Arts and Entertainment
By Amanda Nowinski
CONCURRENT WITH THE triumphant return of syphilis, the freaks are back in town or at least that's the rumor. The logic goes something like this: now that the yuppies have left (they have?) and rents are lower (in what neighborhood?), free-spirited slackers are beginning to resurface, helping to resurrect the legacy of weird San Francisco. Hooray. I can barely contain my joy that more white people with dreadlocks and trust funds can now frolic up and down Haight Street, absentmindedly playing with the plastic saucers dangling from their ears. We can now rest assured that there will be more trance-loving speed freaks to inhabit the newly abundant warehouses, more fire dancers to buy tickets for Burning Man, and more burnt-out DJs on downers who always claim to be "working on tracks." Surely this is great news all around.
Considering that the job market is as fluid as a clogged bong, I have to wonder if the freaks are coming back, exactly what kind of freaks are they? Nicely bankrolled freaks? Proactive, team-player freaks who shop for $300 shades in Hayes Valley and like to hang from the ceiling by their nipples? I suppose the definition of a freak must be reexamined, or perhaps the reality is not that there are more freaks in town, but that the already existing, fragile freak network is just now reemerging. The poor little freaks felt trampled on by people with blow-dried hair and Prada handbags; they felt spiritually demolished by eviction notices and frat boys in the Mission.
Freaks are sensitive, incense-wafting souls who will only be lured from their timid hibernation by an exorbitant amount of positive vibes. Or at least by someone else's stash.
To test the validity of the resurgence rumor, I casually tried to hunt those elusive freaks down. Last week I stepped into the Tunnel Top, where I was greeted by a man with a red Mohawk. "Hey, there!" he cried, adjusting his black silk pants. I wondered if I was having a communal freak moment but decided I wasn't when he pulled out a cell phone and turned to smooch a Marina blond in a beige sweater set. A few skaters with scruffy haircuts sat slumped in a corner, slurping beers with a clean-cut guy in a fancy pin-striped suit.
If this is freaky, I must be really hard up. Later in the week I continued my half-assed search at a sketchy warehouse party, where I decided to embrace the downward spiral wholeheartedly. As I lugged around a warm 40-ouncer and flirted with anything that barked, it occurred to me that it is not wise to confuse degenerates with freaks. But then again, everybody is freaky when it gets close to morning. Regardless, I arrived home feeling morally bankrupt and not much closer to ecstatic freak enlightenment.
Of course, it helps to have a freak backup, a place to go where the freaks will never disappoint. Bob's Donuts on Polk is my last resort. So a few nights ago I wandered in at 12:30 a.m. and bumped into the regular crew, a mix of toothless rogues in baseball caps who sit around sipping Sanka and watching the shop's fuzzy TV. One guy nodded off over the sports section, while another sat scribbling swastikas on a Macy's bra ad. This bunch tests the boundary between freak and hardened criminal, but at least they don't have to try too hard to secure a position outside of the normal world. An Aladdin Bail Bonds commercial blared on the TV. "We get you out," promised the announcer. "We get you through it." I picked up my doughnut, which resembled a crispy, chocolate-glazed lung, and realized it was the freakiest thing I'd seen all week.
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