Monday, November 15, 2010

We All Have Tales to Tell

Armistead Maupin lives in Cole Valley, and Danny Glover has a house there. Janis Joplin used to hang out in the Irish pub and what is now a crepe house was once a comedy club where Robin Williams and Dana Carvey performed. Charles Manson and Jim Jones used to live nearby.

I learned all this and more from two men I met at the bus stop, waiting for the 37 to take me back up the hill to my apartment. The Cole Valley business district is two blocks west and six blocks north of my place. Typically, I walk there – it’s all down hill – and take the 37 back up.

Today was a big public transit day for me. Started out heading east on the 37 to see my internist, a follow-up on my recent bout of bronchitis and to find out the results of my annual blood work, which took place a week ago. Great news – every number was completely normal, and all the numbers have dropped in the last year. Thank you Cheerios, Oat Squares and homemade smoothies made with plain yogurt, a banana and frozen fruit!

That good news was so thrilling that I walked six blocks down a big hill, jumped on the M train and went to Stonestown Galleria, a suburban-style mall in the city. At Borders, I did a bit of homework, in preparation for a book I am about to ghostwrite. Had a peppermint mocha latte (decaf with skim milk and no whipped cream, of course). And I decided not to buy Maupin’s new book, “Mary Ann in Autumn,” the latest of his famous tales of the city.

I downloaded in on my Kindle when I got home -- and am zipping through it!

Walking around Borders, looking at the many tables and shelves filled with books, I wondered how they make a go of it anymore when even a book lover like me refuses to buy books. To get home, I took the inbound M train to Van Ness and then had to catch an outbound N train to get to Cole Valley. This sounds confusing, but it wasn’t, and on the ride in I met a lovely young nursing student who was reading a biography of Ida B. Wells, the pioneering journalist, early civil rights activist and feminist. When I saw the book in the young woman’s hand, I wanted to ask if she was studying to be a journalist, but decided to stay silent.

I talk to strangers all the time – and learn marvelous things about my new city – but for some reason, I stayed quiet. “Excuse me,” she said seconds later. “May I ask you something personal?” I said sure, and we had a lively discussion about eyebrows. We both have palest of pale eyebrows and we both draw them on in the morning. She liked how mine looked better than she liked her own, and wondered what product I use. We started there and ended up talking about journalism and then her desire to be a nurse.

In Cole Valley, I poked my head in the open window of the hair salon I go to and said, “I’ll have a cheeseburger with double pickles and a Diet Coke.” That got a laugh from my startled stylist and her client. Apparently no one has ever done that before! Then I popped into the magnificent Cole Valley Hardware and bought three more Christmas presents. Saturday, they had a huge sale -- 20 percent off everything – and I should have made these purchases then, but better late than miss the opportunity altogether. 

Then I headed for the bus stop, where I joined a lively discussion with two men and a woman sitting on the bench. The woman left soon after to board a bus headed in another direction. When the men learned I was new in town, they began to regale me with tales of the neighborhood. What a lovely way to start a new week!

Last week rocked – first, I heard Placido Domingo sing the lead in “Cyrano de Bergerac” at the San Francisco Opera and then spent four days with Gerry and Tom, in town to visit Patricia and Joel. Tom’s brother Mark and his wife, Cheryl, were here too.

One day, Susan (Patricia’s mom and my friend) played hooky from work and met Gerry and me at the de Young Museum, where we saw the second of two exhibits of treasures from the Musee d”Orsay in Paris, which is closed for renovation. Loved staring at these masterpieces, especially Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” One evening, with Martia and Michael (Patricia’s brother and his wife) and the girls along for the fun, we revisited the scene of the rehearsal dinner held last June the night before The Wedding at the excellent Pauline’s Pizza. On Saturday, we drove to the glorious wooden deck overlooking the sea at Fort Funston, which I first wrote about here on January 1. (Read it now if you missed it then.)  

Tomorrow I get my hair cut, Wednesday I have a massage, Thursday my dentist (who is expecting her first child – two of them!) finishes putting in the new crown and Friday I will have coffee with an old friend from St. Louis who moved here years ago. Saturday, I may go to an art show in Crockett, a town about 30-45 minutes away. A man who calls himself The Peace Guy – I met him at an open-air market across from the Ferry Building when Gail was here – lives in Crockett, and I still think I may need to buy one of his sweatshirts.

Those are my tales from the city this week, with a nod of humility to Mr. Maupin!    

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