Bellingham by the Bay

The Urban Spaceman

It seems I’ve become a bit of a nomad these days, wandering from hither to yon. Or, as Herb Caen would say, “Hither to Yawn.”

But for all of my impenetrable ennui, I’ve not lost my sense of civic duty. Passing by Project Open Hand in Polk Gulch, I noticed it was being used as a polling place for the race to be the Empress of Polk Street. That’s an old tradition from the 1970s, when the strand was called “Polkstrasse,” an obvious reference to the decadent days in Berlin before the War when anything goes — and before everything went.

The two candidates from Empress are Danielle Logan & Patty LaGroin, a name with such a continental touch. The Emperor, Drew Cutler, ran unopposed. In the old days (a phrase that makes me uncomfortable) The Empress of Polk Street was a big event, which turned into a street party outside Kimo’s bar on Polk. The funky old tavern has been rehabilitated and changed into a tidy little watering hole called Playland. But somehow things are not so playful these days.

Swan Oyster Depot on Polk has become known for the long lines that form there as it is for its heaps of fresh crab. But the lines also formed across the street at the Let It Bleed tattoo shop on Valentine’s Day. You see, they offered a $28 special for a small tattoo. Some waited up to three hours to get stabbed.

I’ve always been a little unsettled by tattoos. Not because my doctor, Debbie Brown, is fond of having me inoculated for every ailment under the sun — even for diseases that lurk in the darkness. No, it’s because when I was a kid in New York, a deli man handed me a sandwich, and I noticed the number on his wrist that was affixed by the Nazis in a death camp.

More cheerfully, my friend, Jenni Dillon, has a very ornate tattoo, an octopus that snakes down the length of her left arm. It certainly reminds me of the great sci-fi flick It Came from Beneath the Sea, where a giant octopus wraps itself around the Bay Bridge. It was probably trying to get away from Swan Oyster Depot.

When not pouring drinks at Divas, the tranny bar on Post, she does stand-up comedy at Asia S.F., South-of-Market.

Tony Sheridan, an Elvis sound-alike, was a front man for the Beatles during their days in Hamburg, West Germany. He died the other day. At the Star Club in Hamburg, John Lennon would come on stage with a toilet seat around his neck, shouting “Heil, Hitler!”

One tune Tony recorded with the Beatles was “Take Out Some Insurance On Me, Baby.” I hope she did.

In this long passing parade, Fields Book Store, the oldest independent bookstore in the City, will soon close its doors. With a mix of mystical tomes and endearing classics, it’s been a gathering place for the literati from all over the world. All the attention goes to high-tech these days, but as for Fields Books, you can’t hold a Kindle to it.

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Bruce Bellingham is the author of Bellingham by the Bay. The way things are going, he'll soon be in the Bay. E-mail: [email protected]