Thursday, November 27, 2008

Harvey Milk

Everyone meets or sees someone who is famous or near famous in their lifetime. In my lifetime I have seen a lot of the near famous or locally famous, but have run into a few who were more nationally known. For example, Taj Mahal (blues musician), once used the phone in our flat on Liberty street in San Francisco. Sally asked him to leave a few bucks for the call. So much for our interaction with famous.

In about 1973 Sally and I moved into our first apartment in San Francisco. We had been sharing quarters with Dick and Cherrill since 1970 so this was a big jump. The apartment was located on upper 17th St and was about 4 or so blocks from Castro Street.

The Castro valley was in a great location. West of the mission district, Southeast of the Haight and at the foot of Twin Peaks. Our place was just off Market Street and a great place to catch transportation to our jobs downtown.

It was in those early days that we meet Harvey Milk. I wouldn't pretend that we had a personal relationship with him, but we did shop at his camera store so we felt we knew him. We certainly did talk to him and made purchases so we were like family :-)

We moved off of 17th just before Chris was born in 1975 and moved out to the avenues. The Castro area continued to change as the gay culture moved into the area in full force. Prior to that I thought that Polk street was the primary area for the gay culture. Whatever the case the Castro was the quite the place.

All of this leads me the new movie about Harvey and the actions of Dan White on 11/27/78. I am excited to see the movie, not because of the violence, but because we were there. I mean, in the City and in my case a few blocks from City Hall when the shootings took place. The streets filled with police as I tried to make my way down Polk street and on with my day. It was until I had left the area did I hear of the shootings.

So much for my famous contacts, how about your famous encounters? How many can you remember and how many did you actually interact with? For example, I wish I could say I talked to Nixon when he walked by us at Kearney State College, but alas I didn't. How about you?

This is not a hijack, but your blogger just changed identities. I sent an email to Kevin and asked if I could add on to this draft. OK, when I set this blog up I had no intention of using it to tag-team the unsuspecting readers.
However, as I was checking up on the draft that showed up, I realized why I thought in terms of blogging with someone else. The perspectives Kevin and bring to the first approximately fifteen years of adulthood is remarkably the same. So, here is how Kevin responded when I asked permission to add on to this entry, instead of commenting or writing my own view:

"Be my guest. I was just rambling (30 years and all) a bit about HM and was actually thinking about the way the Castro area was in the mid 70s and how lives are intertwined in a city so big, yet so small.
Go ahead and edit the piece also, I have no pride of authorship. I thought of you guys, the break-in of the VW, the place we got our hair cuts (next to the theater) and our small, but fun little flat."

I think he is unreasonably modest, because he really got me thinking long and hard about not just the mid to late 70s, but all of those times our lives intersected. We not only saw Richard Nixon, up close. but he gave us a little sneer, as we manned a table passing out information for a rival.

But the Castro era, about 1974 until 1977 for us, was great times. From haircuts at the March Hair, to Aquarius Records, to frozen yogurt at the Double Rainbow to good old 4301 17th St., it was grand times. We lived with Kevin and Sally for a long month before we got our first place, just up the side of Twin Peaks, apartments designed for people moving from the midwest to the big city.

When the Jonestown incident happened on November 19, 1978, it was beyond belief. Over 900 dead, most of whom were Bay Area people. We drove by the People's Temple, feeling a morbid curiosity. We had no idea something with a far bigger impact was just over a week away.

We too knew Harvey Milk, both from shopping at his camera store. and by his incessant campaigning. He would meet each 8 Market bus that let its passengers off at the intersection of Castro, 17th, and Divisadero. The city had just switched from an at large manner of electing supervisors, the San Francisco equivalent of city councilpersons, to geographical areas each having its own supervisor. This allowed Harvey to get elected, but it also allowed a virtually unknown young man, who had quit being both a cop and a fireman, to be elected to the board of supes. Harvey was always willing to talk politics and current events as I would wait for the next bus I needed to get to my Twin Peaks apartment. I remember one afternoon, telling him I lived in the next district to the west, and asking him for a recommendation. He thoughtfully, carefully named several people running that he thought he could work with, and that I could support. I forget details, but he included one person he described as much more conservative than he, but that I could consider. I'm guessing he was pegging me as a straight man from say, Nebraska, who might not be as liberal as the typical San Franciscan. Little did he know.

Now about the most famous person I have ever talked to: I know I cannot compare to my eldest, who has talked to Bill Clinton and Warren Buffett. I suppose the single most famous person that I personally knew was Sandy Dennis, Oscar and Tony award winning actress, who used to baby-sit me in Hastings, Nebraska. She charmingly told Suzanne about getting in trouble for letting me go to bed while chewing gum, which ended up in my hair. I have absolutely no recollection of this.
We did once sit in a theatre in San Francisco in the same row as Bobby Riggs, shortly after Billie Jean King kicked him in tennis.
So, as Kevin wants to know, who have you met/talked to/seen up close?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

November Musings

I had dental work today, three quadrants needed to be numbed in order to complete a few things that were topped off by a crown prep. Worse than the colonoscopy. If you have ever had a crown you will recognize the part where the dentist asks you to confirm that your bite is correct. My mouth was so numb I wasn't sure I had teeth.

When you go for an eye exam they ask you a similar question, "which is better"? Frankly I am surprised anyone gets fitted correctly. You never have these issues with a colonoscopy, no questions at all...just count backwards.

Jimmy Carl Black, the acerbic drummer of Frank Zappa’s mischievous and innovative rock band the Mothers of Invention, died recently and on Wednesday Mitch Mitchell, lone surviving member of the Jimi Hendrix Experience died. Mitch was just in Omaha...I never go to the right concerts. Interesting that two rock drummers just died, isn't this done in threes?

However on a sadder note, Herb Score former member of the Cleveland Indians passed away. Score was the American League rookie of the year in 1955, when he had a 16-10 record, 2.85 earned run average and 245 strikeouts, tops in the major leagues and a record for a rookie that stood for 29 years. He went 20-9 in 1956 with a 2.53 E.R.A. and was again the strikeout leader with 263. I won't speak to his baseball tragedy, but I will always remember his brief, but promising career. He also played a key role on my dice baseball team.