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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
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