Bellingham by the Bay

The art of the dull

There’s something to be said for dullness. Something to be said for things that are quiet, still, and safe. Recollected in tranquility. You know the old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Well, they’re too interesting these days.

“It looks like you dodged a bullet in San Francisco,” wrote Christina Greene from Wisconsin. She was referring to how, at the last minute, a protest at Crissy Field on Aug. 26 meant to support white supremacy was canceled by the organizers. … All the same, the nonevent cost the SFPD $775,000 in overtime for the officers. None of the cops could have that Saturday off.

Crissy Field isn’t supposed to be a battleground for disparate ideologies. It’s a place to take in the fresh air of the bay, to take your dog for a run, to admire the majesty of the Golden Gate Bridge or to walk or jog to Fort Mason. And if you take a bat to Crissy, it’s for knocking around a softball — not other people’s heads.

Dodging a bullet: That reminds me of Winston Churchill’s famous line, “Nothing is more exhilarating than to be shot at without result.” He was referring to his experiences in the Boer War. Today, the political battleground is more like the Bore War. … A little dullness might be in order. … “Dull, duller, Dulles.” Churchill said of the CIA director, Allen Dulles, “He is a bull that carries his own china shop.” Gee, that has a familiar ring to it. …

MSNBC aired a piece on “Dating in the Trump Era.” The conclusion of the report was if one of the first-daters confesses he or she is a Trump-supporter, and the other is part of the Resistance, there will be no second date.

I don’t take politics personally. Friendships are too hard to come by. Maurice Kanbar, the inventor, philanthropist, and Prince of Pacific Heights, is diametrically opposed to my being an unrepentant New Deal Democrat. But I don’t let that disturb our friendship, which has lasted 40 years.

That reminds me of a story that has circulated through my family over the decades. It was Election Day in 1936. Franklin Roosevelt was running against the Republican candidate, Alf Landon. But there was a Socialist Party candidate: Norman Thomas. The Bernie Sanders of his time.

My grandfather and grandmother had a terrible argument at the breakfast table that morning. My grandmother stormed out of the house: “I’m going to vote,” she barked at him.

An hour later, my grandmother returned to inform my grandfather, defiantly, that she had voted for Norman Thomas. They didn’t speak to each other for weeks. …

When I think of October, I recall the Loma Prieta earthquake that wreaked havoc in the Marina and in other parts of town in 1989. … This summer, two major quakes in Mexico. The hurricanes that ravaged the Caribbean, Florida, and Texas are, at best, unsettling.

When the next quake comes, there will be no power. No e-mail, no Google, no Twitter, no cell phone coverage because the towers will be down. Credit cards will be useless. I have mixed feelings about that. In a lackluster spirit of preparation, I sleep with two flashlights. But enough of my private life.

In 1989, the Chronicle had no back-up generators. Neither did the old Examiner. Carole Vernier told me the Chronicle City Room staffers rushed to Herb Caen’s office to confiscate his typewriters to get out the morning edition. (They used to snicker at his quaint collection of Royals and Olivettis.) It was a moment of triumph for the Luddites.

A young editor stood over Carole, mesmerized.

“What is it?” Carole asked.

She said, “I’ve never seen carbon paper before.”

I mention Herb Caen because Kevin Young, who’s been pouring drinks at Perry’s on Union Street for many years, likes it. Both Kevin and Perry’s are real Cow Hollow survivors. …

There’s an effort to name a portion of Myrtle Alley, near Larkin Street, after Bubbles, a transgender street artist, and fixture of the Polk Gulch neighborhood. Bubbles was shot to death on the street last month. The case remains unsolved as of this writing. Bubbles was splashy but harmless. She’d hand out “tranny snow cones.” … From Emperor Norton to Brendan O’Smarty to Bubbles, San Francisco used to embrace its characters. This was a town that extolled exhibitionism. …

The homicide rate is rising in the city. And so are the parking meter rates in the Marina. Everybody’s Favorite City has become Everybody’s Favorite Real Estate Investment. Too many cars, not enough housing, too little laughter. …

Billy Crystal will be honored at Bimbo’s on Oct. 19, where he’ll receive the Robin Williams Legacy of Laughter Award. It’s a fundraiser to help defeat the stigma of mental illness …

I have to clear up a few things. Last month I reported on an event to raise money for people who were displaced by a mid-Polk Street fire on July 14. … Leonie van den Berg, who lived in her apartment for 44 years, lost a substantial amount of her possessions — not everything. A colleague in Leonie’s art class offered a place for Leonie to live, and she wants to say glowing things about Melissa Karam, the class instructor.  … Regarding the fire, Carole Holt reminds me her shop, Russian Hill Upholstery, is closed temporarily — but she’s still doing business at 415-567-4523, 415-290-2600, and [email protected].

I regret the errors. I wish all the best. … Yes, never a dull moment. I just can’t wait for a dull moment. …


Send to a Friend Print
Bruce Bellingham is the author of Bellingham by the Bay. He’s fighting the old ennui at [email protected]. Follow the Marina Times on Twitter @TheMarinaTimes and like us on Facebook @MarinaTimes.