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All Over Coffee By Paul Madonna

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madonna chpt 10

I hit the street angry. I didn’t want to be, but the more I tried to let it go, the angrier I became. A guy was passed out on the sidewalk. As I walked around him, I looked at his shoeless rotting feet and the can of beer in his hand and tried to tell myself that life is full of problems, and that what matters most is not the injustice we feel, but how we comport ourselves in the face of it. That as much as I wanted to blame the city for my situation, if I couldn’t muster anything more than bitterness, then I was complicit in making it worse. Then a motorcycle gunned its engine and the string of car alarms it set off blew the thought out of my head.

I took a breath and tried again. At the corner a car was stopped at the stop sign so I paused to let it pass, then stepped off the curb to take my turn. Except the car behind it ran through the sign so I had to jump back to keep from being hit. I threw up my hands and yelled and the car slammed on its brakes. It was a dusty black Prius. The window rolled down and a tattooed arm shot out and flipped me off. Then it just sat there, in the middle of the intersection, waiting for a fight.

I took another breath and shook my head and walked away. As I stepped over a fresh pile of dog shit, I thought: Maybe it’s time to leave, find someplace new. Just then a band burst out of a storefront. A bearded redhead pumped an accordion while a lanky black man blew a saxophone. A young Latina strummed an acoustic guitar and began singing. Her voice poured over me like warm bathwater and suddenly the world was right again. I slid in with the crowd and began to lose myself in the music until a hand shoved a hat into my chest and a mouth with a face wrapped around it barked, “If you’re not for us you’re against us!” and I fell backwards into the street, where a bicyclist flew by and screamed that I was endangering his life. Stumbling, I ran to the other side and joined a group of people standing still, staring at their phones, even though the light was green.

I crossed the street and took refuge against a building. I looked up Twenty-second. The weather was sunny and clear and Twin Peaks glowed golden in the autumn light. A warm feeling rolled over me as I was reminded how gorgeous this city could be. I didn’t need to leave, I just needed to collect myself. Stop playing the self-righteous role of Only Sane Man and focus on what I believed was important. But then I felt another warm sensation and looked to see water splashing onto my ankles. A guy next to me was pissing onto the building, his face inches from a sign that read: Beware! Pee Repelling Paint, which he clearly was not comprehending as the building was indeed bouncing his stream right back onto him—and me—with the additional force of a fire hose.

I jumped away and knocked into a guy wearing a backwards facing baseball cap who shoved me off him and into another guy who said, “Whoa there Bra,” as he caught me. He was a smiling, curly-haired kid with an enormous set of headphones around his neck, a designer laptop bag across his shoulder, and ratty flip-flops on his yellow-nailed feet. “Careful,” he said. “It’s like a videogame around here.” “No,” I cried back. “It’s not. The only thing like a videogame is a videogame. This is the actual world where we live.” But he was already gone, strolling down the sidewalk, puffing on an electric hash pipe.

Paul Madonna writes and draws All Over Coffee, the weekly series published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on  His stories and drawings have been published internationally and exhibited in galleries and museums. He is the author of two books, All Over Coffee (City Lights 2007), and Everything is its own reward (City Lights 2011), which won the 2011 NCBR Recognition Award for Best Book. Find more of his work at  We are stoked to have his work on our site as well.


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Alex Mak - Managing Editor

Alex Mak - Managing Editor

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