North Beach Journal

Happy New Year: Resolutions and revelations

Ralph J. Gleason in the press room at the Monterey Jazz Festival. photo: MONTEREY JAZZ FESTIVAL ARCHIVES / JERRY STOLL

As i was writing this new year’s Sketches column, I realized I had written more than 50 of these columns since 2012. Who knew? I intend to write at least 50 more. Then I’ll probably clean out my locker, move to the top of Mount Tam to meditate and write rock lyrics. I assume you want it darker. Meanwhile, here are my New Year’s resolutions and revelations for 2017.


Dining habits: Eat more Philly cheesesteaks, burgers, and baccala. Refuse kale in any form. Stop taking shots at molecular gastronomy — unless absolutely necessary.


Write more about my passion for jazz. I’m one of those guys who went from Glenn Miller to Charlie Parker almost overnight. I had some help from the late, great Chronicle columnist Ralph J. Gleason. I soaked him up like a sponge. I wish he was still around writing — not for the Chronicle, but for the Marina Times.


Watch all the Woody Allen movies I can lay my hands on — especially Midnight in Paris. And listen to the entire Leonard Cohen canon. He’s my man.


Stop taking potshots at the Telegraph Hill Dwellers Association even though the organization seems to be tone deaf and zone deaf about North Beach.


Do everything I can to make Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s visionary concept, Piazza St. Francis, The Poets Plaza, a reality — in Lawrence’s lifetime and in my lifetime, too. This is one of the last opportunities in this boomtown city to beat the internal combustion engine and create a space for people. And while I am confessing to a desire to rid our streets of automobiles, let me also declaim about Segways. They’re all over North Beach these days. Many visitors to the old neighborhood are cruising up and down our streets looking at the pavement in front of them rather than enjoying the scenery. So this resolution includes — let’s perambulate aimlessly, not somnambulistically on Segways.


I am known around the neighborhood for creating the bloody Mary served in a wine glass — straight-up, shaken with ice, and then poured without ice into a wine glass. I hereby confess that I did not invent this. I got it from the late, great publican Ed Moose whose Washington Square Bar & Grill was my default hangout when I couldn’t think of any other place to hang out. I still miss the old WSB&G.


I don’t like fancy cocktails. When I hear the words “cocktail wizardry,” I shy away like a nervous quarterback. I enjoy almost anything on the rocks — except my Ed Moose bloody Mary. No rocks please.


I haven’t gone to see Beach Blanket Babylon in many years. Last time I went I thought it was silly and boring. Maybe I’m wrong. I’ll try it again.


While I admire Tony Bennett and dig his song about the little cable cars that climb halfway to the stars, I have a master’s degree in Frank Sinatra from the University of Old Blue Eyes. Sinatra is still my kind of guy.


As you may have heard, I have written another book. It’s called San Francisco Appetites and Afterthoughts: In Search of the Good Life by the Golden Gate. It’s my hedonistic view of what turns me on about this city — jazz, saloons, bartenders, poets and poetry, old restaurants like Sam’s Grill and Tadich Grill, Panama hats, photography and photographers, and other characters who inhabit this great city.

Original Joe’s in North Beach is throwing me a book launch party, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 5–7 p.m. A year ago when the Duggans, proprietors of Original Joe’s, hosted a party for my first book, it was a contact sport just to get in the door. This time we’re going for a larger room. The party is sponsored by Original Joe’s, the Marina Times, and Grizzly Peak Press. Hope to see you there.

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