Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown

Nothing has happened on the eviction front. My attorney told me the one year notice period actually ended on Wednesday so yesterday was the first day they could have served me. They didn’t.

They might serve me today because the five days I have to respond includes weekends. The deadline would then be next Wednesday which gives us only three business days to prepare the response. Except it’s already done. So we wait.

The games lawyers play.

——

Next weekend is the Chinese New Year’s Parade. I’ve only been to one in the 40 years I’ve lived here.

In 1977 my friends Juan and James had a hair salon on Commercial Street. They wanted to be good neighborhood merchants so they signed up for an entry in the New Year’s Parade. They asked several of their clients to be on their float whose theme was “the most beautiful women in San Francisco.” They asked me to be on it too.

Jeffrey found a satin 1950’s oriental cocktail dress with a bubble skirt. To make it puff out required proper undergarments but we had no money or resources for crinolines. So we stuffed it with newspaper.

In the 1970’s the general population was still coming to terms with the concept of people being “gay.” They hadn’t begun to grapple with the idea of “drag.” So my appearance was something of a novelty. What first or second generation Chinese-Americans thought of me I’m not sure.

I do remember our float being stalled at the intersection of Kearney and California for a while. Directly in front of me stood two cops who both caught sight of me at the same time. They looked at each other in disgust and silently shook their heads.

After the parade we were walking up Grant Street headed for the party at the salon. There were a bunch of teenagers setting off fireworks and yelling at us. They saw me as an easy target and started throwing their firecrackers. I just ignored them as their munitions bounced off the fortified skirt.

As we approached the salon Brian was sitting on the front stoop. We had mutual friends at the time and knew of each other but had not yet met. As my stilletos clicked down the ancient brick street he yelled out, “Oh! It’s my favorite party person!” No more prophetic words have ever been spoken.

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Disassembly

8:00 p.m. and nothing happened today. Here I sit waiting for the Nazis to invade Poland and all I got was a phony war.

I’ve been told that, even with the worst case scenario, I won’t have to turn on a dime to get out of here. Still I worry about some of the harder things that would have to be done. Like the ceiling fixtures that are hard-wired. They’re mine and I’m not going to leave them behind. Today my neighbor Shakris’ electrician friend came over to take them down.

The Tangerine Telstar pendant was in the living room.  It’s made of that great 60’s plastic that you used to see in Big Boy restaurants. I bought it for $50 at the Santa Monica flea market back in the 80’s. The amazing thing was I carried it on and put it in the overhead for the flight back home. Today I would be tackled, tazed and sent to Gitmo if I tried that.

The little chandelier in the dinning room I bought in Paris around 1990. I used to go to the Baccarat showroom when it was over on the rue de Paradis. It was a very 19th century experience, no glossy merchandising. Just simple, long, parallel tables covered in white cloth with a sample of every line and every piece in that pattern.

It was in a run down industrial part of town close to the red light district. One Saturday morning I was walking there and the girls were still out working. As I walked down the boulevard I would look down each side street and there would be about 30 girls in a uniform motif. One would be all (fake) Chanel suits in various textures and colors. Another was Dr. Zhivago, full length furs with matching round Shapka hats.

The best was Olivia Newton John alley. The girls were decked out in lyrca bike shorts, tank tops, leggings and headbands. Just waiting to get physical.

The fixtures were replaced with these $11 specials from Lowes. I feel they're better suited to the new landlord's taste.
The fixtures were replaced with these $11 specials from Lowes. I feel they’re better suited to the new landlord’s taste.

Next: Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown
Previous: Eviction Countdown: Day 2 Becomes Day 1
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Eviction Countdown: Day 2 Becomes Day 1

This countdown didn’t exactly end with the precision of the Kennedy Space Center as Day 2 has melted into Day 1. But I was tired. I walked over to the Art Institute in Chicago yesterday to see the Cornell boxes before heading out to O’Hare to fly back. There’s something about trying to get around in 8 degree weather that saps your strength.

My pro-rated rent check didn’t make it to the attorney in time because somewhere along the line the U.S. Post Office decided that the overnight service I paid for was really a two day priority express. I’m entitled to a refund but do I really want to put myself through all that on top of everything else?

My attorney told me to just get it to him this morning so I’m going to walk it over to the Tenderloin Housing Clinic. And put my fate in their hands. The future probably begins tomorrow.

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Eviction Countdown: Day 3

Visiting one of my four beloved storage  units
Visiting one of my four beloved storage units

Before leaving Fort Wayne this morning I visited one of my storage units. It gives me such comfort to behold my things. I drove up to Chicago, turned the car in and walked 10 freezing blocks to my hotel.

I’m at the Chicago Hilton on South Michigan, the final leg in my winter weekend hotel bargain tour. It was here that Queen Elizabeth II attended a dinner in her honor in 1959 on her visit commemorating the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Her Majesty at the Conrad Hilton flanked by Dick Daley, head of the Gestapo Poiice at the '68 Convention, and Connie Hilton, Don Draper's mentor and one-time pal
Her Majesty at the Conrad Hilton flanked by Mayor Dick Daley, head of the ’68 Gestapo, and Connie Hilton, Don Draper’s mentor and one-time pal

In 1968, the hotel was the backdrop for television images of police beating up anti-war demonstrators during the Democratic Convention. They were across the street in Grant Park.

Tonight it houses one of the nation’s most notorious Ellis Act victims.

What can a poor boy do.

The whole world is watching.
The whole world is watching.

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Eviction Countdown: Day 4

Meet me at Henry's. With my newest best friend who I've known for 50 years.
Meet me at Henry’s. With my newest best friend who I’ve known for 50 years.

I spent the day visiting my brother who had just completed a brutal round of chemotherapy and then the evening with my best friend in Fort Wayne, Billy.

Billy owned the Corner House Salon where my Mother had her hair done every week of her life from the 1960’s until she died six years ago. She always called him Steve because that was how he was introduced to her. And she wasn’t one for playing games.

Billy’s first job in the 1950’s was at the city’s leading department store, Wolf & Dessauer, where the salon manager decided they already had one Billy and that his name would be Steve. It was like Upstairs Downstairs when Lady Marjorie named the new maid Sarah because she didn’t like the name Clemence.

Mother may have referred to him by his professional name but their friendship soon became anything but. Her visits to the Corner House were always at the end of the day so after closing she would go out for drinks or dinner with a  group from the shop led by Billy. Or sometimes it would just be the two of them There was a whole network of Rat Pack like cocktail lounges and restaurants around town and they knew them all.

For my Mother their excursions represented liberation from 18 years of living the nuclear family life. In this rock red conservative “City of Churches” they would do or say anything for a good time. When the first major porn movie came out, Behind the Green Door or I am Curious Yellow maybe, he took my Mother to see it. They laughed through the whole thing but snuck out a side door afterwards so they wouldn’t be seen.

When I became of age, I would occasionally go with them on their night club rounds. By then I was in living in Bloomington or San Francisco, however, and would only see him once or twice a year when I was home. If our schedules didn’t coincide we could go a couple of years without seeing each other. But I would hear about Billy every week when I called home.

Billy is the Andy Warhol of Fort Wayne, he knows everyone in town and never misses an event. And being of Warhol’s generation, both he and my Mother were somewhat starstruck. I think the movie star system was kind of the internet of their age, an innovation that marked them for life. But Billy took the obsession to the next level.

His house is full of memorabilia like his collection of autographed Oscar programs from the ceremonies he attended. Or his correspondence with Joan Fontaine and Lisa Gay (who, as everyone knows, was Debra Paget’s sister.) He’s always dropping interesting nuggets into the conversation, having dinner with George Cukor or being roommates with Mickey Hargitay when they were in art school. And he knows every B movie star of the 40’s and 50’s. His tidbits are always fascinating but I swear if I hear one more Sonja Henie story…

When my Mother died in 2009 Billy Steve said we should get together while I was still here. We had dinner the next week. Since then I’ve spent several months a year in Fort Wayne and speak to or see him every day I’m in town.

We share many interests and he’s always fun to hang out with. When we’re not laughing he’s someone I can confide in and tell anything to. He could care less. All he ever wants to talk about is himself.

 

At Zesto, our favorite ice cream place. Billy's mind is sharp as a tack although lately I've noticed some confusion with the concept of "seasons."
At Zesto, our favorite ice cream place. Billy’s mind is sharp as a tack although lately I’ve noticed some confusion with the concept of “seasons.”

Next: Eviction Countdown Day 3, The Whole World is Watching
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Eviction Countdown: Day 5

Andrew M. Zachs
Andrew M. Zachs

Things are heating up. Vince Young was supposed to inform me of the pro-rated rent amount for the month of February but he never did. Today his attorney served me with a three day notice to quit for non-payment of rent (for the pro-rated amount. The original check for the full amount was received on the first and is still in their possession.) It’s tactics like this that make eviction profiteers like Vince Young, Leslie Young, and the Young Family Trust so effective. Put the burden on the tenants by spending money on legal tricks.

My attorney will give them the pro-rated check. But I have the feeling this will be the first in a series of harassing moves by Vince Young and his mercenaries.

Denise Leadbetter has turned the litigation portion over to her husband Andrew Zachs. They are the dynamic duo in San Francisco Ellis Act evictions. Zachs purportedly once told one of his elderly eviction victims “you are nobody.”

I guess that means, Je suis Nobody.

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Eviction Countdown: Day 6

Back in the BAR

The newspaper, not the booze hole. They ran an updated article on my Jackie auction/eviction story today. Nice story. Although the picture of a 64 year old man holding the figurine of a 3 year old boy turned sexiest man alive of 1988 might give some pause. I don’t see it.

—–

Travel has always been the best tonic for me. Stepping away from problems and out of the daily routine puts things in perspective. It recharges the batteries and helps with the creative juices. There’s no better time to think than on a 4 hour flight when you have nothing to read and refuse to watch yet another Kate Hudson romantic comedy.

I’m taking a four day weekend to sip the tonic and prepare for the drama that is coming next week. The mid-west is having another frightful winter but there is an upside to zero degree weather: cheap airfare and cheap hotels. Tonight I’m at one of my favorites, The Palmer House in Chicago.

To me hotel lobbies are usually a let down. I’ve stayed at some grand hotels through the years: the George V in Paris, the Hotel Imperial in Vienna, Beck’s Motor Lodge in the Castro. Their lobbies were elegant but understated. But the first time I rode up the escalator at the Palmer House the great reveal was amazing. Their lobby is like a Beaux Arts Sistine Chapel

It was the work of Bertha Palmer who had too much time and too much of her husband’s money on her hands. She hired the artists and had Tiffany do the light fixtures. In her spare time, she invented the Brownie.

Enjoying on of Bertha's best
Enjoying one of Bertha’s best

 

***

The Jackie Obsession

 

Eviction Countdown: Day 7

On the look-out for Tenderloin trannies.
On the look-out for Tenderloin trannies.

I live a block down from one of the steepest hills in the City, Jones between California and Pine. Tourists are constantly photographing it but I know from experience that the pictures just don’t turn out. You can’t capture the incline or the depth for some reason, it always looks flatter than it is.

When they were filming the Eddie Murphy film Metro in 1996 they decided to use this hill for the runaway cable car chase scene. And I watched the whole thing from my bay window.

There are no tracks on this part of Jones so they painted fake ones down the middle of the street and used motorized cable cars. They also turned it into a two-way street for the movie, in real life it’s one way downhill. And even more dramatic license: you never, ever allow parallel parking on a hill of this grade but they did.

To enhance the chase a plywood ramp was built at the intersection of Pine and Jones to film a car jumping on to my block. That was exciting to watch, the rest of the two-day shoot was pretty boring.

Hill is real, cable car is not.
Hill is real, cable car is not.

They did some close-ups of Mr. Murphy in front of my building but when they shot the actual speeding cable car it was filled with extras.

I enjoyed watching the non-speaking actors who played pedestrians across the street from me. It took hours to set up the runaway and they spent most of their time conferring and blocking off their movements. They were dead serious about their craft. In the movie they were on the screen for about 3 seconds.

As I've told cab drivers thousands of times over the years coming down this hill, mine is the third building on the left after the intersection.
As I’ve told cab drivers thousands of times over the years, mine is the third building on the left after the intersection.

Next: Eviction Countdown Day 6, Bertha’s Brownies
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Eviction Countdown: Day 8

In 1988 Brian and I took one last trip before he became seriously ill. We went to Acapulco and stayed in a small, white washed guest house on the side of a hill.

Our daily routine was to sleep in then go have a big breakfast at the hotel buffet on our way to the beach. We rented an umbrella and spent the day in and out of the water. While he lounged, I went parasailing.

On our walk back in the late afternoons the tourist shops would be open and we’d check them out. There wasn’t much of interest except a one-of-a-kind coiled snake. All the other items in the shops had that genuine, made in Taiwan Mexican feel. The snake had to be local and I wanted it.

The problem was getting it through Customs. At the time it was not quite as pro forma as it is today, agents were very arbitrary and discriminatory. They would have loved nothing more than to nail a couple of gay guys with contraband.

My method back then was to pack any questionable items I might be carrying in my dirtiest, filthiest laundry. I figured if they were freaky enough to go through that stuff then they’d earned the right to confiscate. They didn’t.

Bambi came into my posession in the mid-90’s when I visited the Brimfield Antique Show west of Boston. Dale, David and I had talked about it for years and when we finally did go it was completely overwhelming. Acres and acres of vendors.

For me it was like being in a major museum. There’s so much to see, so much detail, eventually it runs together and you can’t tell what you’re looking at. Maybe that’s just my ADD.

After about 6 hours my friends had purchased a handful of things and I had nothing. They started guilt tripping me, “you mean we’ve come all this way and you aren’t getting anything?” In the blitzkrieg of images roiling in my head I remembered the fawn. I went back and bought it.

I now had a prop to use when I read the Bambi story to the young ones. “Gather round children. I’m going to tell you a story about your Mother getting killed and abandonning you for the rest of your life. We’ll have hot chocolate afterwards.”

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Eviction Countdown: Day 9

I’m a strong believer in preserving architectural heritage. Until it comes to kitchens and, to a lesser extent, bathrooms. Sometimes it’s better to tear out and rebuild.

These antiquated, postage stamp kitchens like mine have tons of wasted space with their built-in cabinets and counter tops that were designed for 1915 heights, not 2015. You spend so much time hunched over preparing a meal that your back feels broken by the time dinner guests arrive. These old designs also take up too much precious space with their stand alone stoves and refrigerators.

When I was younger, and more pliable, I loved to cook and entertain here. It could be done. But it meant constantly looking for space as you prepared the meal. Dishes and pans ended up on top of the refrigerator, in the sink, on the dish drainer, and even on the floor (but only if the guests hadn’t arrived yet).

These days if it’s my turn to host I prefer to take people to a restaurant.

Not all built-ins are a bust, however. The one in my dinning room has been a treasure, and a conversation piece, for four decades.

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