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VOLUME 2, NUMBER 27   <>   MONDAY, JULY 9, 2001

Watching City Hall

by h. brown

“Who’s my daddy?”
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I knew for sure I was back in Missouri when I saw that billboard. There was a picture of a beautiful, beaming baby sitting and waving to the passing traffic on Route 55. You know, you really don’t need to be much of a writer to be funny if you’re from this area. Just listen, read, & repeat it back. A few more gems.

“I’m sorry honey, but we had to give away your grave.”

My folks are simple people. Not dumb. Just lacking in guile. I’ve always been the oddball of my family. Always on the road. Married six times. A drinker & a pothead.

They worry about me. Years ago my mom & dad had the foresight to purchase their own burial plots and considering my normal instability, they bought one for me alongside. I thanked them but have always thought I’d prefer to be toasted and scattered over Pacific Heights. Although I’m sure many San Francisco politicians have their own ideas about how best to handle my form.

On these trips back to see mom, we always try to fit in a visit to pop’s grave and if possible to the old churchyard back in the woods where the Clemenses & the Gambles used to plant their kin.

This time there was a difference. The three plots mom & dad purchased are adjacent to the cemetery’s perimeter road. On this visit I noted that the road had been widened and now was just a couple of feet from dad’s plot. In fact, it went directly over what they’d planned to be MY plot. My 86-year-old momma explained matter-of-factly that they’d given up the land reserved for me when the caretakers asked, because they knew I didn’t want to be buried there anyway.

We hear voices

My family (as you probably suspected) has a healthy streak of insanity. The usual mix. Bi-polar, schizophrenic ... that sort of thing. Most folks in San Francisco have to take drugs to hallucinate and hear voices. Some of my kin only need to STOP taking drugs to get the same effect. When we are together, we sit down and compare notes. Drug induced vs. the real McCoy. They’re pretty similar. I’ll share one of my experiences.

About a quarter century ago, I was jogging (stoned) in the hot St. Louis sun. I was headed for a friend’s small lawnmower sales and repair business next to the airport in North St. Louis County. I was miserable. I wanted, more than anything, to go back to California but I was repaying a debt I owed to my friend for his help on my own business (a jazz club) which had failed.

As I sweated and mulled my thoughts, a very clear voice came into my head. It said: “What do you want most?”

Knowing my family history, it gave me cause for concern. Nevertheless, I replied (not out loud), “I want to go back to California.”

After a pause, the clear voice replied: “OK, you can go back to California.”

I pursued the thought: “How do I know that this is not just one level of me talking to another level of me?” I asked.

After a pause came the answer, “How about when you get to Bob’s, there will be a letter for you from California?”

I knew that couldn’t be because no one in California knew where I was and certainly didn’t know where I was working.

I replied: “There is always a local newspaper on the counter when I arrive. How’s about the headline should say if I can hit the road again?”

There was no reply. Not another peep all the way to work.

At this time, they were expanding the airport and extending the runways. The first step in the procedure was to break up the perimeter road and expand it to beyond where the new runways would be.

When I reached the shop, I hurried to the counter and sure enough, there was the folded newspaper.

I flipped it open. The headline blared: BROWN ROAD MOVE IS UNDERWAY. (The perimeter road is named Brown Road).

Before I could fully drink this in, my friend called from a workbench in the back of the room: “Hey h, you got a letter from California!”

Lust with cobwebs

I went to the City Hall in St. Louis. I wanted to see how a city with half the population of San Francisco (400k) got by on a budget of 400 million when S.F. was set to spend 5.2 billion and it wasn’t enough. I talked to janitors and cops and delivery folks and the like and worked my way up to the Board of Aldermen (persons, I mean) where I knew I’d get a good snow job. I got more than that.

It was lunch and there was a good-looking blonde of around 40 (I thought) alone behind the counter. I asked her a few questions and she was evasive. I nodded and looked around the room.

There was a door ajar into a beautiful conference room named after the old alderman from my home ward (St. Louis has 28 alderpersonages as compared to San Francisco’s 11 lost children). I asked if I could go inside and take a look. She looked a little suspicious but there was something beyond that.

“You have some ID?” she asked.

I proudly produced an SF Call business card.

She read it and started laughing. “I thought that was YOU!” she said.

Mein Gott! When I was a freshman in high school, she was a senior and the captain of the cheerleaders. A real fantasy for a fourteen year old.

Some things never change.

I hugged her (my best friend for the first 25 years of my life was her brother-in-law) and she invited me to join her family under a bridge adjacent to the Arch to watch the fireworks on the 4th of July (two days hence). It was too much. Fireworks under the bridge with the captain of the cheerleaders? Naw, better to leave it at that and fill in the blanks with fantasy. I hugged her again (maybe a little to hard) & went back out into the burning St. Louis July.

On the 4th, I bar-hopped, drinking bourbon along the levee watching the river boats roll by and thinking about being a kid playing on the moored barges.

No escaping Baghdad

Camped on the couch at my sister & mom’s place I channel surfed before going to bed the other night. I flipped to the Discovery Channel & there was Kimberly Guilfoyle.

It was some kind of legal series they do and San Francisco’s D.A.’s office was featured. They used shots of the city from the Marin Headlands, switching to aerial, then to ground level as transitions atween case coverages featuring Hallinan directing Assistant D.A.’s Jim Hammer and Guilfoyle.

For two hours I watched the most beautiful shots of San Francisco I’ve ever seen. Those kids can make great films. I’m no friend of office buildings because of what they do to the artistic, poor, and non-white S.F. population. However, the Discovery crew’s camerawork made the city look like heaps of the most gorgeous multi-faceted jewels.

coming home: sobone@juno.com

h. brown