Bellingham by the Bay

In search of the ridiculous

It’s reassuring to see San Franciscans pull together and help their neighbors when trouble arises. Case in point: There was a fundraiser last month at the Buffalo Theory restaurant on Polk Street. It was arranged by Gil Hoh, the sharp co-owner. Four businesses — California Cowboy … One Half … Russian Hill Upholstery … and Johnson’s Leathers — were damaged in a two-alarm fire on Polk on July 14. One Half, a great card and bookshop, has reopened.

Carole Holt, the longtime owner of Russian Hill Upholstery, says her store will be closed for at least six months.

It was a modest but enthusiastic fundraiser. Gil Hoh said they collected about $6,000.

Why do the days get longer this time of year? That puzzles me. But the years, in some ways, get brighter. And, then, sadly, get shorter.

Is that a ridiculous thing to say? Of course it is, but I like to say ridiculous things. It’s fun. Being ridiculous is a sign of the times. Just look around. I’ll fit in just fine. …

I have always been ridiculous. For example, I am a boy in search of a jukebox. But a boy in search of a jukebox is on a serious mission. Most comedians are very serious people. That is, until they take themselves too seriously. I am interested in people here in San Francisco who are drawn to jukeboxes. Sure, one could always go home, and listen to music, or isolate oneself with programmed tunes through headsets. But jukeboxes encourage company. … “You mean,” one blurts out to a stranger in a pub, “that you know who Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry was?” Fast friendships are formed.

It gets windy here in San Francisco this time of the year. But when I walk on Ocean Beach and see the sunset, the spectacular colors, feel the frigid breeze that tortures my hair, the blazing wonderment on people’s faces just to be there to see the Pacific Ocean, and to see kids giggling as they dig their hands into the sand, well, it is worth the trip. They are looking for the prize. … San Francisco is a treasure — it is a jewel box. It is the prize. But, like all treasures, it must be opened carefully. She, this city of ours, is full of surprises. She could jump out of the gift box and bite you.

All sales final.

Don’t get scared, kids. Just keep digging.

It is September: a great time of the year. We may kick up the leaves, and start to have a sense of insensibility. I love kicking up leaves. My old friend, the wonderful songwriter, John Sebastian, wrote, “She’s a Lady / And I chanced to meet her / In my scufflin days …” Yes, it recalls the days when I grew up on the East Coast. OK, OK, perhaps I never grew up at all. … Those were my scufflin’ days. … My great good friend, Lynette Majer, complained to me about the noise that leaf blowers create here in Cow Hollow. So we go scufflin’, amid the leaves.

Leaf blowers are something that should be in Los Angeles, but not here in San Francisco. Any more than we should allow white separatists. We like leaves. And we have plenty of noise to start with. And, if we had leaf blowers, we would use them to keep the landlords away. … As if it were that easy. There is so much wind — so much bluster — I should not worry about it. … Say, I’ve got a leaf blower to sell you. …Not to worry. That’s like selling an air conditioner to somebody in this city. …

OK, let’s go back to business. Speaking of open air, I love Fishermen’s Wharf. Yes, I know locals are not supposed to find a fondness for the wharf. We San Franciscans are supposed to be so cool — and snooty. It is not so cool to be cold. I love the wharf. It is all about the water. It is all about people who love the water. It sings to me. More specifically, I love the USS Pampanito. Yes, that is a submarine at Pier 45. You know, of course, the submarines are called boats, not ships. Thanks to Diane Cooper at the San Francisco Maritime Park Association, I was invited for the Memorial Day commemoration this year. If you don’t choke up at the Lost Boats Ceremony and the lost sailors at sea, then I submit you may not have a heart. Diane, and all the vets, permitted me to throw a carnation into the water to recall their sacrifices for this country. A small gesture, but I am grateful.

Let’s hope we have no more lost boats — whether they’re in Korea or Venezuela or anywhere else.

It was a splendid day on the water down there at Pier 45.  High tide and all. The boat was rocking and rolling. I also love the rough and tumble of the tides. I don’t get seasick, well, only when I think of deadlines. That’s another story. I go to the Pampanito on my birthday every year. Sometimes the vets make me breakfast in the galley. Recalling their sacrifices is not restricted to one day of the year. I think about the sailors who may not share their birthdays with everyone they love. But we sure love them back. Thank you, fellas.

In the words of Duke Ellington, “I love you madly.” Gee, is there another way to love?


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Bruce Bellingham is the author of Bellingham by the Bay. Let him know when it is high tide at [email protected]. Follow the Marina Times on Twitter @TheMarinaTimes and like us on Facebook @MarinaTimes.