Thursday, 11 September 2014

Lush

Our last full day in San Francisco was just what last days of holidays should be. Quiet, relaxed, drifty. We had nowhere to be. No time constraints. Just a day to simply be in this beautiful city. And Nathan was feeling well again! How could things have been any more delightful.

Our Bed and Breakfast is delightful. We had breakfast in the little kitchen with an older straight couple from Australia and a lovely pair of queens on their own honeymoon from the UK.

It took them about two minutes of chatter to recognise us. "It's you isn't it?" The English one said, "who?" Said his Scottish partner. "The gay musical wedding couple!" "Oh my God, we have your wedding on our Sky planner. It was so moving. Your mothers' duet was exquisitely moving." And so on. It felt very special to be recognised like this on our honeymoon, especially after the painful nonsense of the last few days.

We left our lodgings and took ourselves along the length of the Haight, drifting into some of the second hand record shops in search of ABBA singles, and up to Haight Ashbury, land of the hippies, where I bought myself a flat cap, which I'll no doubt lose. I can't even count the flat caps I've worked my way through in my life, but no autumn is complete without one, so this one can be the next!

We ambled back to The Castro, deciding to sit outside Starbucks and attract as many wonderful locals as we could, encouraging them to sit down with us and tell us their life stories. First up, and by far the most entertaining, was Chuck. Chuck was in his eighties. He'd been in the military just after the Second World War and lucked out, being stationed in Germany instead of Korea like all the other people in his division.

Marcarthyism was his enemy however and his was dishonourably discharged from the army for being (in his words) a "cock sucking Commie." There are, of course, worse things to be, but, like so many in his position, he headed West and ended up in San Francisco, rubbing shoulders initially with the beat poets  before embracing the hippy culture; "the Haight had to be closed to traffic because there were so many people there. Be under no illusions, this place was JUST as exciting as they say it was... More so..."

Eventually he opened up a dog grooming parlour on Castro (where he looked after Harvey Milk's dogs), and spent all his spare time shooting films of the area on Super 8. The 1970s documentary footage in the opening of the film Milk was all his work. I was deeply honoured to be in his presence.

We had lunch and wandered back to Delores Beach where we marvelled at the number of insane casualties from the drug era, and in a far more positive light, how mixed the whole of this city seems to be. Gangs of young people are mixes of black, white, every shade of Asian, gay and straight. It's a true melting pot.

Back in the Castro we made more new friends. One of them introduced us to a plaque in the memory of a local character, a gay Vietnam veteran by the name of Leonard Matlovich whose chilling epitaph read "when I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one." Come on! That's got to be worth a few minutes' thought!

Just around the corner another of our new friends showed us the latest plaque on the Castro. This one is very carefully made out of a cardboard box and is to Robin Williams. There's a little picture of him cut out of a newspaper and a quote from him which goes something along the lines of, "when I walk the streets of San Francisco I no longer feel like freak." It's another corker.

I'm now drunk. I wrote all the rest of this blog before drinking two gin and tonics. Doesn't sound like much, but I don't drink. We went to a piano bar and I sang ABBA. Money something. Funny key. I'm not Frida am I? Am I? Am I Frida? Shh. Mustn't talk to the locals.

Tonight we climbed Corona Heights and are cake. Watched mists rolling in. Nice crisps by the way. San Fran in mist is delightful. Somewhere across the bay, the dying sun caught on windows. Like balls of fire.

Shh, because people in the B and B don't want to hear me singing. Can they hear me eating crisps? Packet of crips. I'm riding the special bus.

Is that enough? Have I written enough? Little tiny people on the street outside. Dear little San Franciscans. Of course I love them all even though they're tiny. Are all tiny people tiny or just further away?

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