Another beautiful Friday has dawned on the 49-acre woods, and it seems we are finally going to break the cycle this weekend of the usual summer day in our little burg: freeze in the morning, run outside to catch the sun between 2:47 and 3:12, and then scurry back inside before the onrushing fogbank envelopes you. Hey, it's July in the city, kids!
In fact, we may have to move the imaginary dinner party outside if this weather continues. For the couple people who missed last week's missive, the topic was "who would you invite to a historical San Francisco dinner." No sooner did it hit the site than I started getting new additions to the cast.
Steve McPartlin checked in from Florida to make sure that the following names were added to the list: Jeanette Etheridge, the magical owner of the Tosca Café. At this point I think I have recovered from the shock of the pool table suddenly disappearing from the back room. This was a personal blow of biblical proportions because I learned to play pool on that table, and many late night bets and challenges were settled on that table.
Steve also brought up Jack Slick, who ran the Balboa Café during the '80s when the Bermuda Triangle was in full swing. Jeannette and Jack both have a special place in my heart since they were old friends of mine and my family, and yet neither hesitated to toss me and my friends out of their joints during my 21st birthday celebrations.
Two interesting additions were Warren Hinckle, and Jack Davis, and the conversation between an old political writer and an old political consultant could fill an entire table or an entire bar. In fact, it has filled an entire bar, but that is fine because Steve also brought up bartender Mike McCourt, the dean of our local mixologists. Mike is now walking the planks at the reopened Original Joe's.
Another poster compiled quite the impressive list of additional guests, but due to the imaginary space limits in my mythical dining room, I reduced it to the following. Sterling Hayden was a wonderful addition, one that I kicked myself for missing the second I saw it. Sterling was a six-foot-five, bear of a man, a character actor known best locally for his appearance as Captain McCluskey in The Godfather. His personal life was just as large, often involving adventures with sailboats. Long before Rambo appeared on screens, my dad hung him with the nickname "Sterbo."
Every single post or email pointed out the most egregious error on my part. Yes I did forget to mention Emperor Norton, but I do have an excuse as he was prone to paying for dinner with his own minted money which was issued from "The Imperial Government of Norton 1st." He also had two dogs named Bummer and Lazarus, who I suspect would get along great with Hinckle's dog Melman.
However, the best addition was William Chapman Ralston. Ralston is a character that I am shocked Carole Shorenstein Hayes has not commissioned a play around, as he represents the dreams, desires, and disasters of San Francisco almost better than anyone. The founder of Bank of America, Ralston then parlayed that into financing the building of his dream, the grandest hotel on the West Coast. In 1875, the Palace Hotel opened, but in truly Shakesperean fashion, the world of Ralston was already crashing down around his feet. The after affects of the stock market crash of 1873 finally reached Bank of America stock, and weeks before the opening of his beloved hotel, Ralston's holdings turned to financial dust.
The day after the collapse, Ralston's body was found in San Francisco Bay, and to this day no one knows for sure if he had an accident during his regular morning swim, or committed suicide. Fifty thousand people attended his funeral processions, and the Palace Hotel ended up in the hands of his business partner, U.S. Senator William Sharon.
Actually, now that I think about it, I am going to add one more guest, Charlie. Charlie the horse was the leader of the San Francisco Police Department Mounted Unit, and sadly passed away this month just 10 days before his retirement. Charlie was with the force for 18 years, and his partner in horsery Riddler was retired yesterday in Union Square. Lefty O'Doul's owner Nick Bovis had the honor of receiving Charlie's horseshoes, which now hang proudly above his front door, joining other horseshoes from retirees. Bovis was shaking his head this morning since he forgot the most important part of the retirement, which is the free Guinness beer each retiring horse receives. Actually, Riddler should be invited too, but after that performance, Nick is out.
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