Sunday, January 21, 2007


I was twenty-one and seeing a shrink for heart repair. Bussing home along Union Street after a rare early morning session, my feelings were pretty close to the surface.

It was grey and cold, and the streets, with their shee-shee shops and straight yuppie pickup bars, had not yet been swept. There was plenty of trash still in the gutters from the previous night’s ruttings.

When the bus stopped at a light, I saw a little sign in the window of one of the pick-up bars, probably a neighborhood merchant promo thing:

If you left your heart in San Francisco,
You’ll probably find it on Union Street.

Here the camera direction was: TILT DOWN TO SEE TRASH AND FILTH IN THE GUTTER.

I remember that when I hear the Tony Bennett song.

I couldn’t find a clip of the Jeanette MacDonald song from the movie San Francisco, but, what a great city-anthem!

There were two Summer-of-Love songs, one stupid, the other deplorable.

“If you come to San Francisco, wear some flowers in your hair” is the stupid song. [If you have a felt need and a strong stomach you can listen here.]

First of all, in San Francisco, you don’t have to wear flowers or anything else in your hair. Wear whatever the hell you like.

This song is part of the hippie-as-fashion co-option. Hippie was sex, drugs, rock and roll. Notwithstanding the title of that ripoff musical, hippie was never about hair.


“Were you ever a hippie?”
“No, but I saw Hair three times.”

Hippie was about turn on tune in drop out, not “How to Dress in San Francisco.”

And, regarding the song’s assertion, “You’re going to meet some gentle people there…,” well, sure, some, but, hey, talk to the Yale singers who recently got their asses kicked here.

Pud says I’m ranting, which task is supposed to be his.

The despicable one was the song about “Warm San Francisco Nights.” The singer, I guess he was British, didn’t even pronounce the city’s name correctly. The last syllable of San Francisco rhymes with snow. This guy turns the O into a schwa.

It’s despicable false advertising with possible health ramifications. [Total masochists can listen here.]

There’s almost no such thing as “warm San Francisco nights.” There aren’t that many warm San Francisco DAYS.

Hint: virtually no private homes in San Francisco, including the swankiest, have air conditioning. It’s not necessary. We don’t have screens on our windows, because it’s never warm enough to generate significant bug activity.

So these misguided kids arrived in shirtsleeves for a summer of unrelenting overcast and damp winds, with no particular place to stay. That song should have had a disclaimer.

One of my dad’s favorite stories:

There was little private street in the financial district (the old warehouse district) called Hotaling Place. (The middle syllable of Hotaling gets the accent and it’s pronounced like the Al in Albert.)

Hotaling was a major liquor distributor in 1906, and apparently came through the earthquake and fire unscathed, inspiring this little jingle, (which I knew by heart at an early age):

If, as some say, God spanked the town
For being over-frisky.
Then why did He burn the churches down,
And save Hotaling’s whiskey?

Just the nickname, Frisco, which by tradition is verboten within city limits, sounds like a place worth visiting.

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