Our Man About Town and critic extraordinaire Dan takes us all
on a sensory journey of discovery and delight this week as he reviews his
bus trip to the movies.
SOME GOT IT AND SOME RIDE MUNI
"Culture is not only in museums; it's also something they
take out of your throat" --Garrett Kondo
Of course Velasquez's Little Museum was playing in only one theatre
in town, The Casting Couch, located in the ritzy quarter of downtown, far
from my local theatres with their punk revivals and cult flicks ad pukum
(a coined Latin phrase whose meaning you can guess).
Needless to say, I would not be arriving in any kind of style
seeing how my own car has been dead for several years, and, so far, my employers
and the purchasers of my linguistic creativity have not seen fit to provide
me with the means to afford the limo (which my heart is still set on).
And not even a company car. Hence, genius rides the bus.
Amazing how one receives more cultural data from a bus ride than from an
underexposed dance film loosely based on the paintings of a dead master.
This bus ride, the quizzical 6 Parnassus was no exception. Hosted
by the City Municipal Transit System, the 6 Parnassus begins in
medias res (a real Latin term whose meaning you would know if our school
systems didn't reek of indifference) at the corner of Haight and Masonic.
The corner is done in the plastic style of neophyte fadism: the stucco
scarcely dry on the sixth community head-shop, and clashing ridiculously
with the old-style victorians housing the typically blah Gap Store catty-corner
from several homeless once-Deadheads. In any other city, this would be unpardonable:
here it is a tourist's liquid rush. As cultural comment, it says "huh?"
But then the 6 Parnasus arrives. As if from nowhere a savior from
the madding pastiche wheels around the corner at Waller and Masonic. The
6, with its predetermined direction! Late or early, crowded or empty, this
van with a plan will surely see us out of this wonderland of dead fashion.
Sure enough: it's late, and crowded, but the busdriver, with a smile as
mild as an elderly Billy Dee Williams, or rather, an elderly Lando Calrissian
reminiscining on the rebel victory "a long time" after the fact,
accepts our fare. I board with a woman whose hair is eight distinct colors
and whose lips are shot through with metals too various to describe. There
are a few other, too non-descript in comparison to mention. In fact, the
bus is filled with normal faces.
The 6 Parnassus transports the viewer from the bizarre world of popular
city to the drab reality of commuterism, just as it carries people from
as far away as Quintara in the humdrum blocks of the suburban sunset to
the daunting coolness of downtown. It's all about transport, and in its
way is sublime. The pattern of the bus is not disturbed by anything. It
moves forward, with a grin as unfaltering as Jim the bus-driver's, past
urban insanity in all of its incarnations. Its normalcy is juggernaut.
At last we've all boarded and the ship of fools lurches up Haight, taking
a conspicuously "straight" route for ten or more blocks amid one
of this town's meccas of off-kilterism. At Market street, it takes a leftward
veer, as if it were a moderate affected after great contemplation by the
surrounding diversity of belief. But we soon learn that the leftward turn
is not ideological. We are, after all, on Market street, and the city's
concrete center of finance dominates us
like Sunkist over Orchard Hills Organic Commune. 6 Parnassus begins
The smooth ride is clearly over by now. The crowd is thick and heavy, betraying
the dark side of commuter life: the cattle-call, "the rush and crash
of hellacious party in the street" as Michelle T. Clinton says. Now,
when the multi-colored hair-lady disembarks, it is not with the carefree
booty-swing of the happy-go-lucky haightnik, but the measured stalk of one
We are packed in, standing room only. We are nearing the climax of this
journey and we know it. The Ferry Building sits unbudgingly at the end of
our ride and we know that we will reach it. We know how we will reach it.
What we don't know is how long it's going to take in all this confounded
traffic. Several people bail out at Montgomery, and the viewer feels a pang,
desiring either that they would stay to face this journey with "us
on the bus" or that you would go too, since walking will be faster
at this point.
Now, the destination is moot. Still, 6 is steadfast, lets neither
sentiment fade nor the action drop away. We reach Embarcadero. 6 Parnassus
is pulling around for another go. But I disembark and catch the downtown
loop, a 44 or 42. My notes are illegible here, but after 6,
this second ride, plain and brief, is like the sentimental epilogue that
embarrasses. Needless to say, the film has already begun.
Tickets are also quite a bit more than at an ordinary theatre, this being
one of the new breed of "micro-treatres" that are at least partially
intended to keep out those of us without limos. I walk on the pier. I'm
ready to go home. But do I have strength to match 6 Parnassus?
Our Man About Town says the 6 Parnassus is a MUST RIDE.