Heart of the City Archives
Counting the Ways
by Hank Donat

It's impossible to count the ways San Francisco enchants. In the past few weeks we've seen enough examples of the City's allure to fill an entire memory book. Sometimes the mysteries of the City are elusive, such as the certain hour in Noe Valley when you can face the sun with your eyes closed in a warm breeze and through your eye lids become completely filled inside with gold. At other times San Francisco's charm is not so obscure.

Barry Bonds hitting number 500 into the bay for the Giants reminds me of the days when kids had heroes that were more than just endorsement characters. And even though so many sports heroes have been unreasonably placed on pedestals only to fall from grace, nothing is better for maudlin civic pride than a local player officially joining the ranks of great athletes. 

The San Francisco International Film Festival continues to draw the best films and filmmakers from around the world. How lucky we are to have the opportunity to see Fritz Lang's 1927 silent epic "Metropolis" restored to its original length and screened with live accompaniment at the Castro Theatre. Across town Christiane Harlan Kubrick, wife of the late Stanley Kubrick, answers questions about the director following a documentary screened at the Kabuki... And festival attendees are mesmerized by Hungarian director Bela Tarr's masterpiece "Werkmeister Harmonies," a dark account of one man's experience during an uprising in an unnamed Eastern European town. 

Former mayor Art Agnos looking dapper as he skips up the City Hall steps just moments after Supervisor Gerardo Sandoval made a public apology there for offending Jews in remarks made to a political club last week. A few yards away neighborhood activists picket for support of mental health services in the City. A few yards further homeless asses are a little bit sorer since Mayor Willie Brown had their benches torn out. All random acts of politics.

Jeff Halpern phones from the Presidio to describe driving through a magnificent rain of falling petals that stream from the many great flowering trees lining the boulevard at the former military installation... Sailboats gliding so gracefully on opening day of sailing season that the bay looks like a sky filled with elegant flying nuns... The City's survivors, those of the 1906 Earthquake, honored at early morning ceremonies in front of Lotta's Fountain. A moment of silence followed by a moment of sirens followed by a fight that breaks out between two of the old timers over who's the Earthquake Baby. The winner is Mr. Louis B. Simpson because he came with his baby bonnet of the day as well as the appropriate nickname, Babe. And who would argue with the dashing Babe Simpson? Were any of us there on the fateful day?

Bones are found at the construction site for the new Asian Art Museum, once the location of City Hall and a cemetery before that. Security was immediately increased to prevent looting of the graves that belonged to early San Franciscans. "Everyone wants a souvenir," one official said, which makes me blush as I look over at my brick from Commercial Street displayed next to a swatch from the awning of Belli, Belli, and Belli...

Gracie Merit smiles for the first time. You see, she's just a few weeks old. You'd smile too if you had lilacs growing in your garden the way Papa Merit does in Cole Valley... Evanova of Nob Hill phones distraught over the retirement of Louise Renne, the city attorney who helped bring Big Tobacco to its knees and women to the Olympic Club... Armistead Maupin proudly awaits the debut on Showtime of the third series from his "Tales of the City," which is certain to captivate despite the absence of Chloe Webb and the Mona Ramsey character. Mona is AWOL in this book, "Further Tales of the City," the story that has Jim Jones alive after the Jonestown massacre and living in Golden Gate Park as a drifter named Luke.

The suppleness of a sun tanned arm hanging out of the car next to you at a red light on Van Ness Avenue... These are just a few details of the many that make our city the city known as The City.

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Copyright 2001 Hank Donat
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