Tattoo You

It might just be me, but it seemed everyone was saying "Obama" when I walked past them on the street this week. The day after the election, I swear that anyone I overheard on a cellphone, no matter the language — Spanish, Vietnamese, Greek — would interject the word "Obama" into the conversation. One guy at the bus stop even said "Obama" instead of "goodbye" before hanging up.

The only other time this area was infused with the same passion, if you even want to call it that, was during the dot-com boom. You couldn't sit on the bus or eat at a restaurant without overhearing someone talking about computer crap. Then, as now, I watched everyone with detachment instead of camaraderie. I'm just not a "joiner."

But I am just as happy now as everyone else, and for a Gen Xer who was raised on cynicism and sarcasm, that isn't easy. Maybe "big" happinesses are hard for me to process. I thrive more on the little ones, like on Halloween night when I was on the corner of Market and Church, heading to Chow for a beer and a burger. I came upon a woman dressed in a Hawaiian frock with leis around her neck. She was bent over a toddler, adjusting his bowtie. He was in a white suit and black shoes, and his hair was dark and parted on the side. He had the awkward body of a 3-year-old, with a biggish butt, stumpy arms, and a big head.

I knew immediately who he looked like. "Oh my god," I exclaimed, "are you Tattoo?" I knew this would be too good to be true, because how could a tot even know what Fantasy Island was, let alone forgo dressing like SpongeBob to instead go as the late Hervé Villechaize? Without a flinch, the kid bent back his little head and said, "Da plane, Boss, da plane." I swelled with a feeling that can only be described as sublime joy, such as you would feel after the birth of a litter of kittens, or a high colonic, or the election of the first black president. I headed to Chow with even more spring in my step.

The week after the election, I found myself going back to Chow again. I really like that place. I sat down and ordered a Hefeweizen and my favorite burger. It's a "California diner" with a long bar featuring interesting beers and wine. It's full of single diners, so I thought it would be a good place to overhear more Obama utterances among strangers, but really, I think it also reminded me of my magical Fantasy Island run-in a week before.

First of all, Villechaize was a fascinating person. His father was a surgeon who adopted him as a baby and seemingly tried to move heaven and earth to cure his dwarfism. This is, of course, ironic, because he really could've just sent his son to Fantasy Island instead. The other interesting thing about Tattoo's portrayer, besides his sad, drunken later years and eventual suicide, was that he insisted on being called a "midget," not a freakin' "little person," which really got the hackles up for people like Billy Barty, who worked tirelessly to get rid of the M-word. But what few people don't really understand is that though Villechaize did indeed prefer the "midget" moniker, he probably just wanted it to be pronounced the French way, mid-jay, which sounds way better.

I have never been to Chow when it was not packed, but there always seems to be at least one place at the bar for me, which seems like divine intervention. The women who work behind the bar all look like Lisa Loeb; the diners in the greater restaurant tend to be My Two Dads types with their broods.

On my left was a heterosexual couple who sent back a burger (I never do that. I am paranoid the cook will pee on it and then throw it back on the grill) and on my right was an older gentleman reading a newspaper. The front page was all about Obama's victory. I thought about Sarah Palin, who had prayed that God would do the right thing in the election and make sure His will got done. Her eyes were teary when McCain conceded, so I wonder whether she is doubting her faith.

I wish I could sit her down and make her watch Fantasy Island. I have been watching it every night on Comcast On Demand, and I have learned a lot about life. It took several watchings, but now I am convinced that Mr. Roark is God, and the island is Heaven. It's all about free will, which is something Palin needs to learn a little bit about. Roark will give you your fantasy, but he says he has no control over the outcome; he might warn you (yes, you, Charlene Tilton!) not to wear the magic ring too long, because you might not be able to stop your own ego from ballooning out too far and causing you to lose everything. But, of course, like the dummies in the Bible who never listened to God and got turned into pillars of salt, the characters always go awry and learn a lesson; they have some sort of comeuppance, or they lose an election. Mr. Roark actually is lying a bit when he says he has no control over the outcome of the fantasy. In truth, he has full control; he just wants the fantasy to go screwy so the characters will come out stronger in the end.

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