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´╗┐Title: The Californiacs
Author: Gillmore, Inez Haynes, 1873-1970
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Californiacs" ***

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By Inez Haynes Irwin

California, which produces the maximum of scenery and the minimum of
weather; California, which grows the biggest men, trees, vegetables and
fleas in the world, and the most beautiful women, babies, flowers
and fruits; California, which, on the side, delivers a yearly crop of
athletes, boxers, tennis players, swimmers, runners and a yearly crop of
geniuses, painters, sculptors, architects, authors, musicians, actors,
producers and photographers; California, where every business man writes
novels, or plays, or poetry, or all three; California, which has spawned
the Coppa, Carmel and San Quentin schools of literature; California,
where all the ex-pugs become statesmen and all the ex-cons become
literateurs; California, the home of the movie, the Spanish mission,
the golden poppy, the militant labor leader, the turkey-trot, the
grizzly-bear, the bunny-hug, progressive politics and most American
slang; California, which can at a moment's notice produce an earthquake,
a volcano, a geyser; California, where the spring comes in the fall and
the fall comes in the summer and the summer comes in the winter and the
winter never comes at all; California, where everybody is born
beautiful and nobody grows old--that California is populated mainly with

California, I repeat, is populated mainly with Californiacs; but the
Californiacs are by no means confined to California. They have, indeed,
wandered far afield. New York, for instance, has a colony so large
that the average New Yorker is well acquainted with the symptoms
of California. The Californiac is unable to talk about anything but
California, except when he interrupts himself to knock every other place
on the face of the earth. He looks with pity on anybody born outside
of California and he believes that no one who has ever seen California
willingly lives elsewhere. He himself often lives elsewhere, but he
never admits that it is from choice. He refers to California always as
"God's country", and if you permit him to start his God's country line
of talk, it is all up with intelligent conversation for the rest of the
day. He will discourse on California scenery, climate, crops, athletes,
women, art-sense, etc., ad libitum, ad infinitum and ad nauseum. He is
a walking compendium of those Who's Whosers who were born in California.
He can reel off statistics which flatter California, not by the yard,
but by the mile. And although he is proud enough of the ease and
abundance with which things grow in California, he is even more proud
of the size to which they attain. Gibes do not stop the Californiac, nor
jeers give him pause. He believes that he was appointed to talk about
California. And Heaven knows, he does. He has plenty of sense of humor
otherwise, but mention California and it is as though he were conducting
a revival meeting.

Once a party which included a Californiac were taking an evening stroll.
Presently a huge full moon cut loose from the horizon and began a tour
of the sky. Admiring comments were made. "I suppose you have them bigger
in California," a young woman observed slyly to the Californiac. He did
not smile; he only looked serious. Again, a Californiac mentioned to me
that he had married an eastern woman. "Any eastern woman who marries a
Californian," I observed in the spirit of badinage, "really takes a very
great risk. Her husband must always be comparing her with the beautiful
women of his native state." "Yes," he answered, "I've often said to my
wife, 'Lucy, you're a very pretty woman, but you ought to see some of
our San Francisco girls.'" "I hope," I replied, "that she boxed your
ears." He did not smile; he only looked pained. Once only have I seen
the Californiac silenced. A dinner party which included a globe-trotter,
were listening to a victim of an advanced stage of Californoia. He had
just disposed of the East, South and Middle West with a few caustic
phrases and had started on his favorite subject. "You are certainly a
wonderful people," the globe-trotter said, when he had finished. "Every
large city in Europe has a colony of Californians, all rooting for
California as hard as they can, and all living as far away as they can
possibly get."

Myself, Californoia did not bother me for a long time after I first
went to California. I am not only accustomed to an offensive insular
patriotism on the part of my countrymen, but, in addition, all my life
I have had to apologize to them for being a New Englander. The statement
that I was brought up in Boston always produces a sad silence in my
listeners, and a long look of pity. Soft-hearted strangers do their
best to conceal their tears, but they rarely succeed. I have reached the
point now, however, where I no longer apologize for being a Bostonian;
I proffer no explanations. I make the damaging admission the instant I
meet people and leave the matter of further recognition to them. If they
choose to consider that Boston bringing-up a social bar sinister, so be
it. I have discovered recently that the fact that I happened to be born
in Rio Janeiro offers some amelioration. But nothing can entirely
remove the handicap. So, I reiterate, indurated as I am to pity, the
contemptuous attitude of the average Californiac did not at first annoy
me. But after a while even I, calloused New Englander that I am, began
to resent it.

This, for instance, may happen to you at any time in California--it is
the Californiac's way of paying the greatest tribute he knows:

"Do you know," somebody says, "I should never guess that you were an
Eastener. You're quite like one of us--cordial and simple and natural."

"But-but," you say, trying to collect your wits against this left-handed
compliment, "I don't think I differ from the average Easterner."

"Oh, yes, you do. You don't notice it yourself, of course. But I give
you my word, nobody will ever suspect that you are an Easterner unless
you tell it yourself. They really won't."

"But-but," you say, beginning to come back, "I have no objection
whatever to being known as an Easterner."

That holds her for a moment. And while she is casting about for phrases
with which to meet this extraordinary condition, you rally gallantly.
"In fact, I am Proud of being an Easterner."

That ends the conversation.

Or somebody in a group asks you what part of the East you're from.

"New York," perhaps you reply.

"New York. My husband came from New York," she goes on. "He was brought
up there. But he's lived in California for twenty years. He got the
idea a few years ago that he wanted to go back East. I said to him, 'All
right, we'll go back and visit for a while and see how you like it.' One
month was enough for him. The people there are so cold and formal and
conventional, and then, my dear, your climate!"

"Yes," another takes it up. "When I was in the East, a friend invited me
out to his place in the country. He wanted me to see his pine grove. My
dears, if you could have seen those little sticks of trees."

"I went to New York once," a third chimes in. "I never could get
accustomed to carrying an ice umbrella--I couldn't close it when I got
home. I'd come to stay for a month but I left in a week."

And so it goes. No feeling on anybody's part of your sense of outrage.
In fact, Californiacs always use the word eastern in your presence as a
synonym for cold, conventional, dull, stupid, humorless.

Sometimes it actually casts a blight--this Californoia--on those who
come to live in California. I remember saying once to a young man--just
in passing and merely to make conversation: "Are you a native son?"

His face at once grew very serious. "No," he admitted reluctantly. "You
see, it was my misfortune to be born in Iowa, but I came out here to
college. After I'd graduated I made up my mind to go into business here.
And now I feel that all my interests are in California. Of course it
isn't quite the same as being born here. But sometimes I feel as though
I really were a native son. Everybody is so kind. They do everything in
their power to make you forget--"

"Good heavens," I interrupted, "are you apologizing to me for being born
in Iowa? I've never been in Iowa, but nothing could convince me that it
isn't just as good a place as any other place, including California. The
trouble with you is that you've let these Californiacs buffalo you. What
you want to do is to throw out your chest and insist that God made Iowa
first and the rest of the world out of the leavings."

If you mention the eastern winter to a Californiac, he tells you with
great particularity of the dreadful storms he encountered there. Nothing
whatever about the beauty of the snow. To a Californiac, snow and ice
are more to be dreaded than hell-fire and brimstone. If you mention
the eastern summer, he refers in scathing terms to the puny trees we
produce, the inadequate fruits and vegetables. Nothing at all about
their delicious flavor. To a Californiac, beauty is measured only by
size. Nothing that England or France has to offer makes any impression
on the Californiac because it's different from California. As for the
glory that was Greece and the grandeur that was Rome, he simply never
sees it. The Netherlands are dismissed with one adjective--flat. For a
country to be flat is, in the opinion of the Californiac, to relinquish
its final claim to beauty. A Californiac once made the statement to me
that Californians considered themselves a little better than the rest
of the country. I considered that the prize Californiacism until I heard
the following from a woman-Californiac in Europe: "I saw nothing in
all Italy," she said, "to compare with the Italian quarter of San

Now I am by no means a rabid New Englander. I love the New England scene
and I have the feeling for it that we all have for the place in which
we played as children. Most New Englanders have a kind of temperamental
shyness. They are still like the English from whom they are descended.
It is difficult for them to talk about the things on which they feel
most deeply. The typical New Englander would discuss his native place
with no more ease than he would discuss his father and mother. In
California I often had the impulse to break through that inhibiting
silence--to talk about Massachusetts; the lovely, tender, tamed,
domesticated country; its rolling, softly-contoured, maternal-looking
hills; its forests like great green cathedral chapels; its broad,
placid rivers, its little turbulent ones; its springs and runnels and
waterfalls and rivulets all silver-shining and silver-sounding; the
myriads of lakes and countless ponds that make the world look as though
the blue sky had broken and fallen in pieces over the landscape; the
spring when first the arbutus comes up pink and delicate through the
snow and later the fields begin to glimmer with the white of white
violets, to flash with the purple of purple ones, and the children
hang May baskets at your door; the summer when the fields are buried
knee-deep under a white drift of daisies or sealed by the gold planes of
buttercups, and the old lichened stone walls are smothered in blackberry
vines; the autumn with the goldenrod and blue asters; the woods like
conflagrations burning gold and orange, flaming crimson and scarlet;
and especially that fifth season, the Indian summer, when the vistas are
tunnels of blue haze and the air tastes of honey and wine; then winter
and the first snow (does anybody, brought up in snow country, ever
outgrow the thrill of the first fluttering flakes?) the marvel of the
fairy frost world into which the whole country turns.

Do you suppose I ever talked about Massachusetts? Not once. And so I
have one criticism to bring against the Californiac. He is a person to
whom you cannot talk about home. He grows restive the instant you get
off the subject of California. Praise of any other place to his mind
implies a criticism of California.

On the other hand, that frenzied patriotism has its wonderful and
its beautiful side. It is a result partly of the startling beauty and
fecundity of California and partly of a geographical remoteness and
sequestration which turned the Californians in on themselves for
everything. To it is due much of the extraordinary development of
California. For to the average Californian, the best is not only none
too good for California, but she can have nothing else. Californians
even those not suffering from an offensive case of Californoia--speak of
their State in reverential terms. To hear Maud Younger--known everywhere
as the "millionaire waitress" and the most devoted labor-fan in the
country--pronounce the word California, should be a lesson to any actor
in emotional sound values. The thing that struck me most on my first
visit to California was that boosting instinct. In store windows
everywhere, I saw signs begging the passer-by to root for this
development project or that. Several years ago, passing down Market
street, I ran into a huge crowd gathered at the Lotta Fountain. I
stopped to investigate. Moving steadily from a top to a lower window of
one of the newspaper offices, as though unwound from a reel, ran a long
strip of paper covered with a list of figures. To this list, new figures
were constantly added. They were the sums of money being subscribed at
that very moment for the Exposition. Applause and cheers greeted
each additional sum. That was the financial germ from which grew
the wonderful Arabian Nights city by the bay. It was typically
Californian--that scene--and typically Californian the spirit back of
it. And four years later, when the outbreak of the war brought temporary
panic, there was no diminution in that spirit. Whether it was a
"Buying-Day," a "Beach Day," an "Automobile Parade," a "Prosperity
Dinner," San Francisco was always ready to insist that everything was
going well. It was the same spirit which inspired a whole city, the
day the Exposition opened, to rise early to walk to the grounds, and to
stand, an avalanche of humanity, waiting for the gates to part. It was
the same spirit which inspired the whole city, the night the Exposition
ended, to stay for the closing ceremonies until midnight, and then,
without even picking a flower from the abundance they were abandoning,
silently and sorrowfully to walk home.

Let's look into the claims of these Californiacs.

I can unfortunately say little about the State of California. For with
the exception of a few short trips away from San Francisco, and one
meager few days' trip into the South, I have never explored it. Nobody
warned me of the danger of such a proceeding, and so I innocently went
straight to San Francisco the first time I visited the coast. Stranger,
let me warn you now. If ever you start for California with the intention
of seeing anything of the State, do that before you enter San Francisco.
If you must land in San Francisco first, jump into a taxi, pull down the
curtains, drive through the city, breaking every speed law, to "Third
and Townsend," sit in the station until a train,--some train, any
train--pulls out, and go with it. If in crossing Market street, you
raise that taxi-curtain as much as an inch, believe me, stranger, it's
all off; you're lost. You'll never leave San Francisco. Myself, both
times I have gone to California, I have vowed to see Yosemite, the big
trees, the string of beautiful old missions which dot the state, some
of the quaint, languid, semi-tropical towns of the south, some of the
brisk, brilliant, bustling towns of the north. But I have never really
done it because I saw San Francisco first.

I treasure my few impressions of the state, however. Towns and cities,
comparatively new, might be three centuries old, so beautifully have
they sunk into the colorful, deeply configurated background that the
country provides. Even a city as thriving and wide-awake as Stockton has
about its plaza an air so venerable that it is a little like the
ancient hill-cities of Italy; more like, I have no doubt, the ancient
plain-cities of Spain. And San Juan Bautista--with its history-haunted
old Inn, its ghost-haunted old Mission and its rose-filled old Mission
garden where everything, even the sundial, seems to sleep--is as old as
Babylon or Tyre.

You will be constantly reminded of Italy, although California is not
quite so vividly colored, and perhaps of Japan, for you are always
coming on places that are startlingly like scenes in Japanese prints.
Certain aspects from the bay of the town of Sausalito, with strangely
shaped and softly tinted houses tumbling down the hillside, certain
aspects of the bay from the heights of Berkeley, with the expanses of
hills and water and the inevitable fog smudging a smoky streak here and
there, are more like the picture-country of the Japanese masters than
any American reality.

If I were to pick the time when I should travel in California, it would
be in the early summer. All the rest of the world at that moment is
green. California alone is sheer gold. One composite picture remains in
my memory-the residuum of that single trip into the south. On one side
the Pacific--tigerish, calm, powerfully palpitant, stretching into
eternity in enormous bronze-gold, foam-laced planes. On the other side,
great, bare, voluptuously--contoured hills, running parallel with the
train and winding serpentinely on for hours and hours of express speed;
hills that look, not as though they were covered with yellow grass, but
as though they were carved from massy gold. At intervals come ravines
filled with a heavy green growth. Occasionally on those golden
hill-surfaces appear trees.

Oh, the trees of California!

If they be live-oaks--and on the hills they are most likely to be
live-oaks--they are semi-globular in shape like our apple trees, only
huge, of a clamant, virile, poisonous green. They grow alone, and each
one of them seems to be standing knee-deep in shadow so thick and moist
that it is like a deep pool of purple paint.

Occasionally, on the flat stretches, eucalyptus hedges film the
distance. And the eucalyptus--tall, straight, of a uniform slender size,
the baby leaves of one shape and color, misted with a strange bluish
fog-powder, the mature leaves of another shape and color, deep-green
on one side, purple on the other, curved and carved like a scimitar of
Damascus steel, the blossoms hanging in great soft bunches, white
or shell-pink, delicate as frost-stars--the eucalyptus is the most
beautiful tree in the world. Standing in groups, they seem to color the
atmosphere. Under them the air is like a green bubble. Standing alone,
the long trailing scarfs of bark blowing away from their bodies--they
are like ragged, tragic gypsy queens.

Then there is the madrone. The wonder of the madrone is its bole. Of
a tawny red-gold--glossy--it contributes an arresting coppery note to
green forest vistas. Somebody has said that in the distance they look
like naked Indians slipping through the woods.

Last, there is the redwood tree! And the redwood is more beautiful even
than the stone-pine of Italy. Gray lavender in color, hard as though
cut from stone, swelling at the base to an incredible bulk, shooting
straight to an incredible height and tapering exquisitely as it soars,
it drops not foliage but plumage. To walk in a redwood forest at night
and to look up at the stars tangled in the tree-tops, to watch the
moonlight sift through the masses of soft black-green feathers, down,
down, until strained to a diaphanous tenuity it lies a faint silver
gossamer at your feet, is to feel that you are living in one of the old
woodcuts which illustrate Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream."

Most people in first visiting California are obsessed with the flowers,
the abundant callas, the monstrous roses, the giant geraniums. But I
never ceased to wonder at the beauty of the trees. And remember, I have
not as yet seen what they call the "big" trees.

Yes, California is quite as beautiful as her poets insist and her
painters prove. It turns everybody who goes there into a poet, at least
temporarily. Babes lisp in numbers and those of the native population
who don't actually write poetry, talk it--no matter what the subject is.
Take the case of Sam Berger. Sam Berger--I will explain for the benefit
of my women readers--was first a distinguished amateur heavyweight boxer
who later became sparring partner for Bob Fitzimmons and manager to Jim
Jeffries. In an interview on the subject of boxing, Mr. Berger said,
"Boxing is an art--just as much so as music. To excel in it you must
have a conception of time, of balance, of distance. The man who attempts
to box without such a conception is like a person who tries to be a
musician without having an ear for music."

Is it not evident from this that Mr. Berger would have become a poet if
a more valiant art had not claimed him?

In that ideal future state in which all the world-parts are assembled
and perfectly coordinated into one vast self-governing machine, I hope
that California will be turned into a great international reservation,
given over entirely to poets, lovers and honeymoon couples. It is too
beautiful to waste on mere bromidic residential or business interests.

So much for the State of California. I confess with shame that that is
all I know about it, although I reiterate that that ignorance is not my
fault. So now for San Francisco.

San Francisco!

San Francisco!

Many people do not realize that San Francisco tips a peninsula
projecting west and north from the coast of California. Between that
peninsula and the mainland lies a blue arm of the blue San Francisco
bay. So that when you have bisected the continent and come to what
appears to be the edge of the western world, you must take a ferry to
get to the city itself.

I hope you will cross that bay first at night, for there is no more
romantic hour in which to enter San Francisco; the bay spreading out
back of you a-plash with all kinds of illuminated water craft and the
city lifting up before you ablaze with thousands of pin point lights;
for San Francisco's site is a hilly one and the city lies like a
jewelled mantle thrown carelessly over many peaks. You land at the Ferry
building--surely the most welcoming station in the world--walk through
it, come out at the other side on a circular place which is one end of
Market street, the main artery of the city. If this is by day, you can
see that the other end of Market street is Twin Peaks--a pair of
hills that imprint bare, exquisitely shaped contours of gold on a blue
sky--with the effect somehow of a stage-drop. If you come by night, you
will find Market street crowded with people, lighted with a display of
electric signs second only in size, number, brilliancy and ingenuity to
those on Broadway. But whether you come by day or by night, the instant
you emerge from the Ferry building, San Francisco gets you. Market
street is one of the most entertaining main-traveled urban roads in the
world. Newspaper offices in a cluster, store windows flooded with light,
filled with advertising devices of the most amusing originality, cars,
taxis, crowds, it has all the earmarks of the main street of any big
American city, with the addition, at intervals, of the pretty "islands"
so typical of the boulevards of Paris and with, last of all, a zip and
a zest, a pep and a punch, a go and a ginger that is distinctively
Californian. I repeat that California throws her first tentacle into
your heart as you stand there wondering whether you'll go to your hotel
or, plunging headforemost into the crowds, swim with the current.

Imagine a city built not on seven but a hundred hills. I am sure there
are no less than a hundred and probably there are more. Certainly I
climbed a hundred. On three sides the sea laps the very hem of this city
and on one side the forest reaches down to its very toes. That is, when
all is said, the most marvelous thing about San Francisco--that the
sea and forest come straight to its borders. And as, because of its
peninsula situation they form the only roads out, sea and forest are
integral parts of the city life. It accounts for the fact that you see
no city pallor in the faces on the streets and perhaps for the fact that
you see so little unhappiness on them. On Sundays and holidays, crowds
pour across the bay all day long and then, loaded with flowers and
greens, pour back all the evening long. As for flowers and greens, the
hotels, shops, cafes, the little hole-in-the-wall restaurants are full
of them. They are so cheap on the streets that everybody wears them.
Everybody seems to play as much as possible out of doors. Everybody
seems to sleep out of doors. Everybody has just come from a hike or is
just going off on one. Imagine a climate rainless three-quarters of the
year, which permits the workingman to tramp all through his vacation
with the impedimenta only of a blanket, moneyless if he will, but with
the certainty always that the orchards and gardens will provide-him with

Through the city runs one central hill-spine. From this crest, by day,
you look on one side across the bay with its three beautiful islands,
bare Yerba Buena, jeweled Alcatraz and softly-fluted Angel Island, all
seemingly adrift in the blue waters, to Marin county. The waters of the
bay are as smooth as satin, as blue as the sky, and they are slashed
in every direction with the silver wakes left by numberless ferryboats.
Those ferryboats, by the way, are extremely graceful; they look like
white peacocks dragging enormous white-feather tails. By night the
bay view from the central hill-spine shows the cities of Berkeley and
Oakland like enormous planes of crystal tilted against the distance, the
ferryboats illuminated but still peacock-shaped, floating on the black
waters like monster toys of Venetian glass. In the background, rising
from low hills, peaks the blue triangle of Mt. Diablo. In the foreground
reposes Tamalpais--a mountain shaped in the figure of a woman-lying
prone. The wooded slopes of Tamalpais form the nearest big playground
for San Franciscans--and Tamalpais is to the San Franciscan what
Fujiyama is to the Japanese. Would that I had space to tell here of
the time when their mountain caught fire and thousands--men, women and
children--turned out to save it! Everybody helped who could. Even the
bakers of San Francisco worked all night and without pay to make bread
for the fire-fighters.

By day, on the city side of the crest, you catch glimpses of other
hills, covered for the most part with buildings, like lustrous pearl
cubes; for San Francisco is a pearl-gray city. At night you can
look straight down the side streets to Market street on a series of
illuminated restaurant signs which project over the sidewalk at right
angles to the buildings. It is as though a colossal golden stairway
tempted your foot.

Perhaps after all the most breath taking quality about San Francisco
is these unexpected glimpses that you are always getting of beautiful
hill-heights and beautiful valley-depths. Sunset skies like aerial
banners flare gold and crimson on the tops of those hills. City lights,
like nests of diamonds, glitter and glisten in the depths of those
valleys. Then the fogs! I have stood at my window at night and watched
the ragged armies of the air drift in from the bay and take possession
of the whole city. Such fogs. Not distilled from pea soup like the
London fogs; moist air-gauzes rather, pearl-touched and glimmering; so
thick sometimes that it is as though the world had veiled herself in
mourning, so thin often that the stars shine through with a delicate
muffled lustre. By day, even in the full golden sunshine of California,
the view from the hills shows a scene touched here and there with fog.

As for the hills themselves, steep as they are, street cars go up and
down them. What is more extraordinary, so do automobiles. The hill
streets are cobbled commonly; but often, for the better convenience of
vehicles, there is a central path of asphalt, smoothly finished. I have
seen those asphalt planes by day when a flood, first of rain and then of
sun, turned them to rivers of molten silver; I have seen them by night
when an automobile, standing at the hilltop and pouring its light over
them, turned them to rivers of molten gold.

Within walking distance of the ferry is the heart of the city. Here
are the newspaper buildings, many big and little hotels, numberless
restaurants, the theatres and the shopping district. The region about
Union Square, Geary street, Grant Avenue, Post and Sutter streets, is
a busy and attractive area. You could live in San Francisco for a month
and ask no greater entertainment than walking through it. Beyond are
various foreign quarters and districts inevitably growing colder and
more residential in aspect as they get farther away from the city heart.
Beyond the heights where one catches glimpses of the ocean, the city
slopes to abrupt cliffs along the outer harbor, and here are mansions
whose windy gardens overhang the surf. Beyond Market street is the area
described in the phrase, "south of the slot". Superficially drab and
gray in aspect, it has been celebrated again and again in song and
story. From this region have come the majority of San Francisco's
champion athletes. Near here beats the red heart of the labor world.
And not far off still stands that exquisite gem of Spanish
catholicism--Mission Dolores.

Here and there--and it is a little like meeting a ghost in a crowded
street--through all the beauty and freshness of the new city project the
bones of the old: the lofty ruins, ivy-hung, of a huge Nob Hill Palace
here; the mere foundation, bush-encircled, of a big old family mansion
there; elaborate rusty fences of Mid-Victorian iron which enclose
nothing; wide low steps of Mid-Victorian marble which lead nowhere. The
San Franciscan speaks always with a tender, regretful affection of
that dead city, but, as is natural, he speaks of it less and less. For
myself, I am glad now that I never saw the city that was; for I can love
the city that is with no arriere pensee.

They serve, however--those bones of a dead past--to remind the stranger
of a marvelous rebuilding feat, to accent the virility and vitality, the
courage and enterprise of a people who, before a half decade had passed,
had eliminated almost every trace of the greatest disaster of modern

Perhaps, after the beauty of its situation, the stranger is most
struck with the picturesqueness given to the city by its cosmopolitan
atmosphere. For San Francisco, serving as one of the two main great
gateways to an enormous country, a front entrance to America from the
Orient, a back entrance from Europe and a side entrance from South
America, standing halfway between tropics and polar regions, a great
port of the greatest ocean in the world, becomes naturally one of the
world's main caravanseries, a meeting place of nations.

Chinatown is not far off from the heart of the city. And Chinatown
pervades San Francisco. It is as though it distilled some faint oriental
perfume with which constantly it suffuses the air. You meet the Chinese
everywhere. The men differ in no wise from the men with whom the smaller
Chinatowns of the East have acquainted us. The women make the streets
exotic. Little, slim-limbed creatures, amber-skinned, jewel-eyed,
dressed in silk of black or pastel colors, loosely coated and
comfortably trousered, their jet-black shining hair filled with
ornaments, they go about in groups which include old women and young
matrons, half-grown girls slender as forsythia branches, babies arrayed
like princes. You are likely to meet groups of Hindus, picturesquely
turbaned, coffee-brown in color, slight-figured, straight-featured,
black-bearded. You see Japanese and Filipinos. And as for
Latins--French, Italians and Spanish flood the city. There are eight
thousand Montenegrins alone in California. I never suspected there
were eight thousand in Montenegro. And our own continent contributes
Canadians, Mexicans, citizens from every State in the Union. In
addition, you run everywhere into soldiers and sailors. The bits of
talk you overhear in the street are so exciting that you become a
professional eavesdropper, strong-languaged, picturesquely slangy,
pungent narrative. Sometimes the speaker has come up from Arizona, or
New Mexico or Texas, sometimes down from Alaska, Washington or Oregon,
sometimes across from Nevada or Montana or Wyoming. And with many of
them--at least with those that live west of the rocky mountains--San
Francisco is always (and I never failed to respond to the thrill of it)
"the city". Not a city or any city, but the city--as though there were
no other city on the face of the earth.

All this alien picturesqueness adds enormously of course to the San
Franciscan's native picturesqueness. Not that the Californian needs
adventitious aid in this matter. Indeed this cosmopolitanism of
atmosphere serves best as a background, these alien types as a foil, for
the native-born. For the Californians are a comely people. No traveler
has failed--at least no man has failed--to pay tribute in passing to
the Californian women. And they are beautiful. In that climate which
produces bigness in everything, they grow to heroic size. And as
a result of a life, inevitably open-air in an atmosphere always
fog-touched, they have eyes of a notable limpidity and complexions of
a striking vividness. To walk through that limited area which is the
city's heart--especially when the theatres are letting out--is to come
on beauty not in one pretty girl at a time, nor in pairs and trios, nor
by scores and dozens; it is to see it in battalias and acres, and all
of them meeting your eyes with the frank open gaze of the West. San
Francisco is, I fancy, the only city on the globe where any musical
comedy audience is always more beautiful than any musical comedy chorus.
They are not only beautiful--they are magnificent.

Watch in the Admission Day parade for the Native Daughters of the Golden
West--stalwart, stunning young giantesses marching with a splendid
carriage and a superb poise--they seem like a new race of women.

And the climate being of such kind that, for three-quarters of the year
you can count on unvarying sunny weather, the women dress on the streets
with nothing short of gorgeousness. All the colors that the rainbow
knows and a few that it has never seen, appear here. And worn with
such chic, such verve! Not even in Paris, where may appear a more
conventional smartness, is sartorial picturesqueness carried off with
such an air of authority. Polaire, who was advertised as the ugliest
woman in the world, should have made a fortune in California. For the
Californian does not really know what female ugliness is. I have a
theory that the California men cannot quite appreciate the beauty of
their women. They take beauty for granted; they have never seen anything
else. Nevertheless, that beauty and that dash constitute a menace. A
city ordinance compels traffic policemen to wear smoked glasses, and car
conductors and chauffeurs, blinders. Go West, young man!

But everybody celebrates the beauty of the Californian woman. Probably
that is because heretofore "everybody" has been masculine. He has been
so busy looking at the California woman that he hasn't realized yet that
there's a male of the species. The California man, I sing.

It is curious what a difference of opinion there is in regard to him. I
have heard Californiacs say in their one moment of humility, "Why is
it, when we turn out such magnificent women, that our men are so
undersized?" Now I know nothing about average male heights and weights.
I have never seen any comparative statistics. I can say only that the
average Californian seems bigger than the average man. And often in
walking through the San Francisco streets the eye, ranging along the
crowd of pedestrians of average California stature, will strike on a man
who bulks a whale, a leviathan, a dread-naught, beside the others, and
rises a column, a monolith, a tower above them.

He is certainly upstanding, this average California male--running to
bulk and a little to flesh. Often the line of feature is so regular that
it suggests the Greek. He has eyes like mountain lakes and a smile like
a break of sun. He generally flashes a dimple or two or three or more
(Californians are speckled with dimples). He manufactures his own slang.
And he joshes and jollies all day long. In fact, he's--

Oh, well, go West, young woman!

Beyond its high average of male beauty California has, in its labor-man,
produced a new physical type. It is different from the standardized
American type, of which Abraham Lincoln of a past and the Wright
brothers of a present generation are perfect specimens--the
ugly-beautiful face, long and lean, with its harshly contoured strength
of feature and its subtly softening melancholy of expression. The
look of labor in California is not so much of strength as of force, an
indomitable, unconquerable force. Melancholy is not there, but spirit;
that fire and light which means hope. It is as though they were molded
of iron--those faces--but illuminated from within. And with that
strength goes the California comeliness.

Pulchritude begins in childhood with the Californian, grows and
strengthens through youth to middle age. Even the old--but there are no
old people in California. Nobody ever gets a chance to grow old there.
The climate won't let you. The scenery won't let you. The life won't let

All this picturesqueness, beauty and charm form the raw materials of the
most entertaining city life in the country. For whatever San Francisco
is or is not, it is never dull. Life there is in a perpetual ferment.
It is as though the city kettle had been set on the stove to boil half
a century ago and had never been taken off. The steam is pouring out of
the nose. The cover is dancing up and down. The very kettle is rocking
and jumping. But by some miracle the destructive explosion never
happens. The Californian is easy-going in a sense and yet he works hard
and plays hard. Athletics are feverish there, suffrage rampant, politics
frenzied, labor militant. Would that I had space here to dilate on the
athletic game as it is played in California--played with the charm and
spirit and humor with which Californians play every game. Would that I
had space to narrate, as Maud Younger tells it--the moving story of how
the women won the vote in California. Would that I had space to
describe the whirlwind political campaigns when there are at least four
candidates in the field for every office, and when you are besought by
postal, by letter, by dodgers, by advertisements in the papers and on
the billboards to vote for all of them. Would that I had space--but here
I must take the space--to tell how the Californian plays.

Remember always that California has virtually no weather to contend
with. For three months of the year rain appears; for the remaining
nine months it is eliminated entirely. And so, with a country of rare
picture-esqueness for a background, a people of rare beauty for
actors, everybody more or less permeated with the artistic instinct
and everybody more or less writing poetry--California has a pageant for
breakfast, a fiesta for luncheon and a carnival for dinner. They are
always electing queens. In fact any girl in California, who hasn't been
a queen of something before she's twenty-one, is a poor prune.

In the country, especially in the wine districts where the merrymaking
sometimes lasts for days, these festivals are beautiful. In the city
it depends largely, of course, on how much the commercial spirit enters
into it; but whether they are beautiful or the reverse, they are always
entertaining. Single streets, for instance, in San Francisco, are always
having carnivals. The street elects a king and queen, plasters itself
with bunting, arches itself with electric lights, lines its curbs with
temporary booths, fills its corners with shows, sells confetti until the
pedestrian swims in it--and then whoops it up for a week. All around,
north, south, east, west, every other street is jet-black, sleeping
decorously, ignoring utterly that blare of color, that blaze of light,
that boom of noise around the corner. They should worry--they're going
to have a carnival themselves next week. Apropos, a San Francisco paper
opened its story of one of these affairs with the following sentence:
"Last night (shall we call him Hans Schmidt?) was crowned with great
pomp and ceremony king of the--Street Carnival, and fifteen minutes
later, with no pomp and ceremony whatever, he was arrested for petty
larceny." Billy Jordan was made King of the Fillmore Street Carnival.
Now Billy Jordan, who was over eighty years of age, had served as
announcer for every big boxing contest in San Francisco since--well,
let's say, since San Francisco was born. He always ends his ring
announcement with the words, "Let her go!" The reporters say that in
the crown and sceptre, the velvet and ermine of a king, he opened the
Fillmore Street Carnival with "Let her go!". And for myself, I choose
to believe that story. The queen of this carnival--her first name was
Manila, by the way--a pretty girl of course, was a picturesque detail in
the city life for a week. In velvet, ermine and brilliant crown, she was
always flashing from place to place in an automobile, surrounded by a
group, equally pretty, of ladies in waiting. When the deep, cylindrical
cistern-like reservoir on Twin Peaks was finished, they opened it with a
dance; when the Stockton street tunnel was finished, they opened it
with a dance; when the morgue was completed they opened that with a

The San Francisco papers reflect all this activity, and they certainly
make entertaining reading. For one thing, the annual crop of pretty
girls being ten times as large there as anywhere else, and photography
being universally a fine art, the papers are filled with pictures of
beautiful women. They are the only papers I have ever seen in which
the faces that appear on the theatrical page pale beside those that
accompany the news stories. The last three months of my stay in
San Francisco I cut out all the pictures of pretty girls from three
newspapers. They included all kinds of women--society, club, athletic,
college, highbrow, low-brow; highway-women, burglaresses, forgeresses
and murderesses. I have just counted those pictures three hundred
and fifty-four--and all beautiful. When I received my paper in the
morning--until the war made that function, even in California, a
melancholy one--I used to look first at the pictures of the women. Then
always I turned to the sporting page to see what record had been broken
since yesterday and, if it were Saturday morning (I confess it without
shame), to read the joyous account of Friday night's boxing contest.
And, always before I settled to the important news of the day, I read
the last "stunt".

Picturesque "stunts" are always being pulled off in San Francisco.
Was it the late lamented Beachey flying with a pretty girl around the
half-completed Tower of Jewels, was it a pretty actress selling roses
at the Lotta Fountain for the benefit of the Belgians, it was something
amusing, stirring and characteristic. Always the "stunt" involved a lot
of pretty girls and often it demanded the services of the mayor. I shall
regret to the end of my days that I did not keep a scrapbook devoted
to Mayor Rolph's activities. For being mayor of San Francisco is no
sinecure. But as most of his public duties seemed to involve floods of
pretty girls--well, if I were a man it would be my ambition to be mayor
of San Francisco for the rest of my life.

The year I spent in California they were building the Exposition. They
made of that task, as they make of every task, a game and a play and a
lark--a joy and a delight--even though they were building under the most
discouraging conditions that an exposition ever encountered. But nothing
daunts the Californian, and so wood and iron, mortar and paint, grew
steadily into the dream city that later fronted the bay.

As I think it over, I am very glad that I did not tell the Californiacs
how beautiful Massachusetts is. Because it would only have bewildered
them. I am glad that I did not mention to them that I shall always
cherish a kind of feeling for Massachusetts that I can develop for no
other spot. Because it would only have hurt them. You must not tell
a Californiac that you love any place but California or that you have
found beauty elsewhere. It's like breaking an engagement of marriage
with a girl. It's like telling a child that there's no such person as
Santa Claus. There's no tactful way of wording it. It simply can't be
done. And I am very glad that I told the Californiacs all the time
how much I love California, how much I love San Francisco. For beauty,
California is like the fresh, glowing, golden crescent moon; it is
waxing steadily to a noble fullness of development; and San Francisco
is like the glittering evening-star; it fills the Pacific night with the
happy radiance of its light and life. I think of California always--with
its unabated fighting strength--as a champion among States. It takes the
stranger--that champion State--under its mighty protection and gives him
of its strength and happiness. It is more fun to be sick in California
than to be well anywhere else. And I think of San Francisco always--the
spirit of Tamalpais in the air--as an Amazon among cities. Its people
love "the city" because, within the memory of man it was built, and
within the memory of child, rebuilt. They themselves helped to build and
rebuild it. They have worked and fought for it through every inch and
instant of its history. It takes the stranger--that Amazon city--into
its great, warm, beating mother-heart. If you are sick it makes you
well. If you are sad it makes you glad. It infuses you with its working
spirit. It inspires you with its fighting spirit. It asks you to work
and fight with it. Massachusetts never permitted me to work or fight for
it. Woman is as yet, in no real sense, a citizen there. And the result
is that I love California as I love no other State, and San Francisco
as I love no other city. I have no real criticism to bring against
the Californiac. In fact, reader--ah, I see you've guessed it. I'm a
Californiac myself.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Californiacs" ***

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