Things change. Thomas Wolfe wasn’t necessarily right of course. Late this afternoon we walked up Kearney, glimpsed the banker’s heart at the California intersection, marveled over the wonderful new-to-us Alioto law offices on the Columbus intersection, passed the boarded up Belli office… some kind of construction going on there, pressed our noses against the antique store windows in the “decorator district,” peeked up Gold Street toward a bar call “Bix” (any relation I wonder?), reminisced about the high tone gay bar that occupied that location before the Gay Pride revolution — the culture was as out as anybody wanted to be, but as closeted as was prudent for some of those men — movers and shakers of San Francisco society who preferred their privacy, I guess — times were less open, less “tolerant,” (fuck you Frank, he’d say… who’s tolerating whom?), less “out” then, Lucius… and don’t pretend you weren’t marginalized by the very culture you led.
Walking on we crossed Broadway at Sansome and looking east saw the wonderful view of the bay without the Embarcadero freeway. That Broadway on-ramp was a fixture in my San Francisco experience, the quick hop out of North Beach and across the Bay Bridge. The neighborhood is so much nicer without it.
Henry Chung’s Hunan restaurant beckoned… we shared harvest pork, and dry sauteed green beans after an appetizer of green onion pancakes. Jasmine tea and a pitcher of ice water helped cool things off a little. Twenty years ago Hunan was one of those places we’d go with large groups for hot food, intoxicating drinks, and the conversation that went with all that. It hasn’t changed… it really hasn’t changed.
Walked up Broadway to Grant. Looked up as we passed the Condor, thought fleetingly of Carol Doda who made the topless scene famous and went on to greater fame as the sultry announcette for San Jose’s TV channel (“the perfect”) 36. We walked up Grant to Washington, down to Washington Square and back down Columbus toward Stockton. Stopped at a bakery for a cannoli, then headed down Stockton to Broadway, cut left past a Chinese grocery that thirty years ago was an outlet for goods from mainland China … enamel pins with red star designs and gold embossed portraits of the Chairman, Socialist Realism posters of heroic Chinese workers (my favorite was a young woman on a telephone pole working as a storm raged around her)… that kind of thing… things have changed a lot since then. We ducked into City Lights for some browsing, reading, shopping… picked Updike’s Seek My Face for Ben, and Jim Sagel’s El Santo Queso and Luis Rodriguez’ La Republica De East L.A. for Matt. We also scored five volumes for ourselves, including Quine’s Quiddities, John Kennedy’s Word Stems, a thin Cliff’s notes kind of volume – 58 pages by Christopher Johnson on Jacques Derrida, The Founding Fish by John McPhee, and Iceland’s Bell by Halldor Laxness. Great last name, Laxness.
Sated, we strolled down Grant through China Town and back to our hotel.
Later – deep fried calamari and an arugula salad with pears and gorgonzola cheese.
A few months ago, Beth and i decided we had passed corpulent and moved on to Porkulent. We dieted, we lost weight — even continued a downward trend over the Thanksgiving weekend. Now it’s another holiday season and we’re on the road and we’re just going to eat. Hope the exercise is sufficient to burn most of the calories… and after the first of the year we’ll go back on the stricter regimen.