Thursday, February 15, 2007

When Bad Things happen to Big Cities

Jo Ann’s Bed & Breakfast
(San Francisco 9 July 2003)

Jo Ann’s décor favors the pretty over the beautiful, the trite over the thoughtful.


Alcatraz -- what a laugh to see it at dawn! New York could do so much more with Riker’s Island.


Jo Ann not only owns a B & B; in the basement she runs a day care center. She’s mild & sweet to please the children.

(10 July 2003)

They are retrofitting the Golden Gate Bridge. Many buildings are still closed after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake. I had forgotten it. As people outside New York have forgotten the WTC. Actually there are WTC-deniers, folks so opposed to war in Iraq that they pooh-pooh 9/11 entirely.
People mark time in cities from great disasters: the Chicago Fire, the London Fire and Plague of 1666, the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral is undergoing a “seismic strengthening project.” The motto on the clock tower is from Eccl.: “Son, observe the time and flee from evil.”

Richard Morris
(11 July 2003)

San Francisco fears earthquakes the way New York fears terrorists.

I came here to see Richard Morris as he lies dying. I was also going to see Yvette, one of the women who flutter about him; Yvette too has cancer, although hers seems to be in remission.

Richard has made me his literary executor. I’d like to meet his executor and Mary, his heir. I’d like to get a copy of his will. I’d like to get him to write something nice about John Brockman & the Reality Club so that I’ll be able to approach John about Richard’s novel and a collection of letters.


Hummingbirds audibly sip.


Ethan Ellenberg is his agent, Louis J. Phillips his executor, Mary van der Slice his heir.


San Francisco de Asis
(Sunday 13 July 2003)

Junipero Serra founded a mission house, Mision San Francisco de Asis, more commonly called Mission Dolores, according to my guide book, right here where I’m sitting this Sunday morning. There’s a park called Dolores a few blocks from here, ands I guess “dolores” means “sorrows.”

Dolores strikes me as an unhappy name for a child. I chatted with a black woman and her toddler on the bus; she’d named the child Destiny. I got off before I reached my destination--the child was growing restless. At another bus stop, near Baker Beach, a talkative black man told me he’d won the lottery, i.e. he’d received Section 8 housing in San Francisco. The Chronicle says the economy is so bad here in San Francisco that a lot of folks are getting Section 8 housing. That’s housing for the homeless, part of the mission of the state.

The man also told me he’d spent years on the lam as a Viet draft dodger. He got on disability after he fell from a window while stoned on drugs & alcohol.

Life is Hell when you forget your mission. Despair is unattractive in men past 40. Mary van der Slice displays her despair like a medal of honor. San Francisco was once someone’s mission.

Bastille Day
San Francisco

If God exists, Satan has controlled the Catholic Church for a thousand years. Should the Vatican, like Alcatraz, be stormed by sans-culottes? Today’s the day.

Three years after 1903 the Trinity struck Frisco down. Now the very name, Frisco, is despised. Frisco and Oakland have Brown mayors.

The victims of the priest sexual abuse scandal were unemancipated believers. Are ’hos emancipated? They sure can free a man of his wallet.

I’ve had no luck lately at fresh amatory conquests.

Last Day in San Francisco
(15 July 2003)

The shadows are getting longer, my hours here short. I visited Richard probably for the last time this afternoon.

The Palace of the Legion of Honor is an art museum with an encyclopedic approach; little bits of everything--high quality--a mini-Met. There’s a portrait of the founders’ daughter by Dali. It’s surreal. The museum is, oddly, a “three-quarters-scale replica” of Napoleon’s Palais de la Legion d’Honneur, according to my guide book, Moon Metro. It has a Francophile cast; can a museum have too much Rodin? It was built in 1924, after the Great War. It’s surrounded by a golf course and a Veteran’s Hospital called “Fort Milley.” I wonder if the V.A. hospital in Brooklyn by the Verrazano is “Fort Hamilton”? It would be a nice way to honor men who have fought for their country. It implies that they are still on duty, still guarding us in their fort.

I think yesterday I tried to liberate myself from the whore ideal, the whole ‘ho ideal--to render silly homage to Stewart Brand & the Whole Earth Foundation. I met Stewart through John Brockman. I wonder if Richard knows Stewart?

Richard never indulges in trivial small talk. He’s best answering questions, although when Lew Phillips and I crossed swords over L.B.J. Richard threw in facts which made his opinion clear.

Mary showed me some of her artwork. It was much more sophisticated than I expected. She doesn’t like the Legion of Honor, but artists often disdain the art of the past. I gave her a hug. She wondered why I didn’t kiss Richard.

Richard can’t eat solid food. Like David Bourdon, Richard has cancer of the esophagus--and the heart, the stomach, the liver, the lymph nodes. He’s calm. He’s self-sufficient; he asks his own questions and answers them. He’ll also answer my questions and your questions.

Napoleon knew soldiers fought for honor. The American Legion is merely a veterans association.

Richard submits graciously, at least in my presence, to the ultimate grim necessity. He’s a soldier of philosophy. He fosters an alt.reality.