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Bellingham by the Bay

There oughta be a law

With the new year comes a cascade

of new laws out of Sacramento. Many of them deal with the state’s four-year-long drought. But lawmakers have yet to suggest that California wine replace glasses of water on restaurant tables. Seems practical to me. During the cholera epidemic in Europe during the 19th century, no one dares touch a glass of water. (Except Tchaikovsky, who drank cholera-contaminated water. It’s still being argued if he drank it on purpose.) “What is overlooked,” surmises Maurice Kanbar, the Pacific Heights reigning genius and philanthropist, “is that water shortages will be catastrophic for the planet.” …

I have my own suggestions for new laws. Car horns should be abolished in San Francisco. So should overly noisy motorcycles. I know. I’m risking the wrath of the Hell’s Angels and attendant benevolent societies on two wheels. Bicycles should be kept off sidewalks. Oh, right. There’s already a law for that. No one seems to neither heed it nor enforce it. Obnoxiousness is not illegal. Here’s another: No whistling anywhere in the county. Only Sir Paul McCartney and Bing Crosby are exempt. … No using the term “hopefully” incorrectly. William Safire told The Commonwealth Club: “The correct usage of ‘hopefully’ is this: The aging man perused the young woman’s posterior hopefully.”… While we’re at it, the expression “no worries” would be prohibited. When I hear it, I really start to worry. …

Lawrence Ferlinghetti wants Coit Tower to lean slightly like Pisa. Lawrence should be the new Emperor of San Francisco. Ernie Beyl should be chief of staff. … Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law that enhances sexual health education in the schools in 2016. Everyone knows that high school kids are already experts on sex education. They can teach the rest of us. …

Terrified of commitment, I rarely make New Year’s resolutions. I’ll abandon them before late February. This year, I pledge not to be too sentimental, ironic, or nostalgic. We all know that “nostalgia ain’t what it used to be” — often attributed to Yogi Berra. …

The Waldo Grade Tunnel, gateway to Marin, has been named after Robin Williams. This is a good thing. It keeps up a new tradition started by Ferlinghetti years ago: naming streets and landmarks for poets and artists. Robin brought a mad love, and a sublime artistry to all of us. He made insanity virtuous. What most people would not know is how generous he was. Now I can tell it: Robin used to go to meetings at the Marina Dock on Greenwich Street, where people, some very troubled, look for support. Robin might hand out lots of money for those in dire positions. I’m not ratting Robin. He was very public about addiction. That, in itself is a generous thing to do. … Yes, but who’s Waldo Grade?

One of the city’s most talented portrait artists is Jack Keating, whose work is on exhibit at the Look Gallery on O’Farrell and Geary Streets. His latest, a portrait of Orson Welles, can be seen at Rick Wilkinson’s book shop on Trinity Place in the Financial District. Jack’s integrity shows in the treatment of his subjects. Orson is still larger than life. At a Hollywood party, a young starlet once patted Orson on his ample stomach. “Gee, Orson,” she purred, “if that were on a woman, we’d know what to think.” “That was on a woman a half hour ago,” Welles growled. “Now what do you think?” Oscar Wilde was also a man for the ages. Keating’s portrait of the old boy hung for years at the now-closed O’Reilly’s Pub in North Beach. The picture could be anywhere in San Francisco. Wilde always was the restless type. “It’s an odd thing,” Wilde remarked, “but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco. It must be a delightful city and possess all the attractions of the next world.” … Alyssa Choo, a manager at City Impact, a Christian charity, asks me if I ever think about what happens in the next world. I’m more concerned with what’s going to happen to me in this one. …

Michael Rawls, a true prince of Nob Hill, was surprised to get a royalty check in the mail. It was from a radio station in Norway. They’ve been playing a song that Michael wrote with his late brother, Rodney, a very long time ago. Mr. Rawls is red hot in a very cold country. … Shall we talk about the weather? Rarely do we have any in San Francisco. But I got back from New York after Thanksgiving. It was colder here. Everyone in the East was talking about how warm it was. Everyone here has been complaining about the frigid temperatures. It only takes a few days for us to get back to a more temperate climate. Maybe three or four days. Just long enough to see another handful of high-rise condominiums materialize. … Yes, evictions seem to be our most important product in the City That Knows How. Like everything else, little can be done but to grouse about it. Politics is a good place for someone who can point to the problem, and have no idea what to do about it. … Christopher Buckley quoted his famous father on CBS This Morning when he was asked what the GOP needs. William F. Buckley replied, “The party needs a repristination.” Or maybe a fumigation. Perhaps eschewing big words should be another New Year’s resolution for me. …

The Quickly tapioca shop on Polk Street closed months ago. But it will live on in San Francisco’s political history. You may recall that Ed Jew, a former city supervisor, went to prison after pleading guilty to extorting $20,000 from Quickly to fix some operating permits. Word on the street is the Quickly location will become a nightclub. It’s already getting mixed reviews. …

David McCollough has an idea (he credits his daughter): “Bring back suppertime!” Meanwhile, Dr. Oz, for health reasons, extols the virtue of home cooking. I don’t know. That sounds a little nostalgic to me. Home cooking? That’s all right if you have a home or are too busy to cook while trying to hold on to yours. … Let’s hold on through this new year. And hope for the best. …

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Bruce Bellingham is the author of Bellingham by the Bay. He hopes to undergo a repristination this year. Or something close to it. Show him the way at [email protected].

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