Frank R. Hall and Associates
   382 E. Montecito Ave
   Sierra Madre, Ca 91024


While 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.

This 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.

The 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.

It 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.

We 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 jam.

Several 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@.

The 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 were.

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 50th.

When 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.

The 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.

Do 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.@

However, 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.

We 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 wait.

Kuleto's 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.

We 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.

Returning 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 AThird most
dangerous profession@. We didn't ask what the other two were.

Many 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.

ABeach 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.

Tuesday 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.

Most 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.

Wednesday 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 Park

Let me know if you have comments. If you made it this far, thanks for reading.




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