Bruce Bellingham!
I don’t blame Gavin Newsom for leaving San Francisco

I was chatting up Michael Fogarty at the Balboa Cafe the other day. Michael is a sage among the wise barmen in San Francisco. Funny, perceptive, gruff, and kind. His learned hand is evident in all things he undertakes. That includes his Bloody Marys. He is also a bit of a historian.

“I can’t believe that it was 40 years ago today that I got my girlfriend to take me to Newark Airport,” says Michael. “I had $500 in my pocket when I flew to San Francisco. I never looked back. I never looked back at New Jersey, and I never looked back at my girlfriend. No, Bruce, I have no regrets.”

I can almost see the poor, sweet thing standing tearfully at the departure gate, wondering what she did wrong.

There’s the difference between me and Mr. Fogarty. He does not look back.

Like Sinatra’s plaintive ballad, he imparts that he has no regrets.

Then again, maybe too few to mention.

There isn’t enough paper in Washington State for me to collect my regrets. I collect regrets like postage stamps.

Michael and I are not sorry we came to San Francisco. It’s still a beautiful (pricey) city. Yup, I recall when San Francisco was a beautiful, affordable, clean city. Restaurants were cheap, drinks were within reach. Rents were accessible. I played music on the streets of San Francisco in the early 1970s. We’d take home 80 bucks in cash every day, and the monthly rent was about $110, if you can believe that.

Remember Shields and Yarnell? Sure, it was 40 years ago, not long after Michael Fogarty and I got to these sacred shores. Robert Shields and Lorene Yarnell. They were married mimes who practically owned Union Square their popularity was so great. Down at Lefty O’Doul’s, many years later, Robert told me about his magical, idyllic life in San Francisco. He and Lorene are now married to other people on separate continents. Yes, they gave up on San Francisco years ago.
“You can’t believe it, Bruce,” Robert said to me, “Lorene and I would take home $200 a day. We had a Victorian in the Haight that cost almost nothing. We’d go to Little Joe’s in North Beach, have long, Valpolicella-soaked lunches, fill ourselves with wonderful Italian food, then go home and make love for the rest of the afternoon.”

This is the kind of stuff that should be in brochures for the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau. No longer – I stayed too long at the fair.

But let me talk about the incumbent mayor of San Francisco, Gavin Newsom, a native son of the Pacific. He’s serious about becoming lieutenant governor of California.

I’m not sure what a lieutenant governor does. I thought Garamendi had the job for life. Like Papa Doc Duvalier.

Why would Gavin abandon his favorite city? Well, he’s not really abandoning San Francisco. San Francisco usually quits us first. No one really leaves San Francisco if one’s lived here for a protracted period of time. Even Tony Bennett never admits that he left his heart in Englewood, New Jersey. After all, he’ll be singing at the Black & White Ball here in May. He’s bringing his heart with him, and all the digitalis he can carry.

But Gavin’s got more to give. He’s a politician, not a social worker. Even his late mom, Tessa, wanted him to give up politics. Gavin will never give up politics. He was born to the game, to the fray, to the Fight Club, and to the turbulence of the political priesthood.

But in recent years, San Francisco has gotten a little stale, a little jaded, a little too sleepy. She’s still pretty to look at it, of course. She’s pretty, and paralyzed, and petty like many small towns.
The stakes are small, so that’s why the long knives are always out for the politicos.

Getting out of town might be good for a lot of us – that includes me, not that I would envy the hot, dusty afternoons in the ghastly Sacramento Valley. But then, there are always slabs of prime rib at lunchtime with John Burton.

Let’s face it: It’s time for Gavin to go. And maybe it’s time for me to go, too. We’ll be back. I’m quite sure of that.

Bruce Bellingham is the author of Bellingham by the Bay, and writes with no regrets for Northside San Francisco. Should he stay or should he go? Let Bruce know at
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