Things I Will Miss, Volume III

I’ve always had a love/hate thing with Beaux-Arts. I’m childishly drawn to the grandeur but, as Diana Vreeland said, “the eye needs to travel” and with all that frou-frou which way does it go? Considering that almost all of its stylistic elements are from previous eras and that its success is based on new construction methods that allowed it to be produced on a large-scale, it’s not that original.

After the 1906 earthquake many doubted that a city should be rebuilt on a site prone to natural disasters. Civic leaders forged ahead anyway with a City Hall that was grander than anything previously imagined. Its dome, fifth largest in the world, stands as a defiant middle finger "fuck you" to the naysayers.
After the 1906 earthquake many doubted that a city should be rebuilt on a site prone to natural disasters. Civic leaders forged ahead anyway with a City Hall that was grander than anything previously imagined. Its dome, fifth largest in the world, stands as a defiant middle finger “fuck you” to the naysayers.

 

While many of us freeloaded on food stamps, Jeffrey had a job at City Hall. I would visit him on breaks in the third floor hallway. He talked about his old-school co-workers who would arrive early in the morning for an eye-opener at the bar across the street before work. Their fifteen minute morning break became a half hour so they could go knock a couple back. More knocking back occurred during their 1 1/2 hour lunch and the extended afternoon break. After work they would avoid the Muni rush hour crush by topping things off with just one more. Their evening homecoming must have been something to behold.
While many of us freeloaded on food stamps, Jeffrey had a job at City Hall. I would visit him on breaks in the third floor hallway.
 
He talked about his old-school co-workers who would arrive early in the morning for an eye-opener at the bar across the street before work. Their fifteen minute morning break became a half hour so they could go knock a couple back. More knocking back occurred during their 1 1/2 hour lunch and the extended afternoon break.
 
After work they would avoid the Muni rush hour crush by topping things off with just one more. Their evening homecoming must have been something to behold.

 

The Feminist Movement made it clear that women had the same job performance capabilities as men. In order to gain acceptance, however, they still had to play the feminine attire game (see Joan in Mad Men). To me that silly expectation is part of the allure of drag. We were leaning on the third floor balustrade one day when Jeffrey said "there she goes." I looked down and saw Supervisor Dianne Feinstein in a determined dash up the grand staircase. He added, "she always runs." Such a camp.
The Feminist Movement made it clear that women had the same job performance capabilities as men. In order to gain acceptance, however, they still had to play the feminine attire game (see Joan in Mad Men). To me that silly expectation is part of the allure of drag.
 
We were leaning on the third floor balustrade one day when Jeffrey said “there she goes.” I looked down and saw Supervisor Dianne Feinstein in her camel skirt and navy pumps doing a determined dash up the grand staircase. He added, “she always runs up those stairs.”
 
Such a camp.

 

In the late 70's I worked in the Mayor's Budget Office. The easiest way to get around City Hall was to use the back staircases. Mayor Feinstein knew this too and I would sometimes run into her. She was always surrounded by an entourage and in a hurry. But she'd flash her campaign smile and issue a brisk "Hi. How are you." As she flew past me. She didn't know me from Adam but she could always use my vote. Still a camp.
In the late 70’s I worked in the Mayor’s Budget Office. The easiest way to get around City Hall was to use the back staircases. Mayor Feinstein knew this too and I would sometimes run into her.
 
She was always surrounded by an entourage and in a hurry. But she’d flash her campaign smile and issue a brisk “hi. how are you” as she flew past me. She didn’t know me from Adam but she could always use my vote.
 
Still a camp.

 

Jeffrey found a Feinstein for Mayor sweatshirt at a thrift store for a quarter. It was from one of her earlier failed campaigns. I wore it the day I worked the Wilkes Bashford fashion show at the Kabuki. In the late 70's I worked in the Mayor's Budget Office. The easiest way to get around City Hall was to use the back staircases. Mayor Feinstein knew this too and I would sometimes run into her. She was always surrounded by an entourage and in a hurry. But she'd flash her campaign smile and issue a brisk
Jeffrey found a Feinstein for Mayor sweatshirt at a thrift store for a quarter. It was from one of her earlier failed campaigns. I held on to it for years and finally wore it the day I worked the Wilkes Bashford fashion show at the Kabuki.
 
It was staged one week after the Milk/Moscone murders and a new mayor had not yet been selected. I realized that many might think my shirt “too soon” or insensitive. All the more reason to wear it.
 
After the rehearsal Willie Brown was meandering backstage. As he walked by me he looked at my shirt, shook his head and muttered, “they’re at it already?”
 
Always a camp.

Previous: Uncle Cookie’s Antique Empire
For the complete saga, From the Beginning

Contact: ellistoellis@gmail.com

 

Earthquake Weather

The San Francisco Chronicle, who's shelves are not exactly lined with Pulitzers, was a tad bit off. The final tally was more like 25.
The San Francisco Chronicle, whose shelves are not exactly lined with Pulitzers, was a tad bit off. The final toll was 63.

For years San Francisco’s best kept secret was its summer weather comes in September and October. The tourists have since caught on.  The Wal-Mart whales still show up in July in tank tops and cut offs. In the 56 degree fog they’re a sight that never ceases to amuse. But October is no longer our own private Idaho.

These warm Fall days always remind me of the Loma Prieta quake. With the World Series in town again those memories are reinforced.

In 1989 I left work at 5:00 hoping to get home in time for the opening game anthem, probably the most inspiring of all the anthem genres. I walked out, turned left on California Street and saw this cloud coming from the Fireman’s Fund building. I thought it was on fire so I crossed the street. In the middle of California I heard this horrid rumble beneath me. It was mortar dust not smoke coming from the brick building, we were having an earthquake.

I ran for cover under the metal canopy of a Wells Fargo ATM. I stood there with a dozen strangers waiting for it to end, focusing on the street light in front of me. It swayed endlessly in a 20 degree arc like an upside down pendulum. Then it stopped. We all stood there for a few seconds and I took off up the hill.

When I got to the top at Stockton and Pine I turned back to survey the scene. For all the chaos that was going on it seemed so still. The traffic lights were out but cars were observing the etiquette of four-way stops. The Financial District was being unusually un-type A, playing nice and cooperating.

I walked one more block and ran into a woman with a platinum helmet of hair. It was Ann Richards, the Texas State Treasurer. At the time she was best known for her keynote address at The Democratic Convention; a year later she would be elected Governor. It was just she and I alone on the corner of Pine and Powell. We looked at each other then moved on without saying a word.

When I got home my kitchen cabinet doors had all  swung open and anything that had been on a south wall had fallen. Except for no power, the rest of the apartment was just as I left it.

Loma Prieta Ann. The quake rendered us both speechless.
Loma Prieta Ann. The quake rendered us both speechless.

I improvised a meal with my friends Jane and Walter from down the street. My gas stove seemed to be working so we risked another ham and eggs fire and grilled hot dogs. We didn’t think we could use the water. We drank our stashes of  beer which we would have hated to lose to lack of refrigeration. They were supplemented with any other spirits we could find.

The next morning we walked around the ghost town of Union Square. There were no cell phones at the time and phone service was spotty so you had to kind of piece together what was going on with your friends. After 24 hours, unless you had heard someone was in trouble you assumed  everyone was okay. There wasn’t much to do but wait and wonder.

Two days later we did hear of a friend whose house was on a slight 45 degree angle and had been condemned. Finally, something useful to do. David and I took his pick up and helped him move.

That night at 3 am I was awakened by my TV blaring and the lights coming on. It was over. Until the next time.

Next: Image of Veta
Previous: I Know I’ve Dreamed You
The complete saga, From the Beginning