A circuitous trajectory
Even though this is technically the second part of Padmasambhava to Barack Obama, it will not be obvious why this is so, except that it just came out this way--and if you read it carefully, you will notice a few points I am making on the nature of diversity in my area, and the possibility of people from all kinds of backrounds to feel at home in the same buurt, or neighbourhood. It als0 explains why I love living here. But basically I felt that a few of my readers and I might need a breather from some of my more intense journal entries.
So if you like to read about local color, relax and enjoy--there will be nothing shocking this time.
Back in the eighties Louis and I were living on Pine and Larkin in a small house with two flats. A flat in San Francisco is not like a flat elsewhere. Here a flat means you have your own street entrance, your own street number and your own stairway. In those things they differ from a New York City 'floor thru' as we used to have them in my 1855 Boerum Hill townhouse, for a floor thru shares the hallway entrance and stairwell of a converted brownstone--hence also does not have its own street number. And neither a SF flat or a NYC 'floor thru' are called apartments, for apartments do not occupy an entire floor. It gets pretty technical that way.
One day we spotted a nice young lady fresh out of Kentucky arrange for a street sale of vintage clothes she had brought from Appalachia, hanging them all along the hurricane fence of a recently closed Chevron station next door to us. She and her skating age son became friends of us. Years later, when they were living in an apartment in the Haight, Marlene used to throw a little party every once in a while.
Among the people I met in her place was my friend Brahm, who is sort of the owner's representative in a downtown office on 965 Mission where I am now doing my thing--among the tenants is a small theatre:
Pon attentcion, I am going somewhere with this--soyez patient, bonzai trees take a long time to nudge in the right shape. Another person I met at those get togethers was someone named Clark. I had kind of lost track of him, but Brahm had not. Then one fine day the two of us, Brahm and I, found ourselves monitoring the state of world affairs from our mid Market Street terrace at a nice art deco place called the Orbitz cafe. For those of you somewhat familiar with the City, that's close to the fortress of the new Mint, built on an imposing rocky outcropping reminiscent in some ways of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem--except that the religion here is monetary rather than military.
Anyway, along comes old Clark, with a new do, and says hello--wants to know who we are going to vote for in the mayoral election, Gavin Newsome or Matt Gonzalez, for Clark had become a campaign manager of Matt. They ended up loosing that race narrowly to our current Handsome Nuisance, as I call der Gavin sometimes. I did vote for him, Newsome, to the horror of some of my more liberal friends--but that is SF for you--Newsome is like right wing here--and I felt vindicated in my choice when he made the idea of gay marriage at last a household concept in this country.
Exeunt Clark and Matt Gonzalez, or so I thought. Matt didn't even stay on the Board of Supervisors, often a launching pad for up and coming new stars. But those of you who saw the Jay Leno show recently know that Matt is making a political comeback as the vice presidential running mate of Ralph Nader. Surprise, surprise. I wonder if Clark is throwing out his old street attire and buying a three piece suit now to run a national campaign? I kind of doubt it. But with Nader you never know. Anyway, whatever happens, my vote will remain with the Obamanation--anything else would be an abomination. These two words would be spelled the same way in Hebrew: NTNMB, or maybe NITNMB, if you count the iota as a consonant--and remember to read backwards in all semitic languages--not forward, like BMNTIN.
I feel I am not really getting up to speed yet. But that's OK. Thank God it's Friday--TGIF, or is it FIGT, backwards--never mind. Friday is actually the local day of worship on Polk Street, where the little Mosk of the Yemeni community is located--and on a nice afternoon you can see the local shop owners and their families walking back and forth to their place on Sutter.
|Jun 6, 2006 ... San Francisco's largest mosque -- a Tenderloin refuge for more than 400 .... yourself," said the soft-spoken Ghaleb, 50, a Yemeni immigrant|
I used to have one of those long white djellaba's myself, made out of really fine white material. I loved wearing it so much I wore it out, but it was great on the beach--or for one of those ad hoc roof parties that we are not allowed to have in our building.
What I like about Polk Street, also known as 'Polk Gulch' is that no one owns it--everyone can feel at home here, it is not a neighbourhood, nabuurtschap or buurt for short, that any single group can claim to be the exclusive or dominant proprietor of.
A block away from the little mosk they are building a brand new Congregational Church building:
|First Congregational Church of San Francisco A United Church of Christ Congregation 1302 Polk Street San Francisco, CA 94109.|
within blocks there are Old First--the oldest Presbyterian church West of the Rockies:
|Presbyterian Churches San Francisco. Old First is an inclusive community of faith united by trust in God and faith in Jesus Christ|
and what I call the 'Laundromat'--that large Brasilia-like Roman Catholic Cathedral, shaped like the cone inside a washing machine, the thing making that woosh-woosh sound when it pushes your laundry around:
St. Mary's Cathedral, San Francisco - 12:30pm
|Completed in 1971, this Roman Catholic cathedral – the Mother Church of the Archdiocese of San Francisco – soars 190 feet (58m) into the air|
and the old Unitarian Church--where I once attended a gay Yom Kippur, Verzoeningsdag or Day of Attonement celebration with a Lesbian friend and where the Reverend Rankin, now father in law to my friend Sara, preached before moving to Fountain Street Church in Grand Rapids
|San Francisco's home for the liberal spirit. The Unitarian Universalist church provides a community for individuals to develop their own answers to religion|
Around the corner is St Marks Lutheran Church,
up the street on Franklin is Trinity Episcopal Church
--and even a huge former Baptist Church now turned into a Bahai Center is not far away from here.
There used to be a Jewish Synagogue as well on Polk:
But nowadays the Jews congregate in more uptown areas, where they do have huge and impressive temples, like temple Emanu-el, for instance:
|Over the years Emanu-El became a Reform temple containing many of San Francisco's Jewish elite,|
And that's just the religious diversity of this area.
With Tet, the Viet Namese New Year's holiday, I can watch Little Saigon explode right outside my window.
|Catering to a diverse population, Polk Street is one of the oldest shopping districts in San Francisco|
A stretch of Larkin Street starting just beyond the Asian Art Museum's front door at Larkin and McAllister up to O'Farrell has been designated Little Saigon. Some 250 Vietnamese-owned businesses are concentrated in this and the nearby Tenderloin areas. Look for green-and-yellow banners bearing the words "Sai Gon Nho," the English translation for Little Saigon and art depicting a French colonial open market, then head for the nearest cafe for a glass of Vietnamese style coffee. Brewed for 10 minutes in a special filter cup with condensed milk, Vietnamese coffee powder and water, this ambrosial combination has French inclinations as well. The annual Vietnamese Tet Festival is held here annually, usually in late January or early February.
Since Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City, the name Little Saigon should have become Little Ho Chi Mihn City, Petit Ho Chi Minh Cite, or as I like to say: Petit Haut Chemin Cite, Little Highway City, for the local Viet Namese chose 'the Highway' over Ho Chi Minh's 'My Way'. But that's just the way I read things.
Like that hotel Le Nain around the corner from me, I always wonder, why Le Nain, The Dwarf, de Dwerg?And I found myself speculating that it was supposed to be Hotel Lenin, but they got cautious during the McCarthy era, or perhaps they were making fun of Lenin, calling him M. Le Nain, Mr. Dwarf. Who knows.
Oh yes, I love Polk Gulch, lower Nob Hill, the edge of the Tenderloin, the near Civic Center, close to Opera Plaza, where the great Halloween parade used to be held--before it moved on to the Castro and from there to places inside and well protected from the crazies that like to infiltrate our neighborhoods and beat up on homosexuals. Oh yes, it's a great place to live, when those hoods don't come to our hood, onze buurt.
Just the other day I saw a guy painting the outside of the Bambuddha Lounge, without brushes--he was using his hands, stuck in surgical gloves....these LA folks are weird. But we are a tolerant lot here in SF.
Now you know a bit about the Gulch--and I haven''t even mentioned anything about City Hall, the Main Library, the Asian Arts Museum, the Opera and Symphony Hall--all within a stone's throw from where I reside, as well as the incredible number of restaurants and coffeeshops of all kinds.
To say nothing of the Alliance Francaise, with its basement restaurant, where the former Chief Accountant, a Lithuanian named Christina always treated me to lunch on my birthday. She is now retired in Arizona--and I still miss her--especially on my birthdays, d'accord.
The Allinace itself has been a cultural institution in SF from well before the Great Earth Quake, where I have enjoyed the generally genteel ambience for decades, with a few minor lapses which I trust we have overcome.
What I especially like about our local AF: where else but in San Francisco does the bust of Descartes have lipstick on its marble lips? Seulement en San Francisco, mes chers! But then Cartesius lived most of his life not in France, but in Holland and Sweden, where he could do his thing in greater peace and enlightenment.
Our buurt used to be even better, when they still had more cool discos on Polk, like Buzzby's:
Buzzby's Polk St., San Francisco, CA DiscoMusic.com - here's a blurb:
It was the kind of club that opened early in the afternoon, and stayed fairly busy until ain party time closing at 2:00AM. I still liked the club design being able to listen to alluring dance music from outside sidewalk, where the one door was usually propped open. Once you walked in, the big bar was located on the immediate right hand side, and several dark platforms were across from it so people could sit. Further down was a semi-glass barrier with bar stools along the side, and beyond the glass, was the chrome steel dance floor, usually covered randomly by sawdust to make dancing slick. The DJ booth was braced at the top corner overlooking the dance floor, and had many neon strips around the booth that went to the sound of the music
or Oil Can Harry, where Louis and I actually did quite a bit of carpentry work before they opened:
|Larkin Street at Ellis Street San Francisco ..... Oil Can Harry's, now gone (a Vietnamese restaurant exists there on the corner of Larkin & Ellis Sts|
But gay life keeps moving its centers around--from North beach and Union Street to Polk, then it went to the Castro and Valencia in the Mission--Valencia is also kn0wn as 'the women's district' and I have been known to be kicked out of Amelia 's, the main Lesbian bar many years ago, for no other reason then my inappropriate reproductive accessories.
It goes to show you that there can be intolerance within tolerance--and to get back to Obamanation, last night on the Leno show they had Wanda Sykes one of our great comics. Margaret Cho, la lesbienne, has to be my all time favorite--but Wanda was really a l i v e last night.
She was hilariously funny demonstrating how to move your butt without being sleezy--keeping a nasty frown on your face always makes you look angry rather than sleezy. And by God, it works! She said how the black community at first could not tolerate having a black man running for president: "who they think we are, askin' us to vote for a black man! Throw away our vote. They think we stupid or somethin? He ain't black enough anyway. We for Hillary! She married to the first Black President!"
However, she made the very salient point that you can't blame the man once you have become the man. Leno couldn't stop giggling. The blacks did indeed find themselves in an unusual bind--a benign bind at that. What Obama himself once referred to as a high class dilemma. The dilemma many black South Africans are still in even today.
But the black community did come around, the Latinos are coming around, and the gays in Texas as well.
In my family, we have a mini diaspora going on right inside this country: there are members of the family that live in NYC and in SF, other in West Michigan and Central Florida. Most of us are U.S. citizens by now and among that group, most of us are Democrats--and nearly all, it's a fair bet, are for Obama. But here's the funny part, wherever we live, most Democrats have voted for Hillary.
Even the gay community in SF has been generally for Hillary. And yes, Mayor Gavin, that Handsome Nuissance, I was shocked to learn, is a Hillary supporter. That neo nazi crypto fascist! Just kidding Gavin. To yet the another wing, Obama is what I just jokingly, jokingly! called Gavin--so they are putting their fragile eggs in Nader's shriveling basket. Oh give me a break folks. Can't we get it together this time?
We almost as bad as them Publicans. It just amazes me. I expected that from Lalaland, but not from Bay Area. However, I have heard that in Texas things are moving towards Obama--in the nick of time.
I can feel in my bones that we are heading for a historic showdown next week Tuesday.
But today also is a very special day. It is Leapday 2008. Exactly 48 years ago on Leapday 1960, our family stepped on American soil. Not the first members of the Van Voorthuijsen clan, there are some that have been here much much longer. There was a Margareta van Voorthuysen in the 17th century, when New York was still Nieuw Amsterdam, and in the 19th century there were members of our clan who came to Michigan where there is still a Van Voorthuysen Iron Works Inc in Muskegon,
and others that went to Washington State, where there are descendents in the female line only--and who therefore no longer carry the same last name. But for the Dutch East Indies branch of our clan, Leap Day 1960 was when we stepped first on American soil in Hoboken. The night before we had sailed along the southern coast of Long Island on the SS Maasdam,
entered New York Harbor and were enticed by the the Statue of Liberty as we sailed up the Hudson to the Holland America Line Birth then still one the NJ side in Hoboken. So we can celebrate February 28 as our entry into NY Harbor, but it was on Leap Day 1960 that we actually set foot on American soil.
One other member of our Dutch East Indies clan who was himself born in Holland, migrated to New Zealand, returned to Holland and now lives in Australia, is Paul van Voorthuijsen, who runs one of the best genealogical sites on the web called the Holland Page
Much has changed and this has been a fun piece to write, but I must get back to Padmasambhava soon.
And that's a promise.