Heart of the City Archives

Mister SF is on holiday.
The good, the bad, and the not so ugly
by Hank Donat

I'm leaving for a vacation in Europe to see great art and visit a dearly deported loved one who says she'll always miss San Francisco and her former life on "Bush Strasse." Even though I'll only be gone for a few weeks there are things I'll miss about San Francisco, too. There are also a few things I won't miss one bit.

The moment I pay 20 euros for a scented candle or three for a Pepsi I'll miss the deals at One Half and the Bargain Bank on Polk Street. That will surely make me nostalgic for the line out into the sidewalk in front of Swan Oyster Depot but I won't miss the homeless guy across the street who wants to know if you can spare enough for a donut and a coffee.

I'll miss only-in-San-Francisco events like the recent memorial service at City Hall for political consultant Robert Barnes. The service was hosted by the Empress Donna Sachet and attended by those closest to Barnes plus a who's who of San Francisco politics. The under-one-roof experience included cameos by the combustible Jean Harris - a onetime aid to Supervisor Harry Britt - and Cleve Jones, founder of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

Made-for-TV characters like prosecutor Jim Hammer also make the list of things I'll miss. San Franciscans are easy on the eyes, especially in the Marina, where people look like the picture that came with the frame. I'll miss Martita Timiriasieff, who sunbathes in the garden under my window along with her usual provisions - a bottle of baby oil, a glass of Merlot, and the latest trashy novel. Martita is a neighbor of 14 years. I think her tan is just about ready.

I'll miss Gavin Newsom's shiny hair. I won't miss refereeing arguments about his Care not Cash initiative, though, nor the rancor surrounding Tony Hall's HOPE. 

I won't miss the approval and disapproval dished out from heaven by Herb Caen and Harvey Milk and served second hand too often lately by Mr. and Ms. San Francisco. No one in Germany or Italy will make a pronouncement about what Caen would have thought of his friend the mayor's second term or Milk's views on HOPE. Does anyone ever ask what Joan of Ark would have thought of the Pyramid de Louvre?

I won't miss the Chronicle PM edition and neither will you! I think the Examiner tabloid must be doing pretty well. Have you noticed how it's being criticized in the Chronicle again lately? 

I'll miss my favorite bus driver, Robert Parks. MUNI ought to have an award for a driver like Parks who's all old-school rules. There's no boarding through the back door, passes must be presented clearly or passengers will be asked to show them again, and don't even think of boarding Parks' coach with a drink. Seems kind of excessive to me, but it's sometimes fun to watch someone's day fall out from under them when they board the bus yammering on a cell phone, sipping a Frappuccino and barely waiving a transfer in Parks' direction. 

On the subject of MUNI, I will least of all miss the epidemic of everyday selfishness that has made life in San Francisco a measure less wonderful since the most recent boom time. 

Did you know in Europe they understand that if you let people leave a bus, a train, or a room before you attempt to enter it, there will be plenty of space for you inside? In certain parts of the world this is elementary, it's done by rote. No, I won't miss the shove and cut-off of the city's pedestrian and auto traffic, nor the race against I-don't-know-what that motivates the whole crush.

I'll miss all the great emails I receive each day through my web site from locals in every neighborhood who prefer not to dwell too much on the negative in favor of celebrating the best of the city along with me. 

Rome has only 7 whereas we have at least 42, so I'll miss the city's hills. Our topography resembles a blanket that's frozen in the act of being shaken out. For a few weeks I'll miss being shaken out on top of that blanket along with you.

Speaking of those, I'll even miss Warren Hinckle. There's no one like him in all Italia. The door to Hinckle's office is a real prison door that's purported to be an Alcatraz slammer? 

My next column, September 24, will be a dispatch from the original City of Saint Francis - Assisi, Italy. Ciao, San Francisco, until we meet again!

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Copyright 2002 Hank Donat
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