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  • Robert John Andrews

Rambling Snapshots: San Francisco



My Rand McNally afterwards

Next month? I’m not sure…


Chapter Twenty-five


San Francisco, California



I stand at the intersection of Bush and Stockton Streets. Bush runs east and west, Stockton runs north and south at the very heart of San Francisco, two blocks from Union Square. It cannot be called a true intersection, as Bush is an overpass over a tunnel.


On the west side of the Bush Street overlook, nearest the pedestrian steps, you can get a drink at the Tunnel Top Bar. Directly opposite it is an empty Laundromat. Diagonal from the Tunnel Top Bar is the World Market Wyndham. A multi-level parking garage rises up from the southeast corner of the road below. Opposite it on Stockton sits The Green Door A Touch of Ecstasy Massage Market Liquor Sauna Whirlpool In Call Out Call. From Bush you look down on its neon signs.


Here is the spot where Miles Archer is killed, shot at close range by a Webley-Fosbery. In Humphrey Bogart’s movie of “The Maltese Falcon” there appears neither tunnel nor steps. It is a dead-end slope of grass and shrub. In the night, the shot rings out. Archer tumbles against the fence, the rail falls. He rolls down the hill, murdered. Sam Spade will find his partner’s killer. Don’t get in Sam’s way. All because of the bird. The Falcon. The Maltese Falcon. Jewel encrusted, with red garnets, amethyst, emeralds, blue sapphire.


At the end of the movie, they all discover that the Falcon that the Captain of the La Poloma delivered to Spade is fake. The Fat Man resolves to continue his search in Istanbul. Spade has justice in mind.


Too many look in wrong places for fortune. What Brigid O’Shaughnessy, Joel Cairo, and Kaspar The Fat Man Gutman needed to discover was that treasure isn’t something you search for. Treasure isn’t something you steal. Treasure isn’t something you find. Treasure is something you create.


Some have mentioned to me that this drive across country is a trip of a lifetime. Nonsense.


Trip of a lifetime? Nonsense. The trip of a lifetime was marrying Elaine thirty-five years ago. The trip of a lifetime was her having our three babies.


Here I am standing at the intersection of Bush and Stockton. We look down at the parked tram as the passengers are invited to exit for a moment. We watch the Transit Police inquire of two young gentlemen whether or not they have in their possession their transit passes.


You may have noticed I used the first person plural, ‘We.’ For I am not alone standing here.


My wife and I came to San Francisco 35 years ago for our honeymoon. Tick-tock goes the clock. In 1975 a young man and young woman, freshly flung onto the world from college graduations, honeymooned here. Our parents thought us too young. We were, but we didn’t know it then.


35 years ago Bermuda was the hot spot for honeymoons. Give us a city any day over a beach. Sand, sunscreen, horseshoe crabs, and waves might be okay for a day, especially if there is a good seafood shack someplace nearby, but give us instead a city with theatre, restaurants, and the flavor of a city’s spice.


Now I stand in the heart of San Francisco with my 28 year old daughter. She is our Thursdays child. Who could have conceived then what is now? Evidently though, something did get conceived. Well, someone actually. Not immediately, but someone appropriately eventually.


After picking up our daughter up at her office where she works for the Stanford Jazz Fest, she and I hopped aboard the City transit bus. Across from me sat an elderly Asian fellow picking his nose like a 49’er mining for gold. Beside him a young man periodically giggled from either too many medications or from missing his morning snort. A couple of stops later, an obese Hispanic woman was hoisted on the lift. She maneuvered her walker into the aisle toward reserved seating for the handicapped.


Early that morning, as dawn rose and the eastern light widened, I stirred from sleeping on the couch. Over in the corner stood my daughter’s great-grandmother Margaret’s black walnut secretary. With groggy eyes, I looked out the back yard window into the rear garden of my daughter’s second floor apartment. A morning dove picked up a stick with her beak and fluttered away toward the sequoia to build her nest. It was, after all, spring. Soon the laughter of children at play from the nearby Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy Public Elementary School, as they toddle after pigeons and chase each other around the school-yard, will compete against the persistent traffic noise from Market Street.


At the corner of Van Ness and Bay we hopped off the bus and walked past Ghirardelli Square and headed over to the Buena Vista Cafe for an appetizer and (and best) their famous Irish Coffee. Here, quite possibly at the same table, is where her mother and I sipped our first Irish Coffees. Thirty-five years ago


Here, while watching the men haul and pivot the Cable Cars around by hand, is where we laughed and smiled and began to figure out how to love. Thirty-five years ago.


Here down those steps into the Cannery is where your mother and I ate oysters on a half shell and sipped cold beer while listening to a string trio play Mozart. Thirty-five years ago.


See, over there was a Hungarian Restaurant where we ate goulash spiced with plenty of paprika and drank Tokaji Szamorodni for the first time. Thirty-five years ago.


Did we just pass Chinatown? We spent a festive night eating at the Empress of China tasting all sorts of new treats. Thirty-five years ago.


Here, just around the corner from Union Square is Geary Street, where we stayed 6 nights at the Raphael Hotel, recommended by my Unk. Thirty-five years ago


Look up. See the glass windows at the top of the Bank of America Building. That is where your mother and I ate our final meal of our honeymoon at the Carnelian Room. I still have three packs of matches from there in a drawer of my roll top desk back home. Elaine and I settled snuggly into cavernous leather chairs and watched from this the tallest building in San Francisco the fog roll in and enshroud the Golden Gate Bridge. Thirty-five years ago.

Who then could have imagined now?


With the haze of the setting sun before us, gently filtered by graying clouds, we turned the corner. Now, around the corner from the Castro District, rainbow flags flying, a half a bock above the Triangle Memorial, our Margaret and her Nick enjoy their apartment on 17th Street.


Tag, you’re it.



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