Southerly by David Haywood

41

Bay Area Blues

It's been quite a while since anyone has screamed at me like that. His face turned the colour of beetroot. Flecks of foam sprayed from his lips -- showering the glass plate that separated us. I'd made him so angry that he was literally frothing with rage.

I struggled to my seat with a weeping toddler under one arm, and an unco-operative pushchair under the other. The tram-driver -- having exhausted his vocabulary of English insults -- spat a final sentence at me in Spanish. I'm reasonably sure that it wasn't: "I love you."

As I sat down, a fellow passenger caught my eye. "I think you've discovered why 'Muni' employees aren't really known for their politeness," he said.

The 'Muni' is the public transit agency that provides buses and light rail services in San Francisco. The word 'Muni', of course, being derived from an ancient Latin word meaning: 'We employ psychopaths to drive our trams'.

In case you were wondering, here's my tip for provoking a 'Muni' employee to within a hair's breadth of murder. It's quite simple: when they say to you, "Pay on the BART [Bay Area Rapid Transit]" -- you simply reply: "Pay on the BART?"

This is provocation for homicide because what they actually said was: "Pay on the box" -- which is a secret 'Muni' term for "Put your fare into the slot". So fuck you if you don't understand.

Normally I wouldn't let this sort of thing bother me, but frankly, another blow to my self-esteem is the last thing I need right now. The Haywood family has temporarily re-located to the Bay Area (of California) so that Jennifer can teach a course at Berkeley. During the day, I look after Bob-the-Toddler, which is great. During the evenings, I write and illustrate my new book, which is utter agony.

The concept of the new book is quite straightforward. My first book has done relatively well -- so it seemed logical to follow it up with a work that everyone will hate and no-one will buy. It's sort of the Sinclair C5 principle.

During my long California working nights, I toil away at illustrated compositions with titles such as: "Build Your Own Supersonic Nuclear Bomber", "Sex Secrets of the Reserve Bank", and "Why Peter Dunne Wants Your Soiled Underwear". Then later, I experience horrible moments of clarity when I ask myself: "Why am I writing this?", "Who will read it?", and "Have I finally flipped?"

Our visit to Berkeley has had a few surprises. This article in Werewolf Magazine describes my first day in the city. If you have any opinions on the design of North American toilets or brain-washed hippies, then please feel free to contribute to the discussion thread (shown at the bottom of that page).

In the meantime, I have either a book or a nervous breakdown to finish...

Above: Why would anyone waste their time writing and illustrating something like this -- let alone reading it?

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