Parallel Universes

Ai  Weiwei's legos
Ai Weiwei’s legos

I’ve learned why the Judge is taking so long to rule on my Motion to Quash. I read the transcript for my neighbor’s hearing which was held two weeks after mine and during the proceedings the Judge mentioned my case. Three of the six issues raised in my Motion had already been denied by him in other cases. But they are all being appealed so he is waiting for the Appellate Court to rule before he makes a decision in mine. It could be a few more weeks. So life goes on.

Yesterday life took me down to the Civic Center where I marveled at two double-decker tour buses making their way up Larkin. They had a combined total of three tourists riding on them. It’s a common sight these days in this very green city. Then there was the bride bounding up the steps of City Hall in the bright mid-day sun, doing her bit to preserve the sanctity of the photo-op.

Nothing against photo-ops but it is mainly the tourists I’ve been thinking about this week. It started Sunday evening on my way home from dinner in Berkeley. When I exited the Powell Bart Station the street was swarming with people at 9:00. Locals are never downtown this time of night, the crowd was all from the neighborhood hotels.

They come to Union Square to shop in the same chain stores that are in every other major city. Somehow it’s more special to buy that tube top here in San Francisco. You can always exchange it at the mall when you get home to Tampa.

On Tuesday I went with Kathy to see the Ai Weiwei Installation on Alcatraz. I still haven’t made up my mind about it. Although elements of it were beautiful I didn’t quite get the feeling the artist was going for. The images of political prisoners juxtaposed against the antiquated prison facility were supposed to leave me with something. But they didn’t. I blame the tourists.

Alcatraz was inundated with them, the ferries that left every half hour were packed with hundreds per crossing. I couldn’t believe so many people would want to be out and about on such a dreary, rainy April day. But the tour probably came with their package and they weren’t about to be cheated.

This crowd was a little more interesting than the Union Square one because there was a lot of German, French, and Italian being spoken. Still, a herd is a herd and the constant jostling mixed with the barrage of stupid questions gets on your nerves.

When you live in San Francisco you quickly learn to block out the touristy parts of town. Millions visit here every year but there’s an art to knowing which places or areas to avoid. If done properly you can go weeks without making contact.

I probably go to Union Square the most, once or twice a month, and Chinatown a few times per year. But I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been to Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz over the last four decades. There really is no reason to go there other than a travel agent suckering you into it.

Along with the Financial District people who commute in from the suburbs for their 9-5 lives and the absentee investors in China who are buying luxury condos for their annual visit, we have this constant tourist population. The City is becoming a shell for people who don’t live here but who provide a great revenue stream for City Hall.

Doing the Sister Luke at one of San Francisco's many fine tourist attractions, New St. Mary's
Doing the Sister Luke at one of San Francisco’s many fine tourist attractions, New St. Mary’s

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Life of the Egg Nog Party

In 1971 egg nog was something Richard Nixon and distinguished diplomats sipped at Georgetown parties. Not drug addled, wafer thin, gay hippie boys in Bloomington, Indiana.  That contradiction alone was enough to inspire my first big Christmas party.

The egg nog parties became an annual tradition. The first two were in Bloomington then five more after I moved to San Francisco. The last one was held in 1977 at a friend’s basement shop on Commercial Street in Chinatown. Nog was made available but also lots of champagne. So I rented about 8 dozen coupe glasses from Abbey Rents. By the end of the evening only one dozen remained.

It was the height of the punk era and destruction was the name of the game. Someone started it innocently by accidentally dropping their glass in the corner of the stairway. It was answered with a couple more throws into the corner. Soon it was a barrage, a constant din of shattering glass as every available coupe was hurled onto the pile. When no more glasses could be found, empty bottles were bounced off the walls.

I was left to clean up this heap of broken glass and repair the divots that had been taken out of the plaster. No dummy, I realized I’d lost my deposit on the glasses. But it had been entertaining so I rationalized it was cheaper than hiring a band.

Still, I didn’t have the courage to face Abbey Rents and asked David to take the survivors back on Monday. Even he, who can talk himself out of any situation, was at a loss. “What do I tell them?”

“Just say the buffet table collapsed.”

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The complete saga, From the Beginning