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San Francisco Words

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9:54 p.m. (Pacific) Feb. 24

SAN FRANCISCO---I was like a bookmark between chapters on the flight out to my favorite American city. The middle-aged woman at the window was from Madison, Wis. I knew her approximate age because she was reading "Rolling Stone" magazine. The woman in the aisle was from Marquette, Mich. She was a little older than the woman by the window. I generally don't get to know strange traveling companions, but I was stressed out from all the hurdles I had to cross just to get on the plane. Everyone knows the airline industry is a mess. Most people understand airline personell are understaffed.
But can't employees still try to smile?
I had to share my feelings. So these are some of the things we were talking about as our flight awaited takeoff. I told the women I missed my RV from my Super Bowl trip. I longed for that freedom.
The woman in the aisle was visiting friends in San Francisco. She had never been to San Francisco. A couple of times I heard flight attendants ask the woman in the aisle about the long silver necklace around her neck. I never caught her answer. I was too busy reading about former Domino's pizza baron Tom Monahgan's plans for Ave Maria Town near Naples, Fla. in the New Yorker. But as we all stood up to disembark the woman by the window also asked the woman in the aisle about the necklace.
"That's my husband," said the woman in the aisle.
The woman by the window made a gentle remark about him---I can't remember exactly what she said.
The woman in the aisle glanced the older face on her necklace and responded,
"He died nine months ago."..........

........I love to walk around San Francisco
One of my favorite journeys is to start at the City Lights bookstore in North Beach (always check out the Fanzines in the back), pop over to Vesuvio's for a beer, enjoy the gnocchi at Fior De'Italia (established 1886, had a hell of a birthday there one night) and then if the spirits are willing have an nightcap of Irish Coffee while listening to opera on the jukebox at Tosca's.
I'd rather hear opera on a jukebox than in an opera house.
I generally take this walk to Market Street because the landscape changes so rapidly. You walk through the Beat and Italian vibes of North Beach, through Chinatown, a seedy area where a guy tried to proposition me and then the up and coming Market Street, popularized in the great Merle Haggard ballad "Here in Frisco." And yes, its raining tonight in Chicago and it's rainy here in Frisco, just like Haggard sings on the downbeat.
The Beats are as big as ever in North Beach.
Jack Kerouac was fascinated with the notion that we are all vessels sliding through this existence and I imagined that's why he dug San Francisco. There's lots of passages on this 49 mile piece of land. Life is in constant motion, people falling in, people falling out, people living and people dying. Kerouac tried to freeze those moments into words, but the words moved faster than him.
So maybe this is why you get on a plane, put on a necklace that hangs close to your heart and go somewhere the words may not hurt so much.

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Hey Dave,

One of the most memorable things that I've ever done is walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. There is something about looking out at the Ocean that really makes a person seem very small in the grand scheme of things.


My pal Deb and I were just talking about that at Vesuvio's, wistully drinking to Peter O' Toole (I'm back at 11:18 p.m. local). I rode a bicycle over the bridge a few years ago from the Marina District to Mt, Tampias.
Also, Google the story I did or any background on the 2006 documentary "The Bridge."
It brings up several complex issues.
A new Joe Di Maggio Steakhouse just opened in North Beach, won't have time to check it out.
Here's hoping for Ronnie Santo on Tuesday.


My favorite all time columnist is the late Herb Caen. Noone knew the city like he did. I can't imagine a world without San Francisco. Also: remember to never call it "Frisco!"

Exactly. I'm not high on "San Fran" either.
When I have time, I gotta post my story (not a review)
on "The Bridge."

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Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.


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This page contains a single entry by David Hoekstra published on February 24, 2007 11:34 PM.

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