most of my travelogues recount our vacation adventures,
this one features three days Patty and I spent in San
Francisco last week with my college roommate, Bob Misen
and his wife, also Patty.
will not be as long as most of my stuff, but, again,
you won't hurt my feelings if you would prefer to watch
AWho wants to be a Millionaire@ and hit your delete
key right now. I'll never know the difference.
occasion for this trip was celebration of anniversaries
- 30 something years for the Misens and 4 years for
us. (And, they said it wouldn't last!). This happened
to coincide with the centennial of the death of Guisepe
Verdi now being celebrated by opera companies world-wide.
remains true today, as it did when we were kids, that
if you live in the vast cultural wasteland that is Los
Angeles you have to go somewhere else to find quality
in the arts. We chose San Francisco.
flew into Oakland to save a couple of bucks and were
being whisked into San Francisco by our Middle-Eastern
cab driver when the traffic came to a complete halt.
It turned out to be the day of the San Francisco Gay
Pride parade which had been over for an hour by the
time we arrived, but, Market Street was still closed
while the AWe're Queer! We're here! Get used to it!@
crowd was strutting their stuff. The ADykes on Bikes@
Motorcycle Gang led the parade as they always do, and
several were still vroom-vrooming up and down the parade
route while the traffic backed up into a monumental
cabs were turning around, crossing double lines to find
other ways around the mess. Patty asked our driver,
AWhy aren't you turning around, too?@. Then she said
to me in a voice loud enough to be heard in Walnut Creek,
ANo tip for this guy@.
driver's English may have been limited, but, he understood
this threat. He bolted over the double line into on-coming
traffic, careened around a barricade, dodged a Dyke
on her Bike flirting with a Policewoman who was supposed
to be preventing such things and charged up Post Street
past a cop who threatened to yank his hack license.
We arrived safely at the Prescott Hotel and the driver
got his tip. Patty said, "Worked, didn't it? That
first night the four of us were guests of our old friends
Dick and Jean Slottow for dinner at the St. Francis
Yacht Club. A more spectacular view of the Bay you will
never find than from the deck of the SFYC, but, the
wind was blowing so hard the west flying pelicans were
going east about as fast as the east flying pelicans
Dick was one of the nation's first hospital fund-raisers
in Chicago. He came west to become a consultant and
helped nearly every surviving western non-profit hospital
at one time or another before he retired. The ones he
didn't work with are mostly out of business now. You
figure it out. He and Jean will soon celebrate their
dinner was over Bob's Patty asked if we could walk back
to the hotel. Dick said, AWell, you could if that great
big hill wasn't in the way@ We accepted the Slottow's
offer of a ride.
Prescott is located just two blocks from Union Square,
which is currently under renovation. During the short
walk to the Square and back you will be accosted by
at least a dozen self-described Ahomeless@ panhandlers
with varying degrees of aggressive behavior, all with
the stench of the AMuscatel Breakfast Club@. Willie
Brown has taken what was one of the world's great cities
and turned it into a cesspool. I wonder if Rudy Guliani
would consider moving west.
you remember the old joke, AI'm so old I remember when
the air was clean and sex was dirty@? Well now you might
say, AI'm so old I remember when San Francisco was clean
and New York was dirty.@
the area around Union Square still has Macy's, Saks
and Nieman Marcus (Bob calls it ANeedless Mark-up@)
plus the greatest collection of art galleries on the
West Coast. We spent many happy hours exploring them.
We fell in love with the work of Enric Torres Prat of
Barcelona and decided his work will hang on our wall
one day. We're also partial to the Paris street scenes
of Thomas Pradzynski and nearly bought one of his prints.
seemed to eat a lot. Bob and Patty introduced us to
the Tadich Grill. Founded during the Gold Rush in 1849,
the Tadich Grill is now located on California Street
in the Financial District. You'll wait an hour even
if you arrive early, but, the Sand Dabs are worth the
on Powell across from the St. Francis Hotel has terrific
Italian food. We went there twice for lunch and the
veal was so good, we had it both times.
also spent some time looking for the perfect Ramos Fizz,
a drink we all remembered from our youthful visits to
AThe City@. We found it at the old Buena Vista Cafe
at the end of the cable car line near Fisherman's Wharf.
But, now it's called the ANew Orleans Fizz@, perhaps
for some reason of APolitical Correctness@. The Buena
Vista brags it introduced Irish Coffee to the U. S.
A. I remember they introduced it to me as a youth.
from Athe Wharf@ we met the only Saudi Arabian cab driver
in the U.S., or so he claimed. All Saudi kids get a
grant for their educational expenses from the Saudi
government to study abroad. Then they return to make
their fortune at home, if they don't already have one.
Our driver claimed he blew his grant on wine, women
and song before he could graduate and now was working
his way toward a degree at San Francisco State in the
dangerous profession@. We didn't ask what the other
of the classy and brassy places of our youth are long
gone. The Purple Onion and the Hungry Eye are no more.
Gone, too, is Ernie's, where I once I waited an hour
for a table only to be bumped by the arrival of Jack
Lemon and entourage. Lemon died last week. Ernie's died
a long time ago.
Blanket Babylon@ is still playing, but is dark on Monday,
the only night we were available. We found none of the
night life of years past, but, we did stumble on to
a meeting of the ACafe Singers Association@ in a Piano
Bar next to the Prescott. While the piano player batted
out tunes from four decades, the members sang their
hearts out. Some were great, like Thaddeus
Pinkston visiting from Sydney who sang Elton John tunes
with gusto, and some were not so great, but, they all
had fun and so did we.
night we donned our finest and arranged a Town Car to
take us to the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House
for AAida'. It was as wonderful as you might expect.
Because Aida can last up to 4 hours, we arranged for
the Town Car to pick us up at the 2nd intermission scheduled
at the end of the third hour. We regretted the decision
not to stay to the end. The sets were spectacular and
the voices superb, bolstered by several Russian stars
who have decided to
forsake careers compensated by Rubles.
striking at the opera though, was the audience. They
were beautifully dressed. At least 90%of the men wore
coats and ties, far from the Hawaiian shirts and cutoffs
you see at the Dorothy Chandler in L. A. The women wore
beautiful gowns without a tattoo or nose-ring in sight.
We wondered where these people had been during the 72
hours we'd been there. We'd seen mostly
Punkers, Cross-Dressers and Panhandlers in addition
to the tourists and working folk who were dressed as
they might be anywhere. We decided the Opera lovers
must have come over from Marin.
was spent packing and traveling back south. We decided
that we still love the AOld Girl@ and will definitely
come back again soon, after all, we didn't see Pac Bell
me know if you have comments. If you made it this far,
thanks for reading.