the city after a long trip is always a nearly spiritual experience
for me and for many others I know. If a prodigal son or daughter is
lucky enough to fly into SFO from the north it's a sure bet for rapture.
Above the City lies a beautiful, real life version of Robert Cameron's
legendary photography. Cameron recognized San Francisco as a diamond.
From the air you'd swear you could see into the solarium of the Spreckles
On the ground in San Francisco everything is Baby Bear. The temperature
is just right. The barometric pressure is just right. The air is just
right. It's three parts ocean, two parts eucalyptus, rosemary and
sunshine, with a suggestion of recent rain.
Fish has returned to water. San Franciscans understand this. It's
like a cup of coffee from your favorite mug, sleep in your own bed,
and the sound of birdsong all year long.
A quick inventory shows the new Federal Building rising quickly on
7th Street, where the air is a few parts something other than rosemary.
In the Marina, renovation of the dome over the Palace of Fine Arts
continues as it has since mid-summer.
At the corner of Market and Castro I find Robert Haaland stumping
for Supervisor. Haaland's brief remarks about running as an openly
transgender person are moving. He thanks the gay community, as represented
by the 40 or 50 people standing and passing through Harvey Milk Plaza
as Haaland, Assemblyman Mark Leno, and others speak into a bullhorn.
On this corner, in Norman Rockwell's Castro, it seems that things
are exactly as I left them weeks earlier.
Later, at Cafe Roma in North Beach, I gathered updates on what I had
missed during the weeks I was in Europe. The Trader Vic's opening
and the bicoastal banter about Mayor Gavin Newsom's privates were
highs and lows, as were the hotel workers' lockout, Warren Hinkle's
exit from the pages of the Examiner, and queues for a flu vaccine.
I returned to the City in time to vote for John Kerry and to have
the final frank at Pon & Hom's hot dog stand behind the band shell
in Golden Gate Park. The concession shut down on Halloween after 24
A party at Comedy Day in the park was a great place to find sunny
people like Jackie Holtzman, Dr. Gene Schoenfeld, Famous Melissa of
the Artemis Gallery, theatrical producer Jack Anderson, Will and Debbie
Durst, and Pinesol lady Diane Amos. (Okay, the Dursts are maybe not
so sunny, but they are hilarious.)
It was decidedly easier to catch up with my pal Peggy Dohrman at St.
Francis Memorial Hospital's Hip Hop. The '50s dance is the hospital's
annual party for joint replacement patients. Dohrman, the sales manager
and den mother of the Metreon, had traded in her right knee a few
days earlier and so was a captive audience for a few road stories.
Society nun Sister Patrice Burns was on hand for the Hip Hop, along
with Judith Bolker, the Total Joint Center's nurse manager. Bolker
made a memorable entrance on roller skates. Medical Director Thomas
Sampson, Dr. Minx Hong, Saint Francis' CEO Cheryl Fama, Catherine
Dodd of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi's office, Victor Prieto, M.D.,
Cheryl Palmer, Eric Swift, and Linda Gillespie rounded out an esteemed
list of familiar faces.
On the heels of the infamous exit polls that suggested Sen. Kerry
had an early lead, the mood was very upbeat at Angelo Quaranta's election
day luncheon at Allegro. While Sen. Dianne Feinstein held court at
Moose's in North Beach, marinara and democrats spilled out onto the
sidewalk at Quaranta's place. The lineup outside Broadway and Jones
as I arrived could have been the model for a Russian doll of prominent
dems - Barbara Boxer, John Burton, Bill Lockyer, Newsom, Angela Alioto,
Aaron Peskin, and Holli Thier. Jill Wynns, Tony Hall, Heather Hiles,
and Chief Joanne White entertained each other while novelist Herb
Gold focused on the penne pasta.
All of these familiar and comforting places and people reminded me
why there's no place like San Francisco. We belong to the City, not
the other way around. Somewhere between Dresden and Amsterdam I had
come to terms with the possibility of a second term for President
George W. Bush. Now that it's a done deal, I'm not so sure. But one
thing is certain. You won't catch me puffing about ditching the USA
for Canada or elsewhere, as some die hard lefties have vowed. I love
America and I love San Francisco.
Yesterday someone asked me whether I had found that Germans hate Americans.
I spent a few weeks in that country and did not find a single person
with a kind word for the American president. However, Europeans appear
smart enough to know the difference between Bush and average Americans,
at least up to now.
A final note on the election: As someone who was married to a same-sex
partner in the City this year, I object to Feinstein's attempt following
the election to blame Kerry's defeat in any part on Newsom. The gay
marriage movement "energized" the evangelicals who supported Bush,
says Feinstein. Of course it did. But it was also intended to energize
the political leaders who have enjoyed career-long support from the
very same people who lined up around City Hall in a fight for their
rights and for a marriage license. For any Democrat to blame Newsom
for the party's own failed leadership only piles disappointment on
top of disappointment. With that, I take a deep breath and remember,
more than ever, there's no place like home.
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