Gary & the Argonauts weren't the only ones singing the
blues last night. I caught their act at the Blue Lamp down on Geary &
Jones after attending last evening's meeting of the Elections
Redistricting Commission. Gary broke a guitar string in the first set
but wailed on with riff after riff of screeching, tumbling, groaning
cascades of bruising blues. Three bucks at the door & $3.50 for a pint
of Sierra Nevada. A real deal. So was the crowd at the City Hall
"I think every political junkie in town is here."
commented Patrick Murphy, my publisher with the San Francisco Sentinel.
We'd camped in a back row of the main Board Chambers, which had become
the overflow room for the live affair in Room 263. The larger chambers
soon filled, as did the halls beyond. It was great.
It had the energy of a heavy weight championship fight
and it was. We all knew this one was gonna go all 15 rounds for sure.
The opponents were too evenly matched for this one to end in a knockout.
Nope, it would go to the judges for sure. Word was, Willie Brown had
already bought two French judges and a Ukranian clerk. Some of the lines
the Mayor's old girlfriend, Claudine Cheng, suggested looked like they
would have Chris Daly living in Oakland and Sophie Maxwell in Mexico. My
side (progressives) had Gavin Newsom representing the Farallone Islands.
Did you see or read “Catch-22“? It has a recurring scene
where all of the bomber crews gather round a large map of enemy
territory to see which targets have been captured and which are still
beyond "the bomb line." It really happened that way, though author
Joseph Heller satirized it into a masterpiece. Twenty-four hours a day,
people stood in front of the map, checking to see where the “bomb line”
had moved. Their lives could very well depend upon it.
San Francisco's redistricting map has lotsa bomb lines.
Finished products usually end up looking like a surgery job by Dr.
Frankenstein. Ya think there's no way anything like that could work,
then the damned thing gets up off the table, goes out into the hall &
starts shaking voters' hands. Ahhhh, it was fun to watch everyone go
from goose bumps to cold sweats as appendages were removed & switched
into odd angles.
The two large TV monitors tracked the continuing
adjustments as first one commissioner, then another, suggested changes.
Legislative aides instantly recognized overlays of segments that crossed
their boss’s frontiers & left conversations to race up to the monitors
and study the moving lines like cats chasing the beam from a flashlight.
"Can you hear me now?" called out the lobbyists on cell phones in the
halls, calling out to their clients. There was so much microwave energy
bouncing in the corridors that you could get a tan just going to the
bathroom. In between we people-watched and shared gossip about who was
screwing or used to screw whomever. A real San Francisco gathering.
There were some nice hats too.
If the happening had an overarching characteristic, it
had to be humor. Everyone shook their heads & made disparaging remarks
about "politics," but everyone was smiling broadly when they said things
like that. We were all in our element.
Players & voyeurs. Predators & prey. Doug Comstock, who
heads an umbrella group for neighborhood organizations, nodded as he
passed & worked the crowd. Chris Bowman, the walking Department of
Elections archives, draped his long arms over the backs of a row of
seats and held court. John Gardner, most recently of Jeff Adachi's
incredible campaign, passed on updates and beamed. Susan Horsfall,
who has connections with Lennar developers, told me she
read everything I wrote. I told her I watched everything she said (I do)
& resolved to stop leaving notes in the women’s john. Steven Currier,
who's lobbying Gerardo Sandoval to get more “big boxes” in the Outer
Mission (try Capp Street, Steve), called out my name. I had to get a
Larry Roberts, from Matt Gonzalez's office, showed us
the tire tracks Oz Erickson of Emerald Fund left over his body that
afternoon when Larry stood to testify before Gavin Newsom's Neighborhood
Services & Recreation Committee for a modification of the new
Albertson's liquor license. Sean Elsbernd, whom you get to meet if you
tell lies about Tony Hall, stopped to trade laughs.
It was a great gathering. The bomb lines moved on … and
so did I.