Seventy-five miles north of San Francisco, jubilant UC Davis students explore their bodies and experiment with their minds in peace. I know because I played a show last night at Delta of Venus, Davis’s premier indie rock cafe. All audience members regarded our music closely and danced Uncle Jerry dances with the unbesmirched aplomb of the young and carefree. Three hours later in San Francisco, Davis’s untroubled landscape was forgotten—-I was struggling to understand a concept called “curbing one’s wheels.”
In San Francisco, curbing one’s wheels isn’t just popular—-it’s the law. But what does curbing one’s wheels mean? Curbing one’s wheels is parking insurance—-if the emergency brakes of those who park their automobiles on the San Francisco’s hilly avenues fail, the wheels of these automobiles are turned towards the curb so that assorted liberal pedestrians and children are not run over by runaway vehicles. Whenever I am in San Francisco, I can’t remember whether I should turn my wheels to the left (as if I was emerging from a parking space) or the right (as if I was entering one). I must remind myself to assume that my emergency brake will fail and the car will roll down the hill to flatten a liberal pedestrian or child. If I am parking on an upward slant, I must turn my steering wheel to the left. Then, if my brake fails, my car comes to rest against the curb, and does not flatten a liberal pedestrian or child. However, if I am parking on a downward slant, the reverse is true—-I must turn my steering wheel to the right. Then, if my brake fails, my car comes to rest against the curb, and does not flatten a liberal pedestrian or child.
Perhaps my problems with curbing my wheels do not make compelling reading material. In truth, contemplating curbing my wheels is not my favorite activity, let alone something to write about. However, imagine if you had woken up in San Francisco, spent the afternoon gambling at Lucky Chances, driven to Davis, played a show, driven back to San Francisco, been forced to find a parking spot at 3 a.m. and, using your exhausted brain, been forced to correctly curb your wheels. As a bonus, also imagine that you would be forced to wake up less than five hours later to move your car so it would not be towed and, while exhausted, be forced to figure out to curb your wheels again at 8 a.m. Perhaps then, you would understand how the seemingly insignificant act of curbing your wheels fits into the puzzle of your existence and quickly turns into an obsession.