on the Beach, Vino d'Italia ...
My Friend Xiao
Fan and I are having lunch downtown at Le Central on Bush Street.
It is about two in the afternoon and the business lunch crowd is
now thinning out. We have the table by the window. I like to call
it the Mayor's table, because whenever Mayor Willie Brown is there,
he gets it. I tell Xia Fan this. "If he were here today,"
I say, "we would be over there." I point to the back of
the restaurant toward the restrooms. She laughs. She knows how things
an hour since the bewhiskered brute with the big axe and his blue
ox Babe passed the reviewing stand. The Shriners have passed, the
tassels of their purple fezzes whipping back and forth as they turn
impossibly tight circles in midget funnycars. Marijuana plants have
marched past, a float of crooning matrons in corsets, hawkers of
sushi and gooey cookies, trombonists, Annie Oakleys on matching
geldings and a makeshift mobile jail. The smoke from blanks shot
off by deputies of the mobile Kangaroo Kort hangs in the air, along
with exhaust from a flatbed hauling creampuff entries to the demolition
Women, and War
With my personal
relationships in a shamble and the country at war as well, if war
is what you want to call the massive bombing of an ancient city,
I headed to North Beach Restaurant for something to buck me up.
I knew the food to be the best, but I was curious about something:
I had heard that owner Lorenzo Petroni was producing his own wine
from property he owned in Sonoma. It was dinner time when I arrived
on Tuesday, and we sat at a small table in the back of the Tuscan-style
restaurant near the waiters' station. While I was curious about
the wine, I first asked Lorenzo about himself....
Bars, and B.J. Papa
ago she was married to a doctor. Then came the divorce. She is Korean,
and I can't quite guess her age. When she dresses and fixes her
hair, she is still good looking. Before the divorce she had never
worked before; she had no training, no special skills. So she became
a bartender and began working the Tenderloin bars. It was kind of
exciting in the beginningguys, dates, boyfriendsbut
now I think it is not. She seems burned out. Two
days earlier we had been sitting in the Tenderloin bar where she
works. There were only two customers other than myself. One was
a black guy in a stocking cap who was mumbling to himself. The other
customer said nothing at all....
I call my friend Zoltan in Oakland, write down his new address and
tell him I'll be there in a few hours. "Anything I can bring
from Mendo?" I ask. "Aside
from a few pounds of sinsemilla? Maybe a few lungfuls of fresh air
and a rusty skyhook," says Zoltan. In
folktales, it's often the one day of "a year and a day"
or the one night of "a thousand and one nights" that proves
to be the maiden's salvation or unravels the hero's scheme. Once
I heard a con artist in the bullpen of the jail, frisked and fingerprinted,
freedomless, say he could do a year standing on his head. It was
the "and a day" that gave him the willies, a rainy day
without a backbone ...
Search of The City
Thursday night and Mike Lipskin is playing the piano at Moose's.
Moose himself is sitting there at the bar, full of the "presence"
that San Francisco's senior jazz pianist Don Asher says he has.
As usual it is a "scene" at Moose's Maybe that is why
I have been avoiding it for so long. Heather,
short reddish-brown hair and fashionably narrow, blue-rimmed glasses,
talks about turning "a new page in her book." She is moving
to New Zealand to be with her boyfriend. She is moving on more than
I am, heading, as she is, to a whole new country. But now she sticks
around and talks to me like she is sorry to go. I just met her but
we are having trouble parting....
I am feeling
kind of blue and decide to go for a walk despite ominous gray clouds
I see from my window. Over the years I have noticed that a walk
can cure many problems. I'm quite certain that a lot of psychiatrists
would be out of work if their patients only knew about walking therapy.
I hit the street at Jones, between Sacramento and Clay, and for
a couple of blocks all is well and I'm beginning to feel on the
brighter side. I head up Jones towards the Bay. But then at Jones
and Pacific the rain begins. First there are only a few tentative
drops, then it begins to come down hard. I duck into the entrance
to an apartment building and get out my umbrella. I like rain but
I do not like this rain. It seems mean-spirited....
At first Charlie
didn't pay all that much attention to her. As any man at the bar
will tell you, real hotties arrive in town about as often as real
circuses, and stay about as long. They'll pass on this information
with a shrug, and tell you with a pained smile that there's no use
getting worked up over nothing. But the fifth or sixth time Charlie
spotted her cruising down Main in her sporty, slightly dented convertible,
blonde hair streaming in the wind, her oversize sunglasses lending
her an air of intrigue, he thought this one might be an exception.
He tailed her. "Discreetly, of course. I parked across the
street and gave her time to settle into the crowd at the art opening."
feels good, especially after losing. I have recently been on a losing
streak. But all things come in cycles, even as the lout knows. Faith
tells you and the lout that you've hit bottom and will soon rise
again. And if the cylce is a long one and you fail to detect that
the turning point is imminent, then you can turn to those you like
and enjoy their successes. The lout, the mooch, the deluded idler
do this all the time. Why not you and me? Which is a long introduction
to something you might like to know. Dave
Nepove, head bartender at Enrico's and a guy with one of the most
powerful smiles I have ever seen, won first prize in the Fourth
Annual Chartreuse Competition held at Amante in North Beach. Dave,
like me, is not big on competitions. But ...
Times Bummed in San Francisco
went to see Lennie Bruce perform at his mother's strip joint down
in San Diego, and the sailors who frequented the place would not
shut up long enough for Bruce to do his comedy routine. "Bring
on more tits and ass," they shouted when Bruce appeared on
stage. So Bruce stripped and showed them his behind. Nevertheless,
Enrico decided to give him a try at the Hungry i in San Francisco.
"He was very funny," says Enrico. "He wasn't
doing much of the filthy stuff yet." When he did start doing
it, says Enrico, that is when he let him go—"because
I thought it was getting a little too much." Apparently Herb
Caen thought the same ...