Pussycat Theater

Rhonda Winter

In October of 1989 I lived behind a razor wire chain link fence in a minuscule and squalid studio apartment right next to the 24 freeway that was also just a block from the old, pink Pussycat movie house at 51st and Telegraph in Oakland. Random seedy men frequently stood around the back alley of the porno theater near my house, furiously masturbating. I had just broken up with alcoholic #1, and was horribly disillusioned with the overpriced art school experience at CCAC; was about to start studying photography at SFSU in January (where I would soon meet my most excellent friend Eliza).

Telegraph_Pussycat_1989

Had just finished my dreary shift working in a one-hour photo shop cubicle on Telegraph Avenue; had just gotten home, was exhausted, lying on my lumpy futon mattress staring at the peeling stucco paint on the dirty ceiling, and feeling utterly depressed.

When the ground started shaking I nonchalantly thought to myself, “Oh, it’s just another earthquake.” Having grown up in California my entire life, these natural events were somewhat common, and not such a big deal. But the shaking continued, and became much more intense; when I tried to get up to go outside, the ground felt like trying to walk on an unstable sea of buckling Jello.

Once outside in the night air, I looked across the rush hour congested tangle of freeways and saw in the distance a massive section of the Bay Bridge just limply hanging down toward the sea, like some kind of horribly flaccid and broken erector set.

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