Print
North Beach Journal

Eavesdropping in the neighborhood

You never know who you'll run into at City Lights Bookstore — maybe even Lawrence Ferlinghetti. photo: Stacey Lewis

I’m an ardent eavesdropper. One might even say as a columnist I’m a professional eavesdropper. Nothing wrong with eavesdropping as long as you’re open about it. Smile a lot and tell the eavesdropee that you’re writing a column for the Marina Times. Here are a few examples of my work. I picked them up last month.

EAVESDROPPING AT CALZONE’S

Regular customer: “We were at this quaint little bar in the Mission. A guitarist came to the table and with a great flourish he said, ‘I will now play for you. What would you like to hear?’ I looked up and said, Flight of the Bumble Bee.”

AT GINO AND CARLO

Woman: “My cell phone says I’ve walked one-point-four miles today.” Companion: “You’ve been sitting on that bar stool since this place opened at 6 a.m. I guess you’re just moving your hips.” (Yes, Gino and Carlo morning bartender Danny Snell unlocks the door at 6 a.m.)

ON THE 39 MUNI

“My daughter is going away for the weekend and wants me to babysit her pet rabbits. How do you take care of rabbits anyway?” “Sauté them with a little white wine and serve with polenta.”

AT THE NORTH BEACH LIBRARY

Author Thornton Wilder: “There’s nothing like eavesdropping to show you that the world outside your head is different from the world inside your head.”

AT THE SALOON

“What are you going to have?” the bartender asked.

“I’ll have a beer, and my friend will have a Mai Tai.”

Bartender: “What’s her second choice?”

AT CAFFE PUCCINI

The jukebox was playing Luciano Pavarotti singing Che gelida manina by Giacomo Puccini, of course. A customer listened for a minute, took a sip of his wine, and said to his lunch date, “It’s probably Mario Lanza.”

AT CITY LIGHTS

Customer to a man with a beard wearing a baseball cap and a safari jacket: “Excuse me, are you Lawrence Ferlinghetti?”

“No, I’m not. Why do you ask?”

“Because you look like him.”

“In North Beach every guy over 80 looks like Lawrence Ferlinghetti.”

AT THE NORTH BEACH LIBRARY

Tom Waits: “Anyplace is good for eavesdropping, if you know how to eavesdrop.”

ON BROADWAY

One guy looks up and reads a sign on a stairway next to Enrico’s: “Why does that lawyer Tony Serra call this place Pier 5 Law Offices?”

Other guy: “Were you here during the rains last month?”

AT TRADER JOE’S

Two 30-something women were shopping in the canned-soup aisle.

One said, “I’m getting a divorce, and I don’t know what to do now.”

The other said, “In the immortal words of Saint Elizabeth Taylor, ‘Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together.'”

AT THE NORTH BEACH LIBRARY

Lemony Snicket: “The key to good eavesdropping is not getting caught.”

AT THE BEAT MUSEUM

One tourist says to another: “Who were the Beats anyway?”

Companion tourist: “A bunch of deadbeat poets. That’s why they called themselves the Beats.”

SAME TOURISTS AT THE BEAT MUSEUM

First tourist: “Oh look, here’s a book by Gertrude Stein. Was she a Beat?”

Second tourist: “No, but I seem to remember that she lived in Oakland.”

Beat Museum attendant: “There’s no there, there. That’s what she said about Oakland.”

First tourist: “Well, it must have been there when she was there.”

AT THE NORTH BEACH LIBRARY

Black’s Law Dictionary: “Eavesdropping is secretly listening to the private conversation of others without their consent. As defined by Black’s Law Dictionary (1) This is commonly thought to be unethical (2) There is an old adage that eavesdroppers seldom hear anything good of themselves … and eavesdroppers always try to listen to matters that concern them.”

AT ORIGINAL JOE’S

Overheard at Original Joe’s at book party for San Francisco Appetites and Afterthoughts.

A guy buys the book and steps up to have me sign it.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

“Woody.”

“Like Woody Allen?

“That’s right.”

“Actually you look a lot like Woody Allen — a handsome old guy with a big nose and glasses.”

“Sounds like me. Let’s make a movie together. You can be the star.”

“Great. Have your people call my people.”

“I don’t have any people. I’ll call you myself.”

“I don’t have any people either. I’ll answer myself.”

“Who do you want as your co-star?”

“Sophia Loren.”

“Wonderful. We’ll make a Spaghetti Western. Remember, she said, ‘I owe everything you see to spaghetti.'”

You just can’t make stuff up like this.

Send to a Friend Print
E-mail: ernest@marinatimes.com. Follow the Marina Times on Twitter @The MarinaTimes and like us on Facebook @MarinaTimes.