Brides, barracudas, and the real new Milliennium
final morning of 2003, Mayor Willie Brown appeared to have
the weight of nothing on his shoulders. Not a care in the world was
revealed on the face of San Francisco's first African American mayor
in the homestretch of his administration.
Even the airspace around Brown, tuned for so long to a frequency that
picks up any opportunity to jeer Supervisor Chris Daly or District Attorney
Terrence Hallinan, seemed light and clear.
Brown was presented with a "key to leisure" by Kristine Enea, one of
the authors of the "Time Off!" guide to San Francisco. When congratulated,
Brown quipped, "For what? I've been evicted!"
Enea's partner in Leisure Team Publishing, Dean LaTourrette, was not
available for the ceremony. LaTourrette had left the night before for
a vacation in Sun Valley. Ah, leisure!
Green Apple Books on Clement Street reports that "Time Off!" is selling
like umbrellas in a storm.
Outside the mayor's office, no fewer than seven brides were running
around the rotunda, participating in and posing for pictures of the
year-end nuptials that will secure their tax deductions if not their
On the great marble staircase, a bridesmaid in peach arranged the blonde
curls of a bride in white while both demanded that their photographer
"Photoshop out" a nearby group of Italian tourists.
Future generations may admire how generous we were with personal space
in public places, unaware that we were all interlopers in someone else's
golden moment before being plucked from the scene like so much lint
and cat hair.
High above the stairs, cleverly arranged bundles of white balloons and
long strands of silver tinsel were strung like storm clouds that rained
on no one's parade. I was reminded of the old saw, "Happy is the bride
upon whom the sun shines."
On the 5 Fulton line it's a straight shot from City Hall to Golden Gate
Park and the California Academy of Sciences. This was the final day
for the 150-year institution in its facility across the Music Concourse
from the DeYoung Museum.
It takes little imagination to envision the world-class cultural center
that will emerge when the new Academy of Sciences joins the new DeYoung
at the concourse.
Crossing between the rising new DeYoung and the departing Academy of
Sciences is like crossing Bush and Kearney at rush hour. It is best
to cup your hands in order to remember that your life is in them. And
Neighbors of the park recently filed suit to stop the plan to move this
traffic underground and out of the concourse. They haven't heard that
preserving San Francisco doesn't mean not improving it.
The Academy's Steinhart Aquarium appears in many great San Francisco
movies including Orson Welles' "The
Lady from Shanghai" and the cop drama The Lineup.
Through to the last day, the Fish Roundabout, the Steinhart's 100,000-gallon
circular tank, was a fantastic place to watch fast-swimming ocean fish.
If you had seen them a dozen times, the mackerel and barracuda whirring
past in gracefully futility would still invoke the carefree state-of-mind
of a class field trip.
Appropriately, The Academy itself was packed like sardines. Hundreds
of people, mostly children, came for the last day. It was fun, but no
place for an assignation or clandestine meeting as it was for Orson
Welles and others.
In April, the Academy of Sciences will reopen at 875 Howard Street,
only a couple of blocks from its original location. The Academy occupied
819 Market Street from 1891-1916. The new $300 million dollar facility
emerges in Golden Gate Park in mid-2008.
Later in the evening, I set out for the Embarcadero with the intrepid
Jeff Halpern. From the safety of a complimentary Muni ride we observed
a veritable conga line on Union Street from Fillmore to Buchanan. We
made our way on foot from Stockton Street and Columbus Avenue in North
Beach after the bus lost a power line.
North Beach remains one of the city's most vibrant neighborhoods. Many
locals were not kept away by the New Year's crush. Between the journal
writers and some neighborhood Casanovas, there was plenty of local color
in the garlic and cappuccino-scented air along the sidewalks here.
A line of police officers stretched along Broadway from Columbus to
Montgomery. Throughout downtown it seemed quite literally as though
there were police officers every few feet.
Marauding bridge-and-tunnelers made up the majority of the crowds. This
should be expected by any local who ventures away from the comfort of
his rooftop to see a public fire works display in San Francisco.
What may take more getting used to is the police and security presence
in our lives, our memories, and in our burgeoning history.
I was in the Dam Square in the center of Amsterdam on New Year's Eve
in 1999, where police presence was not great. Millennium celebrations
drew huge crowds all over the world in spite of fears about a Y2K computer
disaster. That threat seems trivial today.
Like the Millennium party in Amsterdam, the fireworks event at the Embarcadero
was a peaceful celebration and a beautiful one. But unlike 1999, the
problems that exist in the world are front and center. They are not
as obscure as a computer virus.
With the exception of members of the military and their families, we
haven't had to sacrifice much for war in Iraq and the so-called war
on terrorism. But starting now, the presence of war in our lives cannot
be Photoshopped out.
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