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[whitespace] cranes
Elana Koff

Dangling Metaphor: Millie stares at the massive cranes and realizes that life is just as uncertain, risky and beautiful as an eight-hour workday.

Mission Street mission

By Millie

Millie's lying in bed thinking about the four terse little words left on his voicemail by the guy who's most recently captured his heart. Four words with the potential to ruin a day that hasn't even started. "We need to talk."

"It's over," thinks Millie. "I'm too loud, too skinny, too horny, too in love with him. He doesn't like my hair." Thoughts of self-doubt quickly turn to rage when Millie thinks of all the money he's spent on this bum. (Posting bail for felony charges ain't cheap!) Millie grabs the phone--almost yanks it out of the wall--and starts dialing. No answer. Millie leaves an overtly hostile message of his own. "I'm coming over."

It's a long walk down Mission Street, but Millie's pissed off and undeterred. At Mission and 16th, adolescent boys in ill-fitting suits thrust religious tracts into the path of oncoming strangers. Millie may be able to bluster past a few fanatical kids, but this is Mission Street on a Saturday. The sidewalks are teeming with ambling seniors, extended families out shopping, street vendors, homeless hippies, skateboarders, edgy art-dykes and randy teens traveling in packs. This ain't gonna be a cakewalk.

A grandma with a baby cart full of overstuffed shopping bags is heading Millie's way at an unreasonable clip. Millie slides into Brendan Lai's Supply Co. (2075 Mission) for cover. Once inside, Millie is startled by the visage of a pissed-off but sexy Bruce Lee looming over the tiny little storefront selling martial-arts sporting goods and Asian imports. But this ain't no Chinatown tourist trap. A row of silver-polished battle axes hangs on the wall. Various knives, throwing stars and other deadly devices fill the front display case. Who needs an excruciating relationship "talk" when you're armed like a samurai? Millie eyes a heavy metal broadsword and considers the possibilities.

Back on Mission Street, Millie doesn't get very far before he's waylaid by Thrift Town (2101 Mission). Even in a bad mood, Millie can't resist the sheer absurdity of this secondhand warehouse. Everything Millie ever wore in high school can be purchased for under $15 here. Sportswear, evening wear, household knickknacks and size 14 pumps--for those special ladies.

At Mission Villa Restaurant (2391 Mission), San Francisco's oldest Mexican restaurant, Millie stops in for a quick refresco. Millie can just imagine the place filled with young white hipsters in their smug little suits from the overhyped Bruno's Supper Club next door. Then Millie remembers--he's a young white hipster himself. (Well, youngish.) Millie takes his order to go and shuffles out the door.

The crowd thickens around 24th and Mission. Millie looks up. The sidewalk is packed with folks pushed away from the BART station escalators by a yellow police tape tied between telephone poles at waist height. Two massive industrial cranes in the center of the plaza dangle a 16-ton escalator stairwell above the BART station entrance and prepare to gingerly lower it into place.

Millie stares at the massive machinery long enough to be transfixed by the significance of it all. Life is so much dangling, swaying from side to side before we're lowered into our final position. Uncertainty, risk and beautiful serenity are all wrapped up in the same eight-hour day, and mostly it doesn't matter because people are trying to get a job done. Millie's anger and anxiety slip away as he leans up against the bus shelter. "That rope could snap and the whole thing just crash and burn any old time," mumbles an old guy in a corduroy suit. "Vamos con el show!" he calls out. The crowd sends up a cheer. "It already has," thinks Millie. "It already has."

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From the May 4-17, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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