Wednesday, January 17, 2007


By the time my family returned to San Francisco from our sojourn in the sunny southland, my godfather had become a municipal court judge. He was a boyhood friend of my dad.

I hardly knew my godfather, Bill O’Brien, but Bill O’Brian’s mom, Mrs Obie we called her, or “The Pink Lady,” was a fixture of my childhood. She was a nice old lady who liked to reminisce, she’d tell us earthquake stories.

My dad was only five during the earthquake and fire, but Mrs Obie had been a grown up. My dad would mention vague recollections and Mrs Obie would elaborate. They loved it.

When she babysat us I remember, in addition to her smelling good, that during the parting ritual, she’d always “sneak” a quarter into my pocket, and one into my brother’s too.

In our first months back in San Francisco (I was almost 10 years old) we had an unlimited pass to the rides at Playland at the Beach. Playland was a funky little amusement operation that occupied two city blocks at the west end of Golden Gate Park.

Some of the rides were fun, including a wobbly old mouse roller coaster that scared the crap out of us, bumper cars, and an octopus that got going pretty good.

So my brother and I took some of the kids on our block, whom we were just getting to know, to Playland for an afternoon of free rides. My mom let us use the pass on only three occasions, she was a stickler about not abusing generosity.

So where did the pass come from? Mrs Obie got it for us from her son, the municipal court judge.

I suppose all the judges in town had such passes. I wonder, why would the owners of Playland give free passes to local judges?

Looking back on it, my mom might have been reticent about the petty-graft aspect of it as well. She never much cared for the native San Franciscan thing.

Pud hates it when I mention my godfather’s name. “There’s so much shit I can’t tell you,” he says.

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