Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Baghdad by the Bay ®

“Did you hear what they are thinking of banning in San Francisco?” commented my wife. “Not really. I heard they were thinking of doing a similar policy to the Chinese with pets instead of children. Limiting each family to one.”

Turns out it was even a little weirder. The City Council, or some activist group readying something for the City Council, was going to forbid the purchase and entrapment of goldfish.

Not that I am a bleeding heart prepared to go on a hunger fast for the rights of goldfish or for the rights of children to own and learn about them, but I feel there is a limit to what and how laws and regulations should affect our lives. And I think the chronicler of what the residents call The City, Herb Caen, would agree with me.

I grew up in my adult life with Herb Caen, who at that time and until his death wrote a daily column for the San Francisco Chronicle. It was Caen, early in that adult life who coined the term “beatnik” and several other descriptives for those who gathered in his city for the 1967 “Summer of Love”, a year I visited my sister in her North Beach apartment.

And it was Caen who I followed daily when I was attached to various Navy posts in the Bay Area from the late 60’s to the mid 70’s. His column made my day: How were we dealing with the SF pigeon crisis? What was going on between Hunter Thompson and the Mitchell Brothers? And what about the Embarcadero?

Caen died in 1997 from lung cancer, the same malady that claimed my sister at age 65. Caen was a more respectable 81. Writing until almost the day he died. My sister also was productive until close to her time. And that is one of the two messages of this post.

Message number one: Grab the environment of where you are at. As I write this I am listening to one of my favorite performers, Garrison Keeler, who is in Cincinnati. He is talking and parodying, “Cincinnati Chili”. I can truthfully say I have had Cincinnati Chile at the Mother Lode and it is delicious. Strange, but delicious. And part of the enjoyment came from my brother-in-law telling me that to ask for variations is to ask for TROUBLE!

Message two: While San Francisco may well want to be the bellwether (checked the spelling) for change, the fact that they were among the first to promote universal health care for residents of The City (a dismal failure) and for fining the use of plastic bags at time of purchase have not been totally successful. It seems to me that so many of the “ideas” that spring from the SF residents are quickly ignited and not so well thought out.

Maybe it was the earthquake.

Although the earthquake didn’t happen until 1906 and the gold rush was in the 1850’s the relevance of San Francisco was based a lot on it being the seventh largest city in the U.S. at the time.

When I discovered it, it was number one: in sleaze, think Carol Doda; in art, think Ferlinghetti, and coffee shops; in druggies, think Timothy Leary. Bottom line, it had a fringe reputation.

And it still does. Although my local SoCal environs can take blame for cancelling an elephant presence at a 4th of July parade because the company that handles the elephants may have been under suspicion for a film “Water for Elephants”, San Fran can field opinions on not allowing plastic bags, while still allowing unlicensed street vendors and artists.

Point of the post? San Francisco is a fascinating city, one I visit at least twice a year. I regularly travel down Lombard Street, eat at one of the more than 1,000 restaurants, smell the bay and glory in the clear sky. If you haven’t become a regular, please join my crowd.

On Tuesday, I think I may lighten up. We have had a visit from The Royals. Why should we have a monarchy in the 21st century?

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