We used to do lots of acid in the old days.
We’d wander in Golden Gate Park and look up to the towers of
Mount Sutro and the older burned-out freaks would say: “They
control us all from there, you know.”
There was talk of magnetism and power points
and such stuff. Some of us made a pact that we’d go up there
when we reached 75 years of age and try and see just what was
buried in that mountain. To go sooner, the logic went, would
risk losing the experience of being human … kind of like
looking behind the curtain & seeing the wizard.
Those thoughts came back to me as I watched
the S.F. Board of Supervisors on the tube.
Often the most interesting things in the
board meetings aren’t on the record. That happened last
Monday, during the supes’ first meeting since the sneak
attack on America.
When the board adjourned, Gavin Newsom
paused as he went through the swinging beautifully burnished
dark wooden gates at the center of the sweeping matching rails
dividing the 11-member board and the staff & press
galleries from the princes and peasants in the audience.
Directly behind the public speaker’s podium sat an
Egyptian/American advocate for the homeless named Abdul. Abdul
usually speaks first at Public Comment. More than once he has
Newsom paused, elegant, slender, dashing,
briefcase in hand. He paused and then strode two or three
paces to where the aging, hulking giant in denims was starting
to hobble out on his cane. And the golden boy of the new, rich
emerging San Francisco embraced the passionate, aging
representative of my generation.
It was spontaneous and obviously heartfelt
& it made me feel lots better about Newsom, San Francisco,
and the world.
How Americans treat one another is important
to the entire world because it presages how our power elite
will end up treating the rest of the earth. My 4th
wife, the German filmmaker, used to say that all Europeans
should get to vote for the American president because the
outcome mattered equally to them. That was almost 20 years
ago. By now, I’d guess the entire planet should get to help
decide who sits in the White House.
Watching Gavin and Abdul make a connection
beyond class and politics made me recall what Supervisor Chris
Daly said a few weeks back about “not feeling much love”
in City Hall. Chris caught a lot of flack for the comment from
City Hall, the cynics mantra’d, is no
place for love. The building has, as my people would say, “bad
vibes.” You KNOW that can happen. City Hall is full of
greed, ambition, cunning, confusion & desperation. (A lot
like my last marriage.) Oh, it’s not just buildings that get
infected with such bad vibes but also people, places, things,
countries, cultures and, I’d guess, entire planets. Jimmie
Carter spoke of a “great malaise” that had swept America.
Maybe this terrible tragedy of 9/11 can have
at least one positive outcome. We’re nicer to each other all
of a sudden. No one yelled at the ump in the Giants’ first
game back and we lost in the ninth … and it wasn’t really
that big a deal.
Ambivalence … attitude … anger … angst
… our feet are in the fire. How do we respond?
Cheers for the Browns
Mayor Willie Brown did a magnificent job of
crafting a show to honor the victims of 9/11. It was
definitely the finest moment of his career. Reverend Amos
Brown asked if perhaps we should look to our own conduct as a
nation for some of the reasons anyone could successfully carry
out such a monstrous deed.
I felt myself nodding as my mutated anger
welcomed a legitimate new channel to pursue. I’ve gone from
wanting to nuke capital cities to wanting to shower CARE
packages over entire countries. Can good people stand with a
righteous foot in each camp? It is truly a tough issue.
Leave em laughing?
A tall order this week. It’s a toss
between poking fun at Supervisor Leland Yee and Norcal/AT&T
Broadband/Sutro Tower lobbyist Robert McCarthy (he’s the one
who looks like Mr. Toad in “Zippy the Pinhead”). McCarthy
once told a board committee that he felt so good about the
heavy-duty transmission facilities he was lobbying to install
on public buildings that he allowed one of his kids to go to
school and sit beneath one.
The city’s rate board, chaired by City
Administrator Bill Lee, and flanked by Controller Ed
Harrington and someone from PUC had voted 3-0 for a 41 percent
raise for Norcal (they pick up your refuse) over the next five
of years. The Supes thought they’d like Budget Analyst
Harvey Rose to do a little audit of Norcal, how it got the
contract & how it sets rates & all that stuff.
Which energized Mayor Brown’s only
remaining automatic mouthpiece on the board, Leland Yee, to
preach why this should be delayed. As long as possible. Send
it to committee. Send it to Cleveland. Send it anywhere but to
an honest budget analyst for an honest look.
McCarthy did his best h. brown imitation. He
was arrogant, sarcastic, and totally in the wrong. He gets
paid to act that way. Lucky Mr. Toad.
So, the thing rattled through with Yee
casting the only vote to delay the audit.
That was the last item of public business
and the members started packing their yo-yo’s and bubblegum
as Clerk of the Board Gloria Young read off the board’s
regrets and concerns for 9/11. Board president Tom Ammiano
started to gavel the session closed with the call of “Same
house” — looking around, he sees no objections — “Same
call!” when Supervisor Matt Gonzalez realizes that Yee (who
is running for state office on Willie Brown’s coattails) has
just been recorded as voting AGAINST honoring the dead, the
American flag, and America.
Imagine the posters Yee’s opponents could
get out of that. But Matt saved him.
The board rescinded the vote & allowed
Public Servant Yee to record that he was only against an
expeditious audit of a sweetheart deal some of the mayor’s
donors got from some of the mayor’s appointees, not against
sympathy and patriotism.
There, I’m back in the swing, wounding the
enemies of the people with the spear of satire. But it doesn’t
feel so important anymore. I find myself thinking of taking a
substitute teacher’s job up somewhere in the redwoods or
maybe around Shasta.
Have our leaders made so many enemies that
we all must flee? They’ve chased the musicians and dancers
and artists from San Francisco. The old and unwhite are
packing. On TV the Afghan peasants pull crude carts full of
their last material possessions while looking over their
shoulders in fear. In San Francisco’s UN Plaza, the poor do
I recall the words of an SF realtor busy
evicting tenants, “It’s not personal. It’s business.”
And we wonder why people come to hate us.
Maybe we can go to Mount Sutro and check the
basement for magnetic/geothermic/gravitational bad vibe
machines? Naw, we’d never get in. I know who’d be there
guarding the door. … Mr. Toad.