Marin County - Saturday January 30 1999    

Kim and I spent a long morning waiting around for Josh and Spunky Lisa, who were delayed from a night of having been locked out of the place where they'd been staying. We watchedTales of the City again and ate a fancy leisurely continental breakfast which was delivered to our room. It was decadent living at it's finest.
When Josh and Lisa arrived, they brought a local talent friend of theirs, a nice redheaded boy named Griff. All five of us somehow piled into the tiny red Mustang and headed north, crossing the rust-red-painted Golden Gate bridge on route 101. The thing was so big and its geometry so regular that it looked like a massive holographic computer simulation as it loomed past us largely overhead. Then the road led into the moss-covered fairyland of Marin County: the cooky-cutter seaside quaintness of Sausalito and the distant bulk of Mount Tamalpais, its 2600 foot summit lost in clouds blowing in fast off the Pacific. Our destination was the town of Mill Valley. Four years ago when Kim had decided to live in the Bay Area, her search for a place in San Francisco proved unsuccessful, since there were no places accepting people with dogs. So she ended up settling in Mill Valley and taking up with a crack-cocaine-smoking mountain man named Dave. Today the plan was to rendezvous with Dave, have him show us the lesser-known parts of Mount Tamalpais and, oh yes, score some kind bud.
On the way, down the twisting streets of Mill Valley, Kim pointed out all the many places she lived during the years Mill Valley was her home.
We found Dave hanging out under a few redwoods amongst a row of trees in downtown Mill Valley. He was a spry and witty 36 year old, rather fitting the mold of Kim's other boyfriends. With him was his new girlfriend, a blond 36 year old woman named Annie. We set off immediately for breakfast at a place called Mama's.
What a place Mama's was. Its walls were covered with nick nacks and notions: everything from a guitar made out of a toilet seat to a painting of a smoking nun labeled "Nun Smoking." While we waited, Annie, Dave's girlfriend, amused herself with crayons and a colouring book, remarking, "That's why everything I drew when I was a kid sucked: it was the crayons!" Then, to emphasize her point, she drew a line with a golden and it left no discernible mark in its wake.
Mama's is one of those places that, for whatever reason, only serves breakfast on the weekends. Given my disdain for eggs and other breakfast grub, I have little use for such places, unless, in this case perhaps, it's for the spunky staff and the weird decorations.
Being a genuine mountain man, Dave is one of those guys who has a dog that follows him everywhere. Dave's dog is named Katie, and she looks to be an aging black Labrador. As we ate in Mama's, Katie waited patiently for us outside, completely unleashed. Kim says that Sophie used to be very good friends with Katie back in the day.
We went back to Dave's humble little studio apartment, mostly for a dooby break. But of course, in the unhealthy aftermath of my illness, my lungs weren't up to it at all, so I was kind of bored. Things didn't start improving until we piled into two cars and started driving up Mt. Tamalpais.
On the way, we learned a little more about Annie. Apparently she has some sort of high-paying job down in Silicon Valley working in a service industry that supports various technology companies. Kim and I got the impression that her income had a lot to do with Dave's overall prosperity. He works as a tree surgeon.
Suddenly we rounded a corner and could look down the side of the mountain down to the cold crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean itself. It looked far away and inaccessible.
The top of Mt. Tamalpais (or Mt. Tam as it's called locally) was still shrouded in clouds, which the cold wind pushed through the tops of trees. Since there was no view any higher up the mountain, we stopped and went for a little walk past a outdoor amphitheatre built into the southeast side of the mountain. Off in the distance we could see the San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz Island, and the spires of San Francisco itself. In the cold humid air it looked like a little play city that a determined child might build in a puddle on a cold rainy day, only to hurl pebbles at it upon completion. The sense that I can see the features of geography laid out in front of me usually gives me this childish feeling that it's all pretend.
Among Dave's eccentric traits is a love for extreme sports. I'm not talking here about stuff you see in Mountain Dew commercials either. As we headed down the mountain, he brought out a 26 year old skateboard and decided to ride it part of the way. He just climbed onto it and started going, no knee pads, no helmet, just his hiking boots and workshirt. He told us that if a park ranger were to show up, he'd just split and disappear into the woods.
In a civilized commercial part of Mill Valley, we bought a little Southern Comfort and cold medicine at the Safeway and then headed to Annie's place up a nearby mountain backroad. She lived in the basement of a dilapidated Tudor mansion, paying $1300/month for a one bedroom apartment.
Kim and I had been complaining about our illness again, so we just chilled out, sitting around outside under the redwoods, sipping diluted Southern Comfort and chatting about silly little this and laugh-provoking that. I was mostly interested in the antics of the dogs. Joining Katie was a young, very poorly-trained Australian Shepherd belonging to Annie's landlord.
As we drove back south across the Golden Gate Bridge, Kim expressed satisfaction that Dave seemed to have his life in much better order than it had been in when she'd last seen him. She'd had to leave Mill Valley because of him. His reckless lifestyle, kitchen freebasing episodes, inability to manage money and violent temper had added up to a nightmare experience. But now it seems Annie has breathed a little stability into his life. Still, some things never change. When I gave Dave $10 too much for a certain purchase and he promised to get me change, I just assumed he would. But after we left, I realized he hadn't. For Kim, it was vintage Dave. "You have to ask for it or you'll never see it again," she said.
Lisa, Josh and Griff all hung out with Kim and me back at our hotel room in San Francisco. We watched movies, drank champagne and ate cheese and crackers. I was feeling kind of under the weather and wasn't being nearly as charming as Kim would have liked. There are definitely days when I fail her socially, and this was one of them. I hadn't gone out of my way to show off my dazzling intellect or hilarious wit. I hadn't laughed at any of the jokes I hadn't found funny. I'd been unwilling to generously pay for small things as they'd come up. I had no desire to seize center-stage and make clear my assets, providing illustrations for why a girl like her might want to be my girlfriend.

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