunk.

To get back to the story.

For several weeks, the area of the Haight near the intersection with Divisadero had served as the home of The Trombone. The Trombone was a white male mentally ill homeless person who roamed the streets day and night, screaming at any women who happened to get too near. The Trombone had only two possessions: the clothes he wore, and an old tarnished slightly dented trombone. I cannot tell you if he ever knew how to play the instrument, all I know is that he would produce sounds roughly akin to the South African vuvuzela at high volume after midnight. Either that, or scream at the streetlights or whatever displeased him.

One fine evening, I approached the bus stop at Haight & “Diviz” to await a downtown bus so I could attend a theater event. I knew The Trombone lurked nearby–he was screaming as usual. I did not at first realize that he had a target.

She stood about average height, about 45 years old, with curly black hair extending down to her shoulders. She had dress for a semi-formal evening, perhaps a date, with black mid-calf dress, stockings, open-toed black shoes. The Trombone stood holding his trombone in his left hand with his face maybe a foot directly in front of hers, screaming at her. She hugged her purse (black patent leather, gold chain) tightly to her chest as her shoulders hunched up and her face pointed straight down.

[Optional reading: It would be nice if mentally ill homeless males did not abuse women, but they can’t seem to help themselves. And they don’t represent the worst threats women face. Starting in grade school and continuing at least through high school, American girls and women need coaching in how to deal with hostile, threatening and/or violent situations. This lack of self-defense training represents one of the worst failings of our educational system. End of my ranting windbag editorial.]

Late Afternoon Smoke Outside the main branch of the SF Public Library

Late Afternoon Smoke Outside the main branch of the SF Public Library

He kept screaming, she kept hunching, and the few witnesses stayed on the other side of the street, or at the other bus stops. All a safe and distance away

But fools rush in where angels fear to tread; therefore, I had a reputation to uphold.

The Trombone screamed at her, screamed at her, screamed at her–and stopped screaming. Dead silence. The woman with curly black hair cautiously raised her eyes to look at The Trombone. He didn’t even look at her. He looked at something standing just to her left, so she looked in that direction, too.

I said to her, “So nice to see you again!” with my biggest and bestest smile.

She said, “Yeah! Long time no see!”

We had never met before. I kept smiling.

“How did that big project turn out? I remember you saying it was like a huge crisis.”

She replied “Oh, we finally got that done, I’m so glad it’s over.”

We had never met before. This was all pure improv, and I have to say, she had a natural gift.

We continued talking about the non-existent project, with the non-existent success and non-existent huge profit, and therefore the non-existent threatened layoffs that therefore did not non-happen. Then I turned to The Trombone.

“Hello,” I said, with a big smile. He flinched and took one giant step back.

I wrote “a big smile,” not “my biggest and bestest smile.” As I have written before, in my encounter with an English soccer hooligan who threatened the passengers on another bus ride, I look a bit like Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. With practice, I can also sound like Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs. Best of all, I can do a perfect impersonation of that smile of his when he first meets Claire Starling. That’s how I said hello to The Trombone.

Then I resumed talking with my non-friend, using my regular smile. She looked at me and looked at him; she had missed the change and did not know what I had done.

Bad Sneakers: Market Street, San Francisco, 7 September 2013

Bad Sneakers: Market Street, San Francisco, 7 September 2013

The Trombone hung around, hoping I would leave so he could resume screaming at the woman (brave fellow, that). So every once in a while, I would turn to him and say hello using my Dr. Hannibal smile. I never said anything to him except hello. Literally. He would flinch and step further away each time. She kept an eye on me and caught on to the change in my facial expression, but I didn’t scare her, too.

We boarded the bus and The Trombone stole a ride by sneaking in through the back door. He really, really, really wanted to scream at this woman. Se we kept talking and smiling about her successful non-project (as I wrote above, she had an amazing gift for improvisation) and I would look at The Trombone and smile at him like Hannibal the Cannibal. He finally bailed out of the bus at Van Ness and Market.

Homeless Couple Using Garbage Bag as Pillow in Front of Orpheum Theater

Homeless Couple Using Garbage Bag as Pillow in Front of Orpheum Theater

She immediately changed from smiling to very serious and said, “You HAVE to teach me what you just did.”

“All I did was smile and say hello.”

“But the WAY you smiled! It was so creepy! I am so glad you didn’t smile at me like that!”

“It has come in handy sometimes.”

“You looked just like that guy in that movie-”

“Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.”

“YES! Him! Can you teach me how to look just like him?!”

I looked at her thick, dark, shoulder-length curly hair.

“You don’t look like Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.”

“Can you teach me how to smile like him?!”

“Do you really want to look like Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs?”

She leaned back in her seat.

“Oh, crap, I don’t.”

We exchanged a few more pleasantries until I arrived at my destination. I wished her well, she thanked me, we shook hands, and I turned away. She sat back in her seat staring straight ahead…

…but as I disembarked, the 40ish woman with shoulder-length curly black hair said, “It would be nice if I could look like Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs when I needed it.”

Vonn Scott Bair

PS–The Trombone vanished after that night. He never reappeared in my neighborhood.

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5 responses »

  1. Pingback: Weekly Writing Challenge: Backward | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss

  2. Pingback: ‘Backward’ Tale – The Boy and The Girl. | 3rdculturechildren

  3. Fantastic! What an awesome post! The story is wonderful, and the photographs are as well! I tend to agree with you that women aren’t fully equipped to deal with that sort of harassment! I work with the public and customer service, and it’s hard for me to “push back” a little with that sort of thing. I don’t know how I would have dealt with the Trombone. Very enjoyable post!

    • amandarenee0224: The sad thing is that most forms of harassment come from people women know–relatives, boyfriends, et cetera. If the only harassment women encountered came from people like The Trombone, it would become extremely rare. Vonn Scott Bair

  4. Pingback: Weekly Writing Challenge: Backward | Joe's Musings

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