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Bellingham by the Bay

The fast and the spurious

It slays me when people say “happy” memorial Day as we approach this country’s most solemn holiday. Believe it or not, I heard a news anchor on MSNBC gush, “Happy Good Friday!” Don’t forget Happy Yom Kippur! as we whoop it up on the Jewish Day of Atonement. It takes the sting out of that pesky sense of deep remorse for all of our past sins. What a drag. … As for Memorial Day, perhaps we might consider the millions of lives lost over the decades — those who fought for our right to say something stupid. …

After a 40-day closure (to the chagrin of many Russian Hill denizens) for a mandatory earthquake retrofit, The Crepe House at Polk and Washington Streets has reopened. With a new wooden décor, the place looks both stylish and rustic. And now I know where to find Herb Gold, one of San Francisco’s best writers. Herb’s the literary lion of Filbert Street. He turned 93 on March 9, and still has that mad gleam in his eyes. … Lawrence Ferlinghetti celebrated his 98th year in March as well. Staffers at City Lights Books say Lawrence is doing well. Creating mischief through the years must keep one young. Like that poetic dog trotting freely in the street, Lawrence never stopped moving — always moving toward his bliss. That way, he stays a step ahead of the Great Inevitable. … Speaking of dogs, Susan Dyer Reynolds tells me that the Trump White House has — for the first time in presidential history — no dog in residence. This does not portend well. …

Nick Bovis is still looking for a new home for his Lefty O’Doul’s. Plans for another location on Union Square apparently fell through. Now that Lefty’s has shuttered its Geary Street digs amid a bitter legal fight with the landlord, Jon Handlery, the hotelier, that leaves Tommy’s Joynt the only hofbrau in town. With a new ownership, Tommy’s is still going great guns — serving mountains of meat and the cheapest drinks in San Francisco. Cheaper, I believe than the bar atop the Marine’s Memorial Club. …

The radicalization of Nob Hill: A sign in the window of Le Beau, the swanky grocery story on Leavenworth and Clay Streets reads: Love Will Always Trump Hate. … While I was waiting for the 27-Bryant bus on Bush and Hyde Streets, I started chatting up an amiable lady, about 60 years old. St. Francis Hospital is across the street. She — who asked not to be identified — explained that she was visiting her daughter in the Burn Unit. … “My daughter, Erica, is homeless. One night, while she was trying to get some sleep on the sidewalk, a man stopped, poured gasoline or something on her, and set her on fire. She’s still in critical condition.” … I hear these stories from time to time. Back in the 1970s, there was a movie, Fuzz, with Burt Reynolds and Raquel Welch, who both played Boston police detectives. One of the subplots involves three punks who set fire to homeless men as they slept near the piers on Boston Harbor. … Why do people hate the homeless, the impoverished? Perhaps they fear them. This phenomenon is described wonderfully well by George Orwell in his Down and Out in Paris and London. … Part of this callous bigotry is encouraged by certain elements of the right wing, though it’s been around for a very long time. … In the 1960s, Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty. Donald Trump is waging a war on the poor. … What qualification did Trump have to become president besides being rich and being on television? It’s not all his fault that Americans embrace a perverse piety — that is, the worship of money and notoriety. Ah, but I digress. … With famine about to engulf four African nations by summer, hundreds of thousands of “beautiful babies” face starvation. Perhaps we should drop Hershey bars on these regions instead of cruise missiles. (Bombing a Syrian Air Force base with no real result — quite a publicity stunt.) Through chocolate, we might make some friends. We’ll need all the friends we can get. Where’s George C. Marshall now that we need him? … Some time to cut foreign aid, cut funding to UNICEF — cut the budget for Meals on Wheels? I’m getting too preachy. Knock it off, Bruce. What we don’t need is another pundit. … Jody Powell once told me his definition of a columnist is “someone who hides in the woods during the battle, and when it’s all over, he’ll come down to the battlefield, and finish off the wounded.” …

I just noticed that there is a private detective agency in the Tenderloin — Wilson & Wilson on Jones Street — appropriately located next to a restored speakeasy. Ah, those were the days. … Dashiell Hammett lived in various places in the Tenderloin. He thought the neighborhood was dreary. He should see it today. Hammett was a Pinkerton Guard, and was among the union-busting thugs who busted heads during a miners’ strike in Butte, Mont. This experience led Hammett to being a pro-union lefty — even a communist at times. That’s communist, not columnist. His politics got him into trouble at the HUAC hearings during the Red Scare in the 1950s. Big trouble. The Maltese Falcon was his ticket out of the Tenderloin. But we have John’s Grill on Ellis Street and the Dash Hammett museum. There’s also a nice collection of his books in the Tenderloin Museum. That’s on Leavenworth and Eddy Streets. Check it out. You’ll find out how the Tenderloin got its name. … It doesn’t require a private detective. …

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Bruce Bellingham is the author of Bellingham by the Bay (Council Oak Books). Be sure to yell at him for his many iniquities — though yelling never seemed effective. He resides at bruce@marinatimes.com. Don't forget to follow the Marina Times on Twitter @The MarinaTimes and like us on Facebook @MarinaTimes.