If…

you ask me how I am, expect a short and vacant answer, all generalities and no content.

If you feel like I’m dodging the real answer (which I am) and (where “and” is positively crucial) you’re ready and willing to hear the unvarnished truth, then ask again, imploringly and convincingly and do not brace yourself for the answers: prepare to receive them.

Unvarnished communication is precious thing. You don’t trap it, or look for it. You don’t feel around for it, but most of all, of course, you don’t hear it.

Measure a friend not in good times: everyone is a “friend” in a visceral Prosperity. Measure friendship not according to a label assigned: the word’s meaning has changed here, casting so wide a net it captures everyone, capturing no population that maintains any specificity. If everyone is friend, no one is: you are alone.

In the solitude, silence is companionable and nothing else is, save the darkness. So if words offered are only according to Form, empty boxes in boilerplate—a perverse Mad Lib—save the postage. Save the postage and remain silent. Silence is easy to interpret because of its blunted thrust, which is to say, no interpretation is necessary at all.

At this point I should consider it a blessing, these Madlibs condolences? There are worse reactions to someone who’s miserable and dispirited: earnest words for betterment? Yes, I have received those as well from ‘friends’ (wide nets are euphemistic) but the earnestness is misplaced: misery in its midst breaks the seal on a hermetic (both definitions apply) bubble of contentedness and false comfort and many offer condolences in order to rid the air of difficulty in Contented Land. Yes, I mean to say that I have been offered comfort directly to restore contentedness for themselves.

The braver and more candid thing—which ironically would bring me solace—would be banishment: go away until you’re better and then you can rejoin us.

Is it simply age to say that this is no longer the San Francisco I so cottoned to so many years ago? Maybe. But maybe it’s just, as they say, the company you keep. In other words, am I generalizing the City based on a small, pathetic self-serving, self-imposed ghetto?

GoB, I hope so.