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Title: Vignettes of San Francisco
Author: Morey, Almira
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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.

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By Almira Bailey


     As Pilgrims Go to Rome
     At the Ferry
     The Union-Street Car
     The Latin Meets the Oriental
     The Pepper and Salt Man
     The Bay on Sunday Morning
     Safe on the Sidewalk
     Port O’Missing Men
     Market-street Scintillations
     The Open Board of Trade
     The San Francisco Police
     A Marine View
     I’ll Get It Changed, Lady
     Fillmore Street
     In the Lobby of the St. Francis
     The Garbage-man’s Little Girl
     The Palace
     Zoe’s Garden
     Children on the Sidewalk
     Feet that Pass on Market Street
     Where the Centuries Meet
     Bags or Sacks
     Portsmouth Square
     Impulses and Prohibitions
     Stopping at the Fairmont
     San Francisco Sings
     Van Ness Avenue
     The Blind Men and the Elephant
     You’re Getting Queer
     The Ferry and Real Boats
     A Whiff of Acacia
     It Takes All Sorts
     The Fog in San Francisco
     A Block on Ashbury Heights
     The Greek Grocer
     Billboards or Art
     Golden Gate Park
     Extra Fresh
     On the California-street Car
     Western Yarns
     Mr. Mazzini and Dante
     On the Nob of Nob Hill


As Pilgrims go to Rome

In the same way that the poets have loved Rome and made their
pilgrimages there--as good Moslems travel toward Mecca, so there are
some of us who have come to San Francisco. Then when we arrive and
find it all that we have dreamed, our love for it becomes its highest
tribute. And I don’t know why it is sacrilege to mention Rome and San
Francisco in the same breath. As for me I greatly prefer San Francisco,
although I have never been to Rome.

I love San Francisco for its youth. Other cities have become set and
hard and have succumbed to the cruel symmetry of the machine age, but
not San Francisco. It is still youth untamed. They may try, but they
cannot manicure it, nor groom it, nor dress it up in a stiff white
collar, nor fetter it by not allowing a body to stretch out on the grass
in Union Square or prohibiting street-fakers and light wines served in
coffee pots and doing away with wild dashing jitneys.

Then there is something about San Francisco’s being away out here from
everyone else, a city all alone. New York is five hours from Boston;
Philadelphia is close between New York and Washington; Baltimore is a
trolley ride away; Chicago is only overnight from all the other cities,
while Atlanta is only two sleeping car nights from her sister cities.
But San Francisco, out here as far as it can reach with one foot in the
great Pacific, nearly a week from New York and a month away from China,
some people wouldn’t like it, but something vagabondish in me rejoices
to have run away from them all. Especially at night when the fog comes
in on the city and shuts out even Oakland, and fog horns out of the
Golden Gate call mournfully, and boats in the bay go calling their
lookout calls, I get this feeling of far-offness from the rest of the
world that is very gratifying.

And I love the sound of San Francisco, the sound of its singing--some
cities roar and others hum, but San Francisco sings. And I love the look
of it and the feel of it. I love to stand, on its hills in the mornings
when the bride-veil fog is going out to sea and the smoke and steam and
fog and sunshine make one grand symphonic morning song. And I love to
stand on high hills on clear days when all her cubist houses stand bold
in the sunlight and the cities across the bay are so close to the touch.
And I love its color, flowers and girls and splashes of the Oriental.
And I love its Bohemia which is not affected, but real. I love
it because it is young and live and spontaneous and humorous and
beauty-loving and unashamed of anything that is life. Oh, I don’t know.

If I were in New York and it should begin to suffocate me I would run
and run across the continent and never stop once until I landed on the
top of Telegraph Hill.

At the Ferry

The shrill of newsboys, the bass of older venders, the call of taxis,
trolleys that proceed all day in ordered sequence, the wide swing of
traffic on the Embarcadero, a tang of salt in the air, the atmosphere of
flowers for sale, hoarse call of ferries in the bay like politicians
who have spoken too much in the open air and lost their voices, the
beautifully ordered hurry and bustle and expectancy of people on their
way somewhere, and over it all the mentor of the police.

“Help pass the time pleasantly,” so does the electric piano coax away
our nickels. To those who know music it is a horrible sound, but to
the rest of us its tunes are rather gay. On the wall a defunct comedy
flashes. Hypnotized, but never amused, we gaze at it as we wait for
the great doors to swing back. A woman is thrown from an auto by her
husband, and in her fall displays a pair of husky, ruffled underwear.
Time was when that would have raised a howl of joy, but no longer. She
hardly touches the ground when we find ourselves gazing at an orchard of
California figs, zip, the woman picks herself up, gazes comically at the
audience for a laugh and receiving none, hops with phenomenal agility up
astride of the hood of the auto, piff, a yard of Santa Rosa hens,
ping, the husband throws his wife up to the roof of a skyscraper, the
commuters gaze solemnly, biff, a scene from Santa Clara, clang, the
gates are opened.

On the Sausalito side, a jammed together happy vacation crowd,
grotesquely varied and elaborately gotten-up hikers, bags and suitcases
to fall all over everywhere, professorish looking men off, “taking a
book along,” people laden with all the cheap magazines in the market,
smartly dressed people on their way to country homes in Marin and
Sonoma, a well modulated, nicely groomed crowd--bing, the doors slide
back and everybody rushes off for a holiday.

Commuters and tourists, most of the time I’d rather be a tourist. They
are easily distinguished in the crowd, an accent from Louisiana, a woman
who has just returned from the Orient, a man with continental manners,
they are easily distinguished, and the predatory red-capped porters know
them well. We are wistfully sorry to be going only to Oakland, we long
to go out on the Main Line, the out-leading, mile-wandering, venturesome
Main Line. Reluctantly we turn to where duty and necessity calls us
ignominiously to the electric suburban.

The first sight of San Francisco. “Ah, this is San Francisco!” The
shrill of newsboys, the bass of older venders, the flash of electric
signs. Do you prefer “Camels”, “Chesterfields” or “Fatimas”? the call
of taxis, invitations to hotel buses, the wide sweep of traffic on the
Embarcadero--“So this is San Francisco.”

The Union-Street Car

It is surprising how many people patronize the shabby little thing. But
then it waits right where those who leave the ferry may see it first as
though it were the most important car in town, and I have a fancy
the big cars humor it a bit and give it first place. Besides, it goes
anywhere in the city, Chinatown, the Hall of Justice, the Chamber of
Commerce, the Barbary Coast, St. Francis Church--sinners, saints and
merchants may travel its way--Portsmouth Square, Telegraph Hill, Little
Italy, Russian Hill, Automobile Row, Fillmore street, the Presidio and
I expect with a little coaxing it would switch about and run over to
the Mission. It has actually been known on stormy nights to take its
constituents up the side streets to their very doors.

It is a surprising little boat which looks like nothing more than a bug
crawling up the backs of the hills with its antenna of khaki-wound legs
sticking out fore and aft. Those who have traveled in Ireland tell
us that it is much like the jaunting cars, and it is not unlike the
Toomerville Trolley.

One night I set out to find the little thing to take me home. I was in
a strange part of the city and when my friends told me to get on and get
off and get on again I did as I was told. With blind faith I told the
conductors to put me off and they did. I continued in this way until
long after midnight when I found myself at a lonely corner with no one
in sight. I waited and waited and was getting nervous when I spied a
blue uniform. I looked sharply to see if he were a motorman, a fireman
or an officer from the Presidio. I am careful about these matters since
last summer when I was coming North on the President, and asked a naval
officer for some ice water. I rushed up to him and told him, which was
true, that it was the first time I had ever seen a policeman when I
wanted one. This led him into a defense of the San Francisco police,
which I told him was quite unnecessary with me for I thought them the
finest policemen in the world, probably because they are so Irish.

“Irish,” said he with a twinkle, “I’m not Irish.”

We chatted awhile until the Union street car came along, and then
that policeman who said he wasn’t Irish leaned over and whispered
confidentially, “If you miss this car, there’ll be another.” I suppose
they get lonesome.

You see how I am wandering away from my subject. That is because I
followed the Union street car. It switches from subject to subject just
like that. It begins with the wonderful retail markets of San Francisco,
and then changes abruptly to all sorts of sociological problems, then
before we know it gives us a beautiful marine view, and then drops us
down where the proletariat lives, then up to the homes of the rich and
mighty, and ends in the military.

Everyone should sight-see by the little Union street car.

The Latin Meets the Oriental

In that spot where Chinatown merges into the Latin quarter there must
be, I think, a Director of Delightful Situations who holds dominion
there. For instance, can you imagine anything more subtle than a group
of large fat women haranguing, in Italian-American, a poor thin Chinaman
over some bargains in vegetables?

In a place which marks the line of cleavage between the two quarters is
a picture store containing in its window religious pictures, enlarged
family photographs of Filipinos, and, of course, views of the Point
Lobos cypress. There is something very appealing about that window.
Pictures of Jesus, no matter how lurid they are, never fall short of
dignity. And it seems not at all incongruous that He should be there in
the midst of all those strange human contacts.

There are not only contacts between the Latin and the Oriental, but
anything unusual may come to light in that particular neighborhood.
A buff cochin rooster was wandering about the street the other day.
Stepping high and picking up choice tidbits and showing off before his
harem of hens who peeked at him from their boxes, he strutted about
exactly as though he had been in his own Petaluma barnyard.

One day I saw an enormous negro running through the streets with a piece
of new, green felt bound around his stomach. Now why should a huge
negro run through the street with a piece of new green felt around his
stomach? No one knows. And another time a small Chinese maiden bumped
into me because she was so absorbed in that great American institution,
the funny sheet.

On one of those side streets, in there somewhere, one of those streets
untoured by tourists, I saw some Chinese boys, dressed in American “Boss
of the Road” unionalls, playing baseball and calling the call of Babe
Ruth in sing-song Chinese. Then near them was an empty lot and what do
you suppose it was filled with? Scotch thistles, and edged with wild
corn flowers. Even Nature enters into the fun.

There is a story of an Italian who went through the streets somewhere on
Leavenworth, calling, “Nica fresha flowers,” and from the opposite side
of the street a Chinaman with flowers would call, “Samee over here.”
 All went well until the Chinaman began to outsell the other, when the
Italian remonstrated. “Yella for yourself, see,” he said, to which the
Chinaman answered, “Go to hellee,” and went on as before.

This story was told to me by very reliable eye witnesses. The buff
cochin rooster and the huge negro and all the others I saw myself. And
many other strange things which I have not room to write, I saw in that
spot where Chinatown merges into the Latin quarter.

The Pepper and Salt Man

He was a man, I should say about sixty years old, a most uninteresting
age, and a homely, weather-beaten fellow too, when you stopped to look
at him. His suit was pepper-and-salt, and he was just like his suit.
Good as gold, I have no doubt, a roomer of whom his landlady could say:
“He comes and he goes and is never a speck of trouble.”

Still, he might have been as good as Saint Anthony but no one would ever
have noticed him except for what happened. What happened wasn’t so much
either but it was enough to illumine that dun, common-place man so that
everyone in the side-seating trolley was suddenly aware of his presence.
What happened was ten months old and was a girl.

A regular girl, one hundred per cent feminine. One could tell just by
the way she wore her clothes, by her daintiness, by the tilt of her
bonnet and by the way smiled out from under it. I can’t describe a
baby girl any more than I describe a sunset or moonlight or any of the
wonders of God--I can only say that she was everything that a baby girl
should have been.

When she entered with her mother we all edged and crowded over but the
pepper-and-salt man won. Down she sat close beside him. Then you should
have seen that man, the foolish, old fellow. He turned toward her; he
beamed; he mentally devoured her; he never took his eyes off her long
enough to wink.

When she seemed about to turn her restlessly bobbing head toward him,
his hands moved and the strong muscles of his face worked in excitement.
Then, when she smiled his way and for an instant there was a flash of
tiny, milk teeth, that man, the old silly, made the most dreadful facial
contortion, something between a wink, a smile, a booh and a grimace.

Then when she turned from him he sat there eating her up. I saw him
look reverently at her exquisite hands and at the awkward little legs
sticking out straight ahead. When her mother arranged her ruffles he
watched every move--absorbed. Then he would wait eager, hoping and
praying for her to smile his way again...

Why, I was waiting for her smile too and so was every one of the staid
and grown-up people in the car. I don’t know when we would ever have
come out from the spell of that ten-months-old baby girl if just then
the conductor had not called out reproachfully--“Central Avenue--Central
Avenue.” Then the pepper-and-salt man jumped and looked nervously out
and rushed for the door. I, myself, had to walk back two blocks and when
I turned at my corner he was still going back to his street.

The Bay on Sunday Morning

Perhaps to go to Fort Mason on a sunny Sunday morning, that beautiful
relaxed moment of the whole week, and there to sit with others who have
no autos to go gallivanting in, and to sit idly gazing off at the bay.
That’s not bad. To read a little and doze a bit, but mostly to gaze out
to sea and dream.

A big foreign steamer in port, perhaps a Scandinavian boat, inert,
enormous, helpless, while the little tugs chatter, around it and finally
get hold of it, and tug it slowly around with its nose pointing out to
sea. Lumber schooners come in slowly and rhythmically, long and low and
clean. The Vallejo boat, looking like a rocking horse, goes importantly
chugging off toward Mare Island. It’s hard to read a book with so going
on out there.

Sunday morning, blessed play time, there is a fellow in a green canoe,
and the muscles of his body play into the movement of the waves until he
and his green canoe and the white capped waves are all one motif of
the whole symphony. Men play around the yacht club like a lot of school
boys, and now--“Shoot,” they push a long slim racer into the water.
Dainty white yachts go dipping to the waves and seem like lovely young
girls in among the sturdier boats.

Now the fishermen come in from their night’s work, making music all in
an orderly procession, and every boat of them a brilliant blue inside.
I’d like to catch a Maine fisherman allowing color in his boat, like a
“dago” or a “wop.”

Over all the swing and dip and rhythm of the sea gulls. How beautifully
they accent the movement of the symphony, like the baton of some great
leader--this great beautiful Sunday morning symphony.

Then there is Alcatraz. Oh, Alcatraz, why should they have placed a
prison there as a monument to men’s failure to order their lives
in harmony with nature. Alcatraz, most beautiful island in the most
beautiful bay, you sound an ugly, sinister, most unhappy undertone in
the morning’s symphony.

Still it is a symphony. A symphony of San Francisco Bay. Why shouldn’t
the composers put it into music. We’re sick of the song of the huntsman
by the brasses, the strings and the wood instruments. With Whitman we
exclaim: “Come, Muse, migrate from Aeonia,” and come out here to the
West, and conserve the symphony of the bay which is already composed and

And for the argument, the overture, the prelude, there could be a
sailing schooner with sails all set coming into the Golden Gate, in the
full brilliant sunlight, or mysteriously through a fog, or against a
sunset sky. It should be “full and by” like that beautiful painting by
Coulter in the stock exchange of the Merchants’ Building.

Symphony of San Francisco Bay, boom of fog horns, calls and answers
of the ferries, chug of the fishermen’s boats, twink of lights in the
harbor at night, rhythm of sea gulls, and the brooding fog to soften it
all. “Come, Muse, migrate from Aeonia.”

Safe on the Sidewalk

Are there others, I wonder, who feel as I do about crossing the street?
There must be. Now I, when I cross, say Market street at Third, I run. I
take my life and my bundles in my hand and run, darting swift glances to
the left and to the right. It looks “hick.” I know it looks “hick.” And
I care. But I prefer to be alive and countrified than sophisticated in
an ambulance and so I run.

At corners, too. I think corners are worse. For there the machines may
turn around and chase me, which they often do. It’s a horrible feeling.

There must be others who feel as I do about crossing the street, but
they never betray it. I watch to see and when they cross, they just
cross--that’s all. Not with nonchalance exactly, but with ease and
assurance. Once I actually saw a man, a native son, I’m sure, roll a
cigarette as he crossed at a point where even the traffic cop looked

No one ever gets killed or even injured. But always everybody is getting
almost killed and almost injured. They like it. It’s a sort of sport.
I’ve noticed it more since the city’s gone dry. The game is, if you are
walking, to see how close to a machine you can come and not hit it.

Street cars, machines and people all go straight ahead and they all come
out right. It’s the only city where it’s done with such abandon. They
never stop for anything except taxis--not even fire engines.

The secret of it is, I think, that no one ever hesitates. This is
understood by all San Franciscans--that, no one is ever going to
hesitate. That’s why there are no accidents. It’s the unexpected in
people that makes disasters and creates a demand for traffic cops.

I try to cross the street as others cross. I choose a chalk mark and,
pretending I am a native daughter, launch out. I get on fine--suddenly
a monster machine is on me. Or would be if I did not jump back. I
shouldn’t have jumped back it seems. But how was I to know? In the
jaws of death you don’t reason, you jump. In jumping back I hit another
machine and it stops. And that stops a street car. That stops something
else. And in a minute Market street, the famous Market street, is all
balled up because I jumped back. Drivers, red in the face, swear at me,
not because they are cross, but scared-more scared than I.

Next time I am more careful. I look to the traffic cop for attention
but, being a handsome man, he thinks I’m trying to flirt. Policemen
should be homely. So I wait until the street is entirely empty. I wait a
long time--it is empty--I run like a steer--and suddenly out of nowhere
a machine is yelling at me individually and I know no more until,
breathless and red, I reach the haven of the sidewalk.

Once I heard a horrible story of a man who lost control of his machine
and ran up on to the sidewalk.

Port O’Missing Men

They say that San Francisco is known all over as the Port o’ Missing
Men. That it is a city where a man may lose himself if he chooses, and
that by the same token it is a good place to look for “my wandering
boy tonight.” I can believe all this especially on Third street. Third
street should be called by some other name or it should have a nickname.
If it were in Seattle it would be known as “skid row.” Third street
doesn’t describe it at all.

When I see a lot of men like that, wanderers, family men out of work,
vagabonds, nobodies, somebodies, “rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief;
doctor, lawyer, merchant, chief,” I always get to thinking how once each
one was a tiny baby in a thin white dress, and how before that each
one of them was born of a woman. If I could ever forget that, I could
perhaps sometimes call men “a lot of cattle.” Come to think of it, it
is men who call other men “cattle.” At any rate, I like to think that no
woman would ever see men as less than the sons of mothers.

The Port o’ Missing Men is like the Port of San Francisco, and these men
are like boats in from a foreign port, tramp steamers some of them, out
of nowhere, going nowhere, no baggage, no traditions, men who’ll never
get lost because they are on their way to Nowhere.

Yet, the majority of these men are going to some place, but where I
do not know. What do they talk about in groups down there, tall, young
fellows and strong middle-aged men and reminiscent, old ones down in
the Port o’ Missing Men? If they’re out of work where do they sleep at
night, and what do they have to eat? And have they any women folks?

Not all kinds of men are down there, but many kinds. There are Mexicans,
Sinn Feiners, old American stock, and once in awhile a venturesome
Yankee. There are lumberjacks in from the North, and Chinamen in
shuffling slippers, and philosophers and Swedes, half-breeds and just
plain men. Some are Vagabonds who can’t help their roving, and others
are very tired and would like to lie over in port for or a long spell.
There are Italians, and Portuguese, and many Greeks, and turbaned
Hindus, tall and skinny, always traveling in pairs like nuns. Sometimes
the Port is fairly crowded.

New England is a section of the country where men leave home, and I
have heard mothers sing with tears in their voices: “Oh, where is my
wandering boy tonight?” On Third street down at the Port o’ Missing Men,
I have a fancy that I would like to write back to all those mothers that
here are their boys. But, after all, what good would that do, for who
can tell which is which?

Market St. Scintillations

Oh, the things our eyes discover as we walk along on Market street. Such
a medley--infinite, incongruous, comical, pathetic, motley and sublime.

Harding in a window with “pure buttermilk.” He’ll be in more difficult
situations before he is done, I’m thinking. An electric fan above him
that keeps the buttermilk “pure” and flies the American flag in crepe

“Crabs to take home.” They are freshly cooked, very large and forty
cents apiece. I decide that some I shall really buy one and take it home
when I confronted with the fact that “All Hair Goods Must Be Sold.” Why,
I wonder. Why must they be sold? And here are “Eggs any style,” so close
to the hair goods that I immediately visualize them as marcelled “style”
 and pompadoured.

“Shoes Drastically Reduced.” It is the truth. The Oxfords I wear are
reduced by a drastic five dollars. Well, I couldn’t go barefooted, I
comfort myself and hurry on.

A shooting gallery and a man standing there trying to make up his mind
to try it. A second’s glimpse of him and all that he is is revealed.
One knows immediately that his favorite song is “My Bonnie Lies Over the
Ocean,” and that his ideal man is Governor Allen and that he is on his
way to spend his “remaining days” with his sister Lottie in Los Angeles.

Who would eat “stewed tripe Spanish.” Someone must or they wouldn’t
advertise it on the outside of he restaurant. Well, it takes all sorts
of people to make a world. Probably the man who would order “stewed
tripe Spanish” wouldn’t touch an alligator pear salad. To him alligator
pears taste exactly like lard. To the person who wouldn’t eat “stewed
tripe Spanish” they are a delicacy.

A crowd around a window. On your tip-toes to see. It’s that fascinating
Lilliputian with a beard and electric bowels who stands in drug store
windows and administers corn cure to his own toes with a smile.

The professional window shopper is a vagabond at heart--a loiterer
by nature. Here is one gazing in a photographer’s window to discover
someone he knows. These two are not professionals though but a spring
couple looking in furniture windows for nest material. And sailors
wandering about, nothing but kiddies, lonesome looking and no doubt
wishing we were at War again and hospitable once more.

Here is a “Pershing Market” and a “Grant Market,” beside it. There’s a
lot of that in San Francisco. Is there an “Imperial Doughnut?” Up goes a
“Supreme Doughnut” next door. It’s the spirit of “I’ll go you one better
every time.” It’s the spirit of Market street.


This is not to hurt the feelings of anyone, for some people are very
sensitive about cafeterias. They are cafeteria wise, they have a
cafeteria class consciousness. Such people are to be admired. They
have accurate minds which enable them to choose a well-balanced meal
at minimum cost. Lacking that sort of mind, I do not get on well in
cafeterias. As sure as I equip myself with a tray and silver in a napkin
and become one of the long procession, I lose all sense of proportion,
and come out at the end with two desserts, or a preponderance of
starches or with too much bread for my butter, and a surprising bill.

Those who are cafeteria wise can choose a good meal for 28 cents or 33
cents at the most. They don’t take food just because it looks delicious.
They “yield not to temptation.” They have a plan and stick to it. Wise
and strong-minded, they shuffle their way bravely to the end. It is said
that in time they acquire a cafeteria shuffle which one can detect even
on the street. But I don’t believe it’s so.

Other sections of the country have cafeterias and in some parts of the
South, especially in Louisville, they are run quite extensively. But
it is in the West, especially in California, that they have attained a
dignity and even lavishness that makes them the surprise and delight of
the tourist. Irvin Cobb says that this is the cafeteria belt of which
Los Angeles is the buckle.

We have music in our cafeterias. We have flowers on the tables. People
don’t just eat in them, they dine. They take their guests there. Our
cafeterias have galleries with rocking chairs and stationery. They have
distinctive architecture. We take visitors to see them. We brag
about them, and when we wish to be especially smart we pronounce them

Personally, I am proud of our cafeterias, but I do not get on in them.
I enter hungry. I look sideways to see what other folks are eating. I
decide to have corned beef and cabbage and peach short cake and nothing
else. Then in the line I have the hurried feeling of people back of me,
and that I ought to make quick decisions. Everyone ought to eat salad,
so I take a salad. Then some roast beef looks good so I take that, and
the girl asks briskly with a big spoon poised, if I’ll take potatoes,
and I don’t wish potatoes, but she makes a great nest of them beside the
meat and fills the nest with gravy and I pass on. According to Hoover
or Maria Parloa or Roosevelt, I ought to have a vegetable, and so I take
two. Meanwhile I have taken bread, but the woman ahead takes hot scones
and so I do. I choose some thick-creamed cake, very fattening, but just
this once, and then, oh, I don’t know. The tray is heavy and no place to
put it, and in my journeying I peek at the bill and it’s over 75 cents,
and when I finally sit down opposite a stranger I find on my tray two
salads, and when I chose the other I don’t remember.

But cafeterias are very fine for those who have cafeteria sense.

The Open Board of Trade

Months ago one of The Journal readers suggested a story to be found down
on Market street near the Hobart building. Many times since when passing
there I have thought that those street hawkers must have a certain
picturesque and even humorous value, and hoping to find it I have
stopped to listen. But the moment I stop they win me with their
everlasting logic, and then blessed if I can write them up. They have
the same effect upon others. I have seen chambers of commerce and stock
exchangers and professors from Berkeley passing with a supercilious
glance which did very well so long as they kept moving. But once let
them step into the magic ring and they too became mesmerized and stood
there gaping in spellbound interest. “Logic is logic, that’s all I say.”

Those hawkers are artists, skilled in the arts and wiles of
persuasiveness. There is one with a long, horse-hair wig which he
occasionally brushes back from his eyes with a dignified flourish. This
man has found the supreme elixir and the secret of perpetuity. He is the
only man in the world, this modern Ponce de Leon, who knows the secret.
Surely we need not blush to listen to its exposition, $2 is a small sum
to pay for such a bonanza. Forty thousand people have used it in the
last thirty-nine days. Think of it. “Take it right out into the crowd
and sniff it for yourself,” he urges and somehow that breaks the spell,
and strong men look foolishly at each other and move a-way.

Horoscopes, suspenders, iron watch charms, brown cakes that may pass
for maple sugar, ironing wax, laundry soap or penuchia, a book on
Prohibition, mending wax and books of magic are all there. They are not
things which we particularly want, but that’s the point. Anyone can sell
things that people want. But these men are professional persuaders of
men against their will whose mission it is to make people want what they
don’t want. That’s Art.

The horoscope seller must have taken his degree from some college of
venders, his call has such finesse. I cannot reproduce the lilt of
it--“Here’s where you get your horoscope, a dime, ten cents.” It is
suggestive of the midways of country fairs, shooting galleries on the
Board Walk, and circuses in the springtime. “Here’s where you get your
horoscope, a dime, ten cents.”

The little, old, blind man sitting there with one hand outstretched
and the other holding a book, his white hair and beard neatly combed,
reminds me of something Biblical and prophetic like pictures in old
churches. Alas! no one seems to buy his story of prohibition. I think he
would do lots better in Kansas or Iowa. A particularly fascinating
one is the man of mending wax who stands before his table like some
professor of chemistry with a tiny flame and saucers of mysterious
powders and, I almost said, a blow pipe.

But, pshaw, I can’t write them up. I take them too seriously. “Logic is
logic, that’s all I say.”

The San Francisco Police

The San Francisco police are the handsomest and most-willing-to-flirt
policemen in the United States, if not in the world. What a surly lot,
the New York policemen. They treat one as though he were a blackguard
for merely asking some direction.

“What car shall I take for the New Jersey Central Ferry?” we ask.

“Zippity-ip,” he snaps, moving off.

“What did you say?” we ask in timid desperation.

“Zippity-ip,” he yells, shaking his fist at us.

But ask a San Francisco policeman the way and how different. He will
take your arm and smile down at you and even go away with you chatting
all the time--“Stranger here? Well, you’ll never go back East again.”
 And somehow after that you never do.

Of course, the San Francisco police are many things beside being
handsome and willing to flirt. But these are important qualifications
which, up to this time, have never had their place in journalism. Ah,
many a Raleigh and Don Quixote in the roster of the S. F. police.

A policeman is all things to all people. What a policeman is depends
upon what we are. To those who are fast, either in reputation or
driving, he is a limb of the law to be either evaded or cajoled. To
the small boy he is a hero to aspire to become when grown. To the
public-spirited citizen of the reforming order he is a piece of
community linen to be periodically washed in public with a great hue in
the papers about graft expose. To almost anybody in the dead of night
with burglars prowling about, he is a friend to be called--in case one
has a nickel handy.

But to the great army of women who are hopelessly respectable, the
policeman is something quite different. And what we women think of the
police is important. We pay taxes, we vote and we cross the street. We
like our policemen to be handsome and cavalier and, again I say, the S.
F. police are both. Any fine day they will make a funeral procession out
of the motor traffic to escort a nice woman across Market street.

It goes without saying and is an unwritten law that policemen should be
Irish. I enjoy Greeks in classic literature or in restaurants, but not
as policemen. There is a saying in the city that when Greek meets Greek
they go together to get a job on the Market Street Railways. But when
they get upon the police force, I for one, shall move to the country.
Policemen should always be Irish.

And handsome. This is a woman’s reason, but listen: O men, are they not,
I ask, a part of the civic beauty of the city? Is it not important that
these animated equestrian statues should be gallant men upon noble and
spirited horses? And who is more imperial in the pictorial life of the
city than the officer on the Lotta Fountain pedestal by the raising of
whose sceptered hand the life of the city moves or stays. Yes, policemen
should be handsome and gallant. It is written.

A Marine View

Russian Hill had always seemed economically remote to me as an abiding
place until recently I was invited out where some people were living in
a modest apartment with a good view of the bay. And when they suggested
that I try to get an apartment over there I decided to do it.

It was a beautiful morning when I started out. There stood Russian Hill
and as Gibraltar bristles with armaments so it glittered with windows
facing the sea and one of them for me. Perhaps I could get a few rooms
from a nice Italian family and fix them up. Ah, the Latin quarter,
Greenwich village, the ghosts of artists haunting the place, Bohemians,
enthusiasm, the lust for adventure. I bristled with personality.

“Oh, you want a marine view,” said the real estate man. “Not for that
price, lady.”

A “marine view.” I didn’t want a marine view; I only wanted one window
facing the sea. Surely with all those windows--.

I left the real estate man and began wandering about. I asked a group of
Italian women and they exclaimed in a chorus “No marine views left.” I
hadn’t said a thing about a “marine view.” I wandered further and it was
always the same. Some were smug and some were sorry but they all spoke
of a “marine view” in a certain tone of voice, as Boston people say

It was getting hot. I could not remove my coat because my waist was a
lace front. Only a hair net restrained me from utter frumpiness. Still I
was not altogether beaten and when I came to a nice countrified looking
house standing alone in the midst of modern art and a man came out I
asked him. The moment I did there came into his eyes a hunted glitter
and he told me how he had held out against them and how he had been
besieged for years to rent his marine view and wouldn’t.

As I turned away I met an Irish delivery man and he said that there were
dozens of vacant apartments very reasonable and waved his hand vaguely
in the direction where I’d been searching. I like the Irish but his
cheerful fibbery was the last straw and I went home.

The next day my friends called up and said that they had a marine view
for me. I was to live all summer in the apartment of the So-and-Sos
while they were away. So now I am. They are artistic and I drink my
coffee from saffron colored cups on a bay green table runner over a
black table under a turquoise blue ceiling with a view of the bay from
the window.

But I am humble and if some day I meet a hot, tired looking woman who
can’t find an apartment on Russian Hill, I shall say: “Shucks, a marine
view isn’t so much.”


This is a story for children, because they will know it’s only fooling,
while grown-up people will believe it’s true.

The cable car isn’t a car at all, children, but is a hilly-cum-go, a
species of rocking horse and a grown-up kiddie-kar. It is a native of
and peculiar to San Francisco, and is a loyal member of the N. S. G. W.
It has relatives in the South, and the electric dinkie that rolls up and
down between Venice and Santa Monica is its first cousin. Some say that
it is distantly related to the wheel chairs at Atlantic City. It is not
at all common.

The men who run it are its Uncles. The parents live underground caring
for the young kiddie-kars. At times, if you peek down in that hole
near the Fairmont and are careful not to be run over you may see them
bustling about. Before she was married, the mama was a Marjory Daw of
the Daw family, famous see-sawers. The children take after their mother.

The Uncles are very kind and pick the hilly-cum-goes up in their arms
as tenderly as a woman would. You must have seen them pick the little
things up and run with them across the streets out of the way of autos.
And at night they tuck them in their little beds and hear them say their
prayer which goes:

Oh, dear me, I hope I’m able, All day long to keep my cable.

These hilly-cum-goes are not run by electricity at all, but just
pretend. They are run by three things--black magic, white magic and
a sense of humor. Black magic takes them up the hills, white magic
restrains them down, and the sense of humor is in the Irish conductors.
You may hear, if you listen, the magic coming out of the ground,
“Kibble-kable, kibble-kable,” only fast as anything. At noon time
it goes “Putter, putter, putter,” and at bed-time, “Kuddle-kiddie,

This magic is very, very important. Especially going down hill. Did you
ever, my dears, descend that precipice at the end of the Fillmore street
line? What is it that keeps you from landing flat on your nose on Union
street? Nothing but white magic. What is it that keeps you from shooting
from the Fairmont, straight down into the St. Francis? White magic.

The sense of humor is also very important. Suppose a stout person gets
on, the conductor hops immediately to the opposite side for ballast.
That takes a sense of humor. If the hilly-cum-go is full of young
people, especially sweethearts, the Uncle jiggles the hilly-cum-go
horribly, but if old people are on it goes--“See-saw, Marjory Daw,” just

I trust, dear children, that all these facts will make you appreciate
more the hilly-cum-go, and when you sit on it so cosy, so intimate with
the street, riding along looking at the scenery, you will be thankful,
that poor old horses do not have to tug you up hill, and that you
have this sturdy little creature to haul you about. Nice little, old

I’ll Get It Changed, Lady

This expressman was a regular San Franciscan. And there is such a thing,
you know, as a regular San Franciscan. He is a native son and more. His
speech betrays him. He calls a “car” a “cahh,” and when he’s surprised
he says: “Yeah”! He has a permanent laugh in his eyes, and the only
thing he gets mad about is prohibition. But the particular thing that I
started to say of him is that money is to him a thing to spend. Money is
an incident to life, that’s all.

He said it would be a “dollar, six-bits,” and I was sorry, but I only
had a ten-dollar bill. When I said that, he just reached out and took
it from me, and said he’d get it changed, and disappeared. Now, the
significant thing, and the one that made him a regular San Franciscan,
was that he never dreamed that I would doubt his honesty in returning
with the change. And I didn’t. It was this last that surprised me. If it
had been in New York--I gasp--if it had been in New York, no expressman
would have dared do such a thing because no one would have trusted him,
and if they had been so hick as to trust him, the expressman would have
had no respect for himself if he himself were so hick as to return with
the change.

I never shall forget the shock of seeing a pile of newspapers in front
of a drug store, the day I landed in San Francisco, where men took their
morning paper and threw down a nickel, and even made change for a dime.
Right out on the pavement--a lot of nickels lying loose and no one
paying any attention. Why, in New York--well, it couldn’t be done in New
York, that’s all.

It’s not because San Francisco is not metropolitan. For San Francisco
is essentially a city just as Los Angeles will always be a terribly big
country village. It’s not at all a matter of population. In Connecticut,
we always said that Bridgeport was a city, and New Haven which was
larger, was not. It’s a bing, and a zip, and a tra-la-la-lah, that makes
one city a city and another not. I can explain it no other way.

But with all its cityfiedness, there is a strange lack of suspicion, a
free and easy attitude toward mere physical money, that one finds in
no other large city except San Francisco. In the stores the clerks will
say: “Shall I put it in a sack?” and you answer just as they hoped you
would: “Oh, no, I’ll slip it right in my bag.” In New York as soon as
one did that she’d be nabbed on the way out for a shoplifter.

Perhaps the constant use of silver money has had something to do with
the matter. Paper money can be tucked away. Silver is more spendable,
everyone knows that. Break a five-dollar bill into “iron men,” and
it’s gone, gone. And yet it can’t be the use of silver money alone that
accounts for it. Reno has silver money, and yet there is little of the
old, free Western spirit left in Reno.

No, it’s something to do with San Francisco where suspicion doesn’t yet
grip the hearts of men and where money is made to spend.

San Francisco, the last stand of the old, free West.

Fillmore Street

I walk along on Fillmore street. I try to walk very fast with eyes
straight ahead. One needs a strong will to take a-walking on Fillmore
street and keep from spending all his money. In fact it is better to
have no money at all for then one is tempted to hold on to it.

Everything in the world is in the windows on Fillmore
street--everything. There isn’t a phase of human activity that isn’t
represented. Every nation has left its stamp. Spain--tamales and
enchiladas. France--a pastry shop. Italy--spaghetti and raviolas.
The Islands have for sale all that’s hula-hula. Here is a Hungarian
restaurant. And the “O. K. Shoe Shop--While U Wait” is pure American.

There is “Sam’s Tailor Shop.” I feel as though I should know this fellow
Sam. Apparently he knows me from his chummy sign. Sam, Sam--I ought to
remember Sam.

Do you wish to paint and varnish? Well, here you are. Or to be shaved or
have your eye-brows arched? Walk right in. Here is a place to learn to
paint china. Here are drugs, corsets, religion, fish, statuary, cigars
and choice meats all in a row. Meats, on Fillmore street, are always
“choice” or “selected” or “stall-fed.” I doubt if you could get
just “meat” if you tried. Next to the meats, out on a table before a
second-hand book store is romantic, old “St. Elmo” of mid-Victorian
fame. He must have come West by the “Pony Express.”

I always stop, if I have time, to look at shoes to be mended. They are
like people who have fallen asleep in public, off their guard and at
their very worst. Take a shoe--a real, old shoe without a foot in it
and it looks so foolish, betraying so mercilessly its owner’s bumps
and peculiar toes. There is pathos there, too. A scrub woman’s run-down
shoes, a kiddie’s scuffed-out toes, a man’s clumsy, clay-stained boots
and the happy dancing slippers of a young girl.

Back of the shoes--the cobbler. Cobblers are always philosophers. Not
pretty men, but thinkers. In their little, dingy shops they sit all day
with their eyes down, isolated from the “hum and scum” about them, to
the tune of their “tap, tap, tap,” their minds are detached to think and
philosophize and vision.

Now we are at the corner where we turn away from Fillmore street. There
is a window full of dolls. Such a lot of homely dolls. They don’t make
pretty dolls any more. They make them to look like humans. “Character”
 dolls they call them and they are “characters.” Now, when I was a little
girl, they made dolls to look the way you wished human beings could
look.--It is not hard to turn the corner.

In the Lobby of the St. Francis

There is something about having money enough to stay at the St. Francis,
and to dine there and to wear smart clothes there that makes people
step out and act sure of themselves. Even when they can’t afford it, and
their stay there is a splurge or an outing, they act just as sure
and stepping. And as for the people to whom the St. Francis is but an
incident they act sure because they were born that way.

Never in my life have I seen such sure, well-dressed women as in the
lobby of the St. Francis. And I am no greenhorn at lobbies. I have
reviewed in my day some of the best peacock alleys in the country. There
is the New Willard. Now when I think of the New Willard, I see frumpily
dressed dowagers talking through their lorgnettes to moth-eaten
senators. The Selbach in Louisville, the St. Charles in New Orleans are
famed for their handsome women, but none are so free and proudly sure of
themselves on peacock alley as California women. No women dress as they
do either. They are not so chic as they are smart; their tailor
mades, their furs, their hats with a preponderance of orange, their
well-dressed legs and feet and a reserved brilliance that makes them the
finest-looking women in the United States.

It is a fine pastime to step out from the surge of Life for a minute and
let it ebb and flow around one in the lobby of the St. Francis. Such a
pageant of individual stories. An exquisitely dressed young girl meets
another there, and soon two young chaps appear and they all begin
talking silly nothings, and laughing at each other’s silly jokes, and
looking into each other’s foolish young eyes much as lovers have always
done. A harassed business man rushes frantically to the telegraph desk
and wires his firm at Pittsburgh. Some staid, comfortably-fixed tourists
from Newton Center, Massachusetts, come in from sight-seeing and go up
to their rooms and quickly get their shoes off. A group of Elks come
in, arm-linked, and start one wondering about the enforcement of the dry
law. In and out among all these moving comedies and tragedies flits like
an orange-colored butterfly a little Oriental boy, an angel-faced page
goes calling “Mister Smith,” and sober looking bell-hops stand alert to
the sound of “Front.”

A beautiful woman steps forward and meets a handsome man and they go to
dinner together, and somehow I don’t think he is her husband and wonder
if she is a widow and decide that it is none of my business. If she
has a husband he is probably an “ornery” fellow who never takes her

Everyone who passes by me looks alert, and sure, and happy and
prosperous, but I comfort myself that probably each one of them has as
much to worry about as I myself do.

The Garbage Man’s Little Girl

This vignette is written because it can’t help itself and carries with
it a hope that someone who reads it may know a little girl whose father
is a garbage man. Suppose that you can’t think of anyone just now who is
a daughter to a garbage man, it is best to read this just the same for
you never know when you may meet her.

When you do, tell her not to care too much when the children at
school tease her about her father and cry--“Phew--phew, here comes the
gar-bidge-Garrr-bidge-Garrr-bidge.” Tell her at that time to try and
sustain her personal integrity with philosophy. It won’t do her a
particle of good but tell her just the same.

Tell her that her father is a terribly useful man. That if he should
fail to function, then the disposal of garbage would become an
individual problem and that the mamas of kids whose fathers are not
garbage men would be obliged to say to their husbands--“Ed, dear, don’t
forget to take the garbage bucket to the public incinerator on your way
to the office.”

Tell her that just because her father collects dirt, it is no disgrace.
Tell her to look at the people in good standing who peddle dirt. Tell
her to look at the papers. Tell her to tell the world that it’s better
any day to collect than to peddle dirt.

Tell her that when her father, up on his great smelly throne, drives
around the corner of Powell and Geary that dressed-up folk needn’t
disdain him so much. He’s a sermon. They won’t like him as a sermon so
much as a garbage man but he’s a sermon just the same. The text is
that back of most things that are dainty and beautiful is the drudgery
worker. Tell her that there isn’t an immaculate kitchen in San Francisco
that doesn’t depend upon her father.

Nor a feast at the Palace or the St. Francis. Tomato skins and the nests
that cauliflowers come in, and gnawed “T” bones. What would become of
them if she had no father. And coffee grounds and the nameless things
that have been forgotten and burned by the absent-minded. Tell the
little girl about Omar Khayyam and how he might have said--.

Oh, many a charred secret into the garbage can goes That from the
kitchen range in blackened cloud once rose. Tell her that there is a
professor at Yale whose father was a junk man. All this and more tell
the garbage man’s little girl.

The Palace

Someone was telling me of an old couple who lost everything they owned
at the time of the fire, and that they were very brave about it and
never broke down, and even helped others, but that when someone came
running up and said: “The Palace is on fire,” they both sat down on the
curb and gave way completely to grief.

And they say that after the fire the first piece of publicity which was
given to the world as a proof that San Francisco would come back, was
that the Palace would be rebuilt immediately. And a man from Virginia
City, a descendant of the Comstock days, told me that in Nevada they
speak of “The Palace” as Russians speak of the Kremlin as a pivot of
destiny. What I am trying to say, of course, is that the Palace is a
tradition just as the Waldorf-Astoria is a tradition, only not at all in
the same way.

The Palace is a great place for women who are alone and a place where
a man may bring “the missus” with impunity. The Palace is stylish,
perhaps, but principally it is select. It suggests to me women who wear
suits of clothes, mostly dark gray, all wool and a yard wide, women who
wear two petticoats and Hanan shoes and Knox hats and who carry suit
cases covered with foreign express tags, and whom porters run to meet
because they know that these women may not be so stylish as they are
generous tippers. And the Palace suggests to me afternoon teas, and
that peculiar composite chatter of women’s voices which is more like
the sound of birds in a flock, and which Powys speaks of as a strange
inarticulate chitter chatter which isn’t really speech at all.

The other day a well groomed young official from the hotel took me out
to see the famous old Palace bar and the beautiful Maxfield Parrish
painting above it. They have taken the rail away, and around the edge
of the bar they have built a nicely finished woodwork wall which looks
exactly like a great coffin, the coffin of John Barleycorn. After the
manner of my species I wanted to see over the edge and the young man,
thinking that I might be suspecting a blind pig, boosted me up to peck
over. I asked him why they didn’t remove the bar entirely and he said
with unsmiling naivete that they were waiting “to see” and that they had
saved the rail, “in case.”

If I were a reformer I should agitate and have that remarkably joyous
and beautiful Parrish painting placed where it could be seen. I’d take
it out to some San Francisco school so that the dear Pied Piper and all
the little round kiddies running after should be a delight to school

And now I have come to the end and all that I have said is that the
Palace Hotel is the San Francisco tradition and everyone in the United
States knew that long ago.

Zoe’s Garden

Zoe says emphatically that it is not her garden, but everybody’s garden.
But it is her garden because she tends it, and every morning goes around
among her flowers lovingly, giving a little dig of dirt here, and tying
some frail sisters up there and then, with her scissors, clipping,
snipping and nipping away. Yes, it is Zoe’s garden.

Anything that has spunk to grow is welcome in this essentially San
Franciscan garden. And no one is allowed to bully the others. Big burly
geraniums and proud dahlias must keep in their places and give the
dainty lobelia, cinnamon pinks, oxalis and candy tuft their chance.
The oxalis! How we tended it in pots in New England, and out here in
California, bless its heart, it runs around like a native daughter. And
as for the fuchsia, how far it has grown from the blue laws.

There is no formality in Zoe’s garden. Marigolds go wandering about
in the most trampish manner, and poppies, because they are privileged
characters, spring up as they please. Then, as though the two of them
were not sufficient California gold, there is the faithful gaillardia
with its prim little sunflower-faces smiling up at their Mother Sun.

It is a democratic garden, too. Golden rod and asters grow right in
among the aristocrats. Fancy the snubbing they would get if they once
ventured into a New England garden--Hm. There is freedom there, but
not license, and every opportunity for individuality. The gladiolas,
canterbury bells, gillie flowers and fox gloves grow as prim as in a
conservative English garden. Pansies smile in their little bed, and
although the nasturtium, the wild-growing, happy-go-lucky nasturtium,
goes visiting around among all his neighbors, he is never allowed to
interfere with those who wish to keep by themselves. The sweet peas stay
very close to their tradition of wire netting, but they are not snobs at
all, and give of their bounty to all who call. The sensuous jasmine is
there, and the cold puritanical ceneraria and old maids’ pin cushions,
with fragrance of sandalwood. The red-hot-poker grows stiff and
straight, but the ragged sailor goes uncombed and untidy still.

Cosmos is coming soon, dressed in her very feminine clothes, and the
coreopsis has come on ahead. All old-timers are represented there,
honeysuckle, wormwood, petunias, rosemary, gilias, mignonette,
heliotrope and foxgloves. If they can not all be there together, all
are there at some time in the summer. Montbretia, Japanese sunflower,
larkspur, columbine and gourds all have their time and place and
opportunity in this San Francisco garden. And the hollyhocks, the bossy
things, I’ve a mind to leave them out. Besides I know some gossip about
them. When Zoe was away to Yosemite one morning they were all leaning
over from too much moonshine or too much sunshine and--well, I won’t
repeat what the marigolds told me about them.

Besides it is time to come away from Zoe’s garden, which is everybody’s

Children on the Sidewalk

When you were a little girl, when you were a little boy, where did you
play? Was it in a barn? Was it a city park? Did you hunt gophers on the
plains of Iowa? Perhaps it was in a California poppy field. Perhaps
a graveyard. I played in one, and remember very vividly the grave of
Josephine Sarah Huthinson who died at the age of 11 months, and had
a little lamb on the top of her stone and an inscription: “Except
ye become as little children ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of
Heaven.” Many delightful games we played around the grave of little

Wherever childhood found us we played, and out of our environment and
often in spite of it, lived in a delightful world of our own into which
no grownup ever really entered. Now, you and I, grownup, walk along the
sidewalks of San Francisco and all we see under our calloused old
feet is a sidewalk. But to children even a sidewalk blossoms with
possibilities. Who but a child invented: “Step on a crack, you break
your mother’s back.” Only the other day I saw a kiddie avoiding every
crack and muttering some incantation as he walked along.

And out of the sidewalk grew all the different types of kiddie kars and
coasters that are so prevalent. I saw a whole load of children zipping
down a steep San Francisco hill the other day much as we children
coasted down winter hills on wicked “double rippers.” A hill and gravity
and a lot of kids, what possibilities. And out of the sidewalk have
evolved those nameless explosives that have been so popular over the
recent Fourth. A row of kids sitting on a curb, one of them darts out
to the car track, a car comes, great expectancy from the kids, terrific
noise, annoyed looks on the faces of sour adults, unbounded joy from a
row of kids sitting on the curb.

Recently I saw a tomboy who had organized the children in her block, and
had confiscated an alley between two straight gray houses, and I don’t
know what the game was but it entailed trips on a car down the alley and
a very bossy motorman, and “turns,” over which everyone quarreled.

Some dainty little Chinese girls were playing a sidewalk game with a
white stone which was a version of an old, old child game. The child
would hop to the stone and kick it away and hop to it again until she
missed, the object being to beat her opponent in the distance traveled.
And I saw some exquisite little Japanese girls playing jump rope and
chanting one of the numerous litanies that go with that beautiful game.

The sidewalks of San Francisco. They are full of adventure. Robert Louis
Stevenson would have seen it all. But to our dull eyes are only gray
cement block. Just a sidewalk to us and to kiddies there are mountains
in which Roy Gardner hides, and woods, and Tom Mix on a horse dashes
right past us and we never see him at all.

Feet That Pass on Market St.

There is something about walking along Market street with the procession
of people that passes all day, ah, how shall I express it? It is
thrilling and it is amusing; it is cosmic and it is puny. It is often
ridiculous and always sublime. Sometimes when we are in most of a hurry
the consciousness of the procession will come to us. It is as though we
were one of a moving crowd that never began and will never end. At such
times we listen to the sound of their feet, the steady, unceasing
step by step, an endless tramp as though it were beating out the
rhythm--“Eternity, eternity, eternity.”

As we pass voices call to us from the wayside, a cripple so far down
below us on the very ground offering his silent pencils; the allurement
of flowers; a hoarse newsboy with his old, old face screwed into a
thousand anxious wrinkles; a blind man, silent supplicant, twirling
his thumbs; and from the windows the call of strawberries at 15 cents
a basket. Overhead an aeroplane hums its way and receives from us the
tribute of an upward glance. We gaze upward and think how many years
before our day aeroplanes were flying overhead in the dreams of men who
passed and passed in the long procession.

Idly we glimpse faces that pass us in the procession that meets ours. We
pass them and are never the wiser for the struggle and tragedy that may
be going on behind their show of brave masks. A man clutching his last
dime and wondering whether to spend it for rolls and coffee or coffee
and rolls. A business man absorbed and a lady pondering deeply some
detail of her dress. A young girl with soft un-massaged chin hurrying
to keep a tryst with her “friend,” and country folks, their feet sore on
the unaccustomed pavements, glad to be going home soon.

It is such an orderly procession and although they all seem to be
walking along forever, there is an order in their going and each is on
his way. Each one is free to go to his own place and yet no one is free.
No one is free to leave the procession once he gets into it. Once a man
is born he’s done for.

Let him veer one iota from that procession and soon there will come
rumbling up to the curb a big black Maria and off he’s whisked away
from his fellows. Let him but get into the wrong house or take the wrong
overcoat or chuck the wrong person under the chin--Pff! Let him forget
where the long procession leads and wander about a free spirit and his
wanderings will lead him to the madhouse.

I love to be one of the procession that marches forever up and down
Market street, such a brave procession.

Where the Centuries Meet

She was a tourist and she had just finished Sing Fat’s. As she passed
out of the door she said smugly to her companion--“I don’t see anything
so wonderful here.”

I was standing right there and said I: “Madame, if you have been through
Sing Fat’s and have failed, to see anything wonderful then you should
go home and give yourself the Benet test which is used to test the
intelligence of children.” Oh, of course, I didn’t say this so that the
lady could hear. The bravest speeches we humans make are never aloud.
Then I continued: “Madame, you may travel far in mileage but you will
never take anything back to Dingville, Kansas, richer than a souvenir
ash tray.”

Why, just to take a trip from Sing Fat’s to the White House is a
tremendous journey if one has the perceiving faculty. In Sing Fat’s
a bit of old Cloissonne, tiny pieces of enamel on silver, done with
infinite pains by hand labor, perhaps centuries ago, grown beautiful
with age. In the White House georgette flowers, exquisite things made
for the passing minute, a whiff and a whim and off they go. Just in
these two there is a meeting of the centuries, Handcraft Days and the
Machine Age--B. C. and A. D.--the oldest civilization in the world and
the newest.

The most interesting thing in Chinatown are the Chinese. To some they
all look alike, but to me they seem very human and individual and
folksy. I find myself paraphrasing: “But for the grace of God there
goes John Bradford,” and when I meet a crafty looking old Chinaman this
whimsy comes to me, “If Deacon Bushnell who passed the plate in the
Centerville Methodist Church had been a Chinaman this is the way he
would have looked.” They are such small town folks. Even with the steady
cycle of tourists they gaze at each newcomer as though he were the
latest comer to Podunk. One day with a friend I called on a Chinese
girl, and all the large family and their friends gathered around and
discussed us and laughed among themselves and pointed at us. It was
embarrassing but I was never once conscious of rudeness, simply a
childlike curiosity and honesty.

In Chinatown the other day a peddler was selling spectacles and somehow
the old men trying them on and squinting for “near” and for “far,”
 seemed so quaint and countrified and like a lot of old Yankees around a
country store trying to get a “new pair of eyes, by Heck.” In Chinatown
the tong men do not seem at all real and the hair raising movie serial
with its Chinatown terrors, Buddhist idols that open and swallow the
movie actors and floors that drop into dungeons, seem very remote.

Bags or Sacks

“Do you like cafeterias?” I asked.

“Don’t know,” he answered, “I’ve never played them.”

“What religion do you follow?” another man asked me.

In a mining camp they told me to take such and such a “trail.”

The point is, that we did not talk that way where I came from. Of
course, I hasten to say, we doubtless talked some other way just as
peculiar. And if I could detect our colloquialisms I would write a
lot about them but alas I can’t. I was in the West two years before I
noticed that a “trolley” is a “street car.”

A woman in a mining camp said to the stage driver, “I want out at the
bank because I don’t want to pack this sack of silver.” In the first
place we wouldn’t have had a sack of silver and if we had, it would have
been in a “bag” not a “sack,” and we never “pack” things and we never
“want out.”

In the East we never refer to our locality as “this country,” as in
the West and South. We do not take the name of our state either as
“Californian” or “Kentuckian.” One never hears of a “Connecticutian” or
a “Massachusettisian.” I do not profess to give any reasons for these

In the West, speech is more brief. “Autos go slow” is the warning
while on the Fenway in Boston the signs read--“Motor Vehicles, Proceed
Slowly.” I wouldn’t swear to the comma but the words are identical.

There is a small to near Provincetown where a sign reads--“Friends, we
wish to think well of you and we wish you to think well of us. Kindly
observe the ten mile motor limit.” After that the roads are so bad that
one couldn’t possibly exceed ten miles if he tried. Probably the longest
sign in California is that one which reads--“Drive your fool heads off.”

“Booze-fighters” are Western. Oh, they’re Eastern too, but under
a different name. It’s a misleading term, that. As though one were
fighting against booze like an anti-salooner. I actually know of a woman
who came West and thought for or a long time that a “booze-fighter” was
a “Dry.” In the East he is a “rummy” and when he’s drunk he’s “tight.”

“It’s a fright,” is Western. “Ornery,” is middle-Western. That’s
a wonderful word. Sometimes, I wish I could live my life over with
“ornery” in my vocabulary. It describes so many people I never knew just
how to classify.

There are no “T” bones in the East. And scrambled brains are not common.
Oh, of course, we have them but not as something to eat. Personally, I
was brought up to reverence brains and when I see them lying pale and
messy on a plate in a Greek restaurant, I confess it gives me a start.

Hot tamales have never crossed the plains East. And baked beans have
never come West--not real ones. The difference between the Eastern
baked bean and the Western is all the difference between a tin can and
a religious rite and it is the same with succotash. A cruller is only
a fried doughnut when it gets out West. Tea is more subtle in the East,
but out here the waitress will ask “Black or green” in a black or white
tone and stands over you until you decide. Maybe you don’t want black
tea, maybe you don’t want green, but just “tea,” but there she stands in
her unequivocation--“Black or green?”

Silver money has never traveled East. A man told me recently that he
didn’t like silver money when he first came out here and that it was
always wearing his pockets out but since he’d gotten into Western ways
it never wore a hole in his pockets any more. In the East a change purse
is scorned by anything masculine, but here all the men carry one,
I don’t know why not in the East, nor why in the West. Blessed old
“two-bits” and a “dollar six-bits” are the only woolly things left over
from the old wild West.

What else--oh, I could keep on for pages. “Stay with it” is Western and
has lots more feeling I think than “stick to it.” A Westerner when his
wife and babies were going back East to visit her relatives, telegraphed
to her brother--“Elizabeth and outfit arrive Tuesday.” And until she
arrived the brother spent his time in conjecturing as to just what an
“outfit” would mean. Rhubarb plant is “rhubarb” in the East and also
“pie plant,” and one day I was in a fruit store and when the man--he was
a Greek--yelled “Wha else?” I could only think of “pie plant” and so I
didn’t get any.

It’s all the way you are “brought up,” Eastern, and all the way you are
“raised,” Western.

Portsmouth Square

“To be honest, to be kind.” Loiterers, vagabonds, slow-going Orientals,
poets and blackguards, all day long come and drink at Stevenson’s
fountain. Some of them look up and read it all and some only get as far
as “to earn a little, to spend a little less”--.

Small-footed Chinese women pass, humping along on their stumps and their
babies running along beside have larger feet than the mothers who bore
them, Bench warmers gaze after them with lazy curiosity. A fat Italian
granddaddy washes a kiddie’s hand from the fountain and a man with a
demijohn and a sense of humor goes smilingly down the path and what he
has in the demijohn is none of our business.

“To make on the whole, a family happier for his presence.” It is noon
and a bride has brought lunch for herself and her husband off the job
in his white overalls, and the two eat together on the beautiful grassy
slope. The poplar trees around Stevenson’s fountain whisper poetry all
day long and the little iron boat on top looks sad not to be sailing
away on high adventure to the South Sea islands.

“To renounce when it shall be necessary and not be embittered.” A woman
with a baby carriage comes by. Something tender and sane and everyday
and basic about her and her baby. A Chinese woman passing looks for all
the world like a black and iridescent purple grackle in her shiny black
coat and shiny black pants and shiny black shoes and shiny black hair,
although the grackle has a prouder strut than her dancing little trot.

“To keep a few friends and those without capitulation.” Where, oh where,
do all the men come from who lie stretched out on the grass? I’ve seen
the very same men lying on Boston Common, and when my father was a boy
he said he saw them there. Hats over their eyes or else blinking up at
the blue sky. Then on the curb facing the Hall of Justice, philosophers
up from the water front or fresh from box cars, everyone with a story
that Stevenson would have got from them.

“Above all on the same grim conditions to keep friends with himself.” On
the bench an enormous woman with a hat that looks like a schooner atop
of a great pompadour wave and on the very same bench a mummied old
Chinese as thin as a wafer. An aeroplane hums above and Stevenson’s
little boat looks envious. Where did Captain Montgomery of the sloop
Portsmouth stand when he planted the flag in 1848? The Mission bell, so
many miles to Dolores, so many miles to Rafael. Ring, Mission bell, ring
and show us where the El Camino Real will lead us all by and by. We who
pass all day, show us the way, Mission bell.--“here is a task for all
that a man has of fortitude and delicacy.”


     “Why, who makes much of a miracle?
     As for me, I know of nothing else but miracles.
     Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
     Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
     Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
     Or stand under trees in the woods,
     Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
     Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car.”

     --Walt Whitman.

If man or woman be at all sensitive to life, he must react to the
commonplace much as Whitman did. Such a person may be hurrying along
about his business with perhaps no time for reflection and yet in
a flash, the miracle of life will come to him through the slightest

A little girl on the ferry sitting with her mother takes from her small
prim bag a set of doll clothes, and fondles them and smoothes them
much like a pullet with her first chickens. The sight of those square,
little, gingham dresses, trimmed with scraps of lace and silk and with
awkward sleeves standing straight out, brought to me, on that Oakland
ferry, all my childhood again, and I was cuddled close between the
surface roots of a great elm and from the nearby lane came the sight and
scent of Bouncing Bet, Joe Pye Weed, Tansy, Yarrow, Golden Rod, Boneset,
and over in the meadow the sight of cows and the smell of peppermint and
water cress, beside a little stream.

The moment I write it down in physical words it becomes somehow less
miraculous. The mind is so infinite and the human being so essentially
mental, that the spoken or written word may never express them.

The sight of electric lights flashing at night, the view of the city
from a cable car, the wonder of great trucks bearing down upon us like
fiery-eyed dragons, a bunch of poppies growing close to the roots of a
billboard in the heart of the city, and the silhouette of a young girl,
wind-blown, so that her straight slender figure shows more beautiful
than the statue that tops Union Square. Up Kearny street the glimpse of
eucalyptus trees on the top of Telegraph Hill standing out against the
pink sunset sky, the postman with his pack of human messages on his
back, the spirit of Robert Louis Stevenson in Portsmouth Square, and a
row of old, old men sitting in the sun on Union Square discussing the

Did you ever stand listening to the seals just at nightfall, and did
their weird, low call stir you to a feeling of kinship with all the
creatures of the great deep, and did you lose yourself there out under
the cold, dark water in that mysterious untamed world of the sea that is
older than the land?

I don’t know what it’s all about. I only know we need more poets. Still
every man who reacts to life and feels it to be a miracle, he is himself
a poet. Even Whitman could only articulate in terms of wonder.

Impulses and Prohibitions

One day last week a man--a regular man, neither a decided proletarian
nor a typical bourgeois--but just a man was walking along. He was
dressed in average clothes, he was shaved and carried a suit case and
didn’t look out of work and was evidently going somewhere.

He was walking along with this suit case--it was on Larkin near
McAllister about two o’clock on one of those superb days of last
week--and he came to a place where there was a stretch of grass near the
sidewalk. I think he was hot and the suit case was getting heavy....

At any rate when he saw that grass, tall, dark green and fragrant, he
immediately lay down on it, pulled his hat over his eyes and, I expect,
went to sleep. It sounds so free and easy written down. Which makes it
no less significant.

First, it was significantly Western. An Easterner or a Middle Westerner
would have thought it over first. Then the fact that the man was so
average made it significant. If he had looked like a vagabond it would
have been not even an incident. It is we who are respectable who
are fettered by Grundy. It was a logical thing to do and natural and
terribly human, but most of us can’t do the logical thing and natural
even if inside we do feel terribly human. Especially these spring days.
Today at noon I would like to have gone up on the grass in Union Square
and taken my shoes off. Why didn’t I? Not because of the police--but

Now a Piute Indian woman could have done it. Her stockings too. A Piute
Indian woman when she’s tired she sits down right in the street, right
where she’s tired. But you and I, when we are weary we may sigh--“Wish I
could sit down.” But we can’t, not until we’ve gone down the street and
up in the elevator to some particular place where Grundy says we may

The most significant thing about that man on the grass was that he
was in the heart of a great city. Cities are like homes. Some you’re
comfortable in--some you’re not. Now, San Francisco, it is a real city,
with all the metropolitan lares and penates, dignified and vividly
active. And yet there is no city in the country whose children may be as
“at home” as here. It is the only city I know of that has forgotten to
provide itself with nasty little “Keep Off The Grass” signs. It will
probably never be an altogether prohibition town.

Stopping at the Fairmont

It is best to say at the very beginning that if one is tremendously
wealthy he will not enjoy this dissertation on staying at high class
hotels. If one has more than two bathrooms in his home and can afford
chicken when it is not Sunday and turkey when it is not Christmas and
could stay at the Fairmont all winter if he preferred, then these words
will mean nothing to him.

She has gone, this friend of mine. All winter she has been staying at
the Fairmont. Much of the time I, too, have been staying at the Fairmont
as her guest. So it is with a sense of double bereavement that I write.

Talk to me no more of the comfort of cozy little homes. Give me a hotel
where I am treated as though I were a Somebody. Where I have but to
press a button and a liveried servant comes running as though I were
Mary, Queen of England, or Clara Kimball Young. And plenty of hot water
for baths and lots of enormous towels and, as soon as one’s butter is
gone, another piece, and fresh butter at that. Pitchers of ice water and
a strapping big man standing so solicitously and watching one’s every
mouthful. It makes me feel as though I were the Shah of Persia. At home
I don’t feel at all like the Shah of Persia.

I came across something the other day that Boswell quotes Dr. Johnson as
saying on this same subject: “There is no private house in which people
may enjoy themselves as at a capital tavern. At a tavern you are sure
you are welcome, and the more noise you make, the more trouble you give,
the more good things you call for, the welcomer you are.”

This friend of mine can go to the room telephone and say, so
incidentally, “Room service, please,” and order a meal in her room with
almost negligence. That, I say, is elegance. Taxis, too, are another
test. I never order a taxi without a feeling of sea-sickness. Even when
someone else is paying the bill I can’t sit back in comfort. Always they
are ticking off the minutes as though they were my last on this earth.

They are simple tests that divide the plebeian from the patrician. Was
it Kipling who wrote:

“If you can order breakfast in your room and not feel reckless, If you
can ride in taxis with aplomb, If you can read the menu and not the
prices, Then, you’re a qualified patrician, son.”

After my friend had gone I went back to the hotel and someone else was
in her room and no one treated me as though I were the Queen of Sheba
and I went out into a cold, indifferent world where no one cares when
my glass is empty, where no chair is pushed under me at table and where,
alas, I must sugar my own tea or go without.

San Francisco Sings

Some Cities roar and others hum, but San Francisco sings. Especially on
Saturday at noon and downtown. Saturday noon in San Francisco is like
nothing else anywhere but Saturday noon in San Francisco. And Saturday
noon is like the noon of no other day but Saturday. On Sunday they’re
off. On Saturday noon everybody’s on the street.

There are more flowers on Saturday noon. On the street stands great
plumes of gold acacia, riots of daffodils, banks of violets, white, waxy
camellias and branches of Japanese peach blossoms. It’s still winter by
the calendar but it’s spring in San Francisco. Everywhere you turn a man
or boy from the country with baskets of the spring flowers. All you
want to carry for two bits and a nice bunch for a dime. Big, fat men and
oldish men with young twinkles in their eyes sell them, unromantic, but
very nice to deal with.

There are the flowers and there are the women. No women in the country
so beautiful. No women in the world wear color as they do. Their colors
are never primitive, never gaudy, but gorgeous and vivid and alive,
seldom do you see a woman dressed in black, and black hats almost never.
Sit in the gallery of any church on Sunday morning when the sun comes
pouring in and it is as though you were looking down on flowers.

Never two alike in the Saturday noon crowd and yet the same type. Free
women, happy women, regular women. Women who can recall a judge or so
and still be graceful and dainty. It is very significant that a San
Francisco woman stands at the very pinnacle of the city, graceful and
alert on that tall slender column in Union Square.

And the Saturday noon men--men?--men? In describing color what can
one say of men? Well, it’s not their fault that they can’t wear pretty
clothes. They make a nice grey background for the women and a very
desirable audience and that’s the best I can do for them.

The street musicians, they contribute a lot to the Saturday noon
atmosphere. And when we drop a penny into their cups, perhaps it is not
so much pity as pay for the joy their piping gives us. And the people
who call papers, of whom the blind are the dearest of all. There’s a
blind man on Powell street who sounds exactly as though he were saying

Dearie me, I can’t describe it. All its lilt and rhythm and color and
humanness as well. And ladies walking along with huge white balloons
from the White House as though they had been blowing bubbles from some
great clay pipes. And a plump, rosy Chinese woman so dainty in her
breeches with her shiny, black hair bound in a head dress of jade and
opal and turquoise.

We need more poets.

Van Ness Avenue

Van Ness avenue is sole. Nowhere in the wide world does the proud and
culminating automobile own and dominate such a wide and sweeping display

The automobile, what a magnificent animal it is, long, low, luxurious,
purring softly, full of a great reserve, ready to dart forward, not to
the cruel touch of a spur or bit, but to the magic touch of a button.
It is the culminating achievement of this period of the machine age. The
airplane, clumsy and awkward as yet, belongs for its consummation to the
men of tomorrow. The automobile is the zenith of today’s accomplishment,
and that is why men speak of it as “super” this and “super” that.

The machine age has its own cruelties and its own, ugliness, but it
also has its own art and its own beauty, of which the automobile and the
houses which men have built to accommodate it, are the consummate art.
Not all will agree with me here. The critics will damn me with disdain,
and the King of Van Ness, who ought to agree, but is too busy talking
cars, will only remark, if he listens at all: “Pretty good dope at
that.” But argumentatively I proceed.

Not that I can name them. I am only sure, really sure, of a Ford. But
I admire them with a great pride in my human kind. They sit so
majestically in their palaces on Van Ness, great limousines, powerful
roadsters, luxurious touring cars, waiting there on display and
containing in themselves all the skill, energy, artifice, and beauty of
line, color and trim that the machine age can produce.

And the buildings on Van Ness strike a new and independent note in
architecture. All that the ages have contributed of arches, columns,
coloring and lighting are utilized and made into palaces of great
dignity and beauty. There is something about the arched and windowed
walls and the spacious, open look of the buildings that is entirely
distinctive and Van Ness. It is not Mission, Grecian or Colonial, but
it is all of them. It is as new and distinctive as the service stations
that have sprung out of the automobile needs. If we dared we would call
it entirely American.

And the printing that high lights each building is an achievement in
modern art. Who but Americans would dream of using printing instead of
gargoyles or classic medallions as ornamentation. Some of it is very
beautiful and almost none is ugly. The use of the word “Paige,” the
printing of “Buick,” the “H” of Hupmobile, the Mercury “A” of Arnold are
to me very beautiful.

Van Ness avenue. It is exactly like its name. A long wide sweep for the
regal motor car, the most wonderful and proudest automobile row in
the world. The ghosts of the old, aristocratic and residential
before-the-fire Van Ness have seen to it that even commercialized it
shall still be--Van Ness.

The Blind Men and the Elephant

You live in San Francisco and I live in San Francisco, and so does the
man who owns the peanut wagon on the corner, and none of us live in
the same San Francisco--funny. We’re like the blind men who each gave a
different version of the elephant.

To some, San Francisco is always eight o’clock in the morning or six
o’clock at night, swinging on the straps homeward, swallow their dinners
and to a show in the evening. Such people never have wandered through
Golden Gate Park of an afternoon or sunned themselves on the benches of
Union Square. They have never seen San Francisco by week-day sunlight.

Then there are home women and leisure women to whom San Francisco is
always afternoon, down-town in the shopping district with ladies in
pretty clothes passing each other on the street or in and out of the
sweet-scented stores.

To some, San Francisco is always night. A taxi-driver who used to be a
newsboy down on the old Barbary Coast. He has never seen anything but
the night life of the city. Not bad, but night provincial--a sort of
male version of Trilby.

The neighborhood of Merchants Exchange on California Street is San
Francisco to hundreds of men. They ride out to the golf links and into
the country on Sunday. Occasionally they go to New York, but when they
return San Francisco is limited to the neighborhood where men inquire
anxiously--“Is she picking up any in the East?”

No matter how wealthy, no matter how poor, to each of us San Francisco
is very much limited in the confines of what each of us is interested
in. It’s funny when you stop to think about it. How the Master of
Marionettes must laugh at us when he sees us together. Perhaps some
night after the show, the traffic cop raises his imperial hand and
there, waiting to pass, the taxi driver of the night and a dear little
home woman with her husband, and Mr. Chamber-of-Commerce and close to
him a man who has never seen San Francisco by week day sunlight. There
they all wait looking out of their eyes on San Francisco and each seeing
it so differently.

San Francisco is one thing to you and another thing to me and something
entirely different to the man on the peanut stand.

You’re Getting Queer

Everyone ought to have--well, what is it that everyone ought to have?
No, not a machine, not necessarily a garden and not even a camera.
Everyone ought to have children. If not children of their own, then
borrowed ones or nieces or nephews or the neighbor’s kids. Everyone
ought to have children.

People who have no children anywhere in their environment to whom they
can talk intimately soon become queer and lop-sided. They may not always
realize it but others will find them awkward and stilted and covered
with cobwebs and dust. Such people will be found hard to get on with
and full of snippiness. It is half what ails folks, that so many of them
have no children in their lives and it affects them like malnutrition.
Let a baby enter a street car filled with moldy, musty grown-ups and
watch the starved looks and the foolish and pathetic boohs and pokes
they will dart in the direction of the child.

It is often my privilege to tell stories to a group of babies, and one
day when they were crowded close around me one of them exclaimed--“Hey,
you spit right in my eye.” Then it came to me what a lot of eyes I had
probably spit into all down the years, and how no one had ever told me
of it so frankly before. Children are so honest until we teach them to
say that they’re sorry when they’re not, and to listen to stories that
bore them and to pretend not to like Jazz when all the time they do.

Contact with children takes us back to the genesis of our being and
revives in us something primitive and honest and natural. I saw a man
recently being led out of a grown-up meeting by the hand of a child and
he looked so cross about it and was so obviously trying to maintain his
dignity while the child hurried him up the aisle. I thought how silly.
When a child has to leave a meeting he has to, that’s all, and there’s
no use in arguing or getting cross about it. And really how good it
was for that pompous individual to get taken down a peg by the terribly
human appeal of a little child.

All of us ought to find some children to tell stories to for our own
sakes. And then when we have gotten Jack up the beanstalk and into the
ogre’s kitchen, and the ogre says in an awful voice--“I smell a human
being,” perhaps there will come to us some of the old thrill that we had

If you don’t know any children intimately, children who call you
“George” or “Auntie Flo,” children who run to meet you, children who
hurt your pockets with anticipation, children to whom you read the
funnies or whom you take to the movies, children for whom you may revive
your childhood tricks of making a blade of grass squawk, or wiggling
your scalp, or cutting out a row of dancing paper dolls, then hurry and
get acquainted even if you are driven to pick them up. If you don’t,
then as sure as you’re alive, you’ll find yourself growing queer.

The Ferry and Real Boats

As a matter of fact the ferry isn’t a boat at all. It is more like a
house or a street car or a park full of pretty benches. It doesn’t sail,
it only plies, plies between two given points at stated intervals, and
could anything be more dull. Nothing is more prosaic than a ferry unless
it be an ironing board.

Even a barge is superior, and a barge doesn’t pretend to be a boat. A
barge goes somewhere and it gets mussed up by the real salt sea, and so
do flat, old scows, honest and rough and sea-going. Any boat in the bay
is superior to the effeminate ferry. Even the boat to Sacramento has a
bit more atmosphere. As for tug boats, they are little, but O-my as they
pull the great, impotent barges after them. Pilot boats have quite an
air making the big, dignified steamers look foolish being yanked here
and there. The tidy fisherman’s motor boats look rather unimaginative,
all tied in rows at Fisherman’s Wharf, but they go somewhere, sometimes
away down the coast and from their sides the long nets reach away down
into the sea itself.

How the real boats in the bay must despise the ferry. Think of being
called a boat and never once sailing out of the Golden Gate. How
maddening it must be. If the ferry had any spirit at all, some day it
would just switch about and go chunking out to sea. Imagine then the
concern of the staid commuters from Oakland and Alameda to say nothing
of the citizens of Berkeley and Marin County, to find themselves being
borne away from their vegetable gardens and fresh eggs out to sea in a
wooden boat.

I suppose there are many people living right here in San Francisco who
have never sailed away out of the Golden Gate, people who have been
bound economically or by love or duty, and have had to ply like the
ferry daily between two given points. But can there be a man who has
seen tall-masted schooners and long-bodied ocean-going steamers pass in
and out of the alluring Golden Gate, and has never longed to sail away
to the enchanted South Seas, or to Alaska. Such a man is not a man any
more than the ferry is a boat.

If I could choose the boat I’d sail away upon, it would not be a
coast-wise steamer, nor the prim Alaska packers nor even the steamers to
the Orient. I’d choose me a four-masted schooner, carrying freight and
going somewhere, anywhere, no one knows where. And then some day the
wind would die or some night the wind would howl and there would come to
me a great longing for or a ferry that should take me home at night in a
safe and prosaic manner.

A Whiff of Acacia

In Connecticut now, and in Illinois and in Utah too, it is lilac time.
Lilac time--I’ll stop, if you please, to say the words over lovingly. In
San Francisco now the lilacs are in bloom but it is not lilac time. In
Golden Gate Park the rhododendrons are blossomed into gorgeous mounds of
color but they are not an event in San Francisco, only an incident. In
“The Trail of the Lonesome Pine” set in the mountains of Virginia, they
are the dominant background.

Poppies and lupine and many others are the flower tradition of
California but they are not what I mean here. It is an impression
of mine that San Francisco more than any other city has taken the
traditional plants and flowers of other sections and made them into a
composite that makes up the plant atmosphere of this city.

Take roses and geraniums and callas, none of which are epochal because
they are always at hand. But with old Mrs. Deacon Rogers in Connecticut
who nursed her calla through the long winter that she might take it to
church on Easter Sunday, the calla was history.

Even the camellia San Franciscans take very philosophically. It has
not, for instance, the supremacy that Dumas gives it in “Camille.” In
Sacramento they feature it more and an Easterner who saw them picking
it in branches instead of single flowers, exclaimed: “Why, they think
they’re oleanders.”

The plant and flower atmosphere of a community is very important. Some
child is now growing up in the city, who some day will be far away when
there will come to him a whiff, perhaps of acacia, and in an instant
there will come surging over him all the feel and urge and thrill and
wistfulness and dreams of his childhood, and he will be once more in the
atmosphere of San Francisco. It will not include winter and summer but
an all-round-the-year-ness, it will not mean a flower, but flowers,
cherry blossoms from Japan, acacia from Australia, and the best from
everywhere which all together will mean to him--San Francisco.

The smell of the acacia, which he knew as the wattle, inspired Kipling
to write those words

     “Smells are surer than sounds or sights
     To make your heart strings crack.”

Perhaps many others see with me this difference between San Francisco
and the rest of the country, as though nature here expresses herself in
bounty more than in resurrection. Oh, well, whether it be “lilac time”
 or “all the time” to each locality there is its own beauty and, as for
me, I have yet to find, in all my travels, the “place that God forgot.”

It Takes All Sorts

“Hey, hey,” called the tall, nervous man with the fat, little wife,
waving his arms at the conductor for fear he would be carried past his

“It takes all sorts of people to make a world,” remarked the
sensible-looking woman beside me.

It is not the first time that I have been impressed with the philosophy
of those words. Who said them first, I wonder. “It takes all sorts of
people to make a world.” That is, if we only had one sort or even a
number of sorts we would have no world. To make a world there must be
all sorts, including the funniest folks we ever knew.

I looked from the sensible woman with her well-chosen clothes to
the woman across the way. This second woman was a sort of
dressed-up-and-no-place-to-go type, with a squirt of Cashmere Bouquet in
the center of her handkerchief. And nothing on that went with anything
else she had on. And a hat which one knew was a hat, because it was on
her head, otherwise it might have passed for almost anything.

The woman beside me wouldn’t have been caught dead looking like the
second woman. Yet she should have been thankful for her. For it is only
by contrast that the well-groomed look smart, and the overdressed look
fussy. Whether that is Einstein’s theory of relativity or not, I don’t
know. I only know that, “It takes all sorts of people to make a world.”

There we sit on parade in these side-seater cars, and what we are is
revealed so pitilessly to all who sit across from us. It is as though
Fate were making jokes of us and sits us down beside the antitheses of
ourselves. Such a one of Nature’s jokes I saw recently. They were
two men. The first was the sort whom one calls an “old boy.” A racy
individual, well-fed with a round front, an Elk, of course, a city man,
reeking of good cigars, and an appraising eye out for a good-looking

Beside him sat a man who had been studying birds in the Park. Berkeley
was written all over him. A thin, pure type. He was dressed in field
glasses and a bag full of green weeds and stout walking boots. There
was an ecstatic glint in his eye which meant that he had discovered a
long-billed, yellow-tailed Peruvian fly-catcher, “very rare in these

So there they sat packed in so close and so terribly far apart, both so
necessary to the making of a world.

And as they sat a boy entered the car with a shoe-box, full of holes,
and out of the holes came a “peep” and then another. And the Berkeley
man lost his abstracted look and the man-about-town laid down his paper
and pretty soon the boy lifted the lid a bit and both men peeked in.

The Fog in San Francisco

Sunsets in the desert, spring in New England, black-green oaks lying on
tawny hills in Marin County, fields of cotton on red soil in Georgia,
surf on the rocks of Maine, moonlight on Mobile Bay, and the way the fog
comes upon San Francisco on summer afternoons.

Sometimes when all its hills lie sparkling in the sunshine and children
play on the sidewalks, young fellows whistle, business autos go
zippity-ip around the corners, and the whole city is out of doors or
hanging out of the windows, then suddenly in great billows the fog comes
rolling in through the Golden Gate, and between the hills right up the
streets into the city.

Then immediately all is changed and everything is nearer and more
intimate and nothing of the city is left but the street you’re on. Then
you hurry home for supper and home seems good and sometimes you even
light a little fire in the grate.

Still it is not a cold fog, it is not a wet fog, it is never an unkind
fog. It comes swiftly, but very gently, and lays its cool, dainty hand
on your face lovingly. Hands are so different, sticky or wet or clammy
or hot, but the hand of the San Francisco fog is the hand of a kind
nurse on a tired head. The rain is a beautiful thing too, but the fog
has another significance.--It is the “small rain” that Moses spoke
of--“My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the
dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the

It is very beautiful too. My, but I’ve seen fogs that were ugly, and
heard the fisherman say “She’s pretty thick tonight.” San Francisco fog
is not like that, but like great billows of a bride’s veil. Then in the
morning when the sun comes it chases the bride and her veil out so fast,
and they go out to sea together, sunshine and fog.

The other morning I awakened very early and there in the square of my
window was a hard, black cube against a white background. I lay there
and blinked and wondered where that telephone pole had come from, which
like Jack’s beanstalk, had grown there overnight. Then I saw that the
fog had shut out the whole world and brought that pole close, and made
it seem big and formidable and ugly.

The fog makes some people lose their perspective, and for others it only
wraps with a great kindness the whole world and blots out all ugliness.
But upon everyone, upon the just and unjust, this San Francisco fog lays
its gentle hand lovingly and with an ineffable kindness.

A Block on Ashbury Heights

Sometimes in the afternoons when the mothers are out shopping and the
youngsters have not yet returned from school our block looks so deserted
and wind-swept and dull. The houses are so much alike. They all sit
there in a row with their poker faces like close-mouthed Yankees
refusing to divulge any secrets. But from the bow-windows where I
sit and type, in spite of their silence the house fronts have become
individualized into so many human stories.

I never stop to look out but somehow the stories get in through the
window. For instance, I would not be so rude as to stare at the family
washing which once a week is hung on the flat top of a neighbor’s
garage, but those clothes up there have a way of flapping in the wind so
conspicuously that I cannot help see. There is the man of the house and
his, shall I say garments, kick themselves about like some staid old
deacon having his fling. Then there is the middle-sized bear whose
bloomers, billowed by the wind, become a ridiculous fat woman cut off at
the waist. And the little bear’s starched clothes crack and snap while
the revolving tree-horse whirls about like some mad dervish. I often
wonder if the family know of the wild actions that take place on the

It is a very respectable block inhabited mostly by grown-ups except
one lively house where a dog lives with some boys and their incidental
parents. The door of that house continuously bangs, and other boys with
other dogs are always hanging around whistling under the windows.

Most of the windows are only used to admit light except one that is
used to look out of and is inhabited by an old lady who sits all day and
knits for her grandchildren. It must not be so bad, I think, to look
out of the window upon life instead of always rushing off to catch a car
that takes one into the thick of it.

Out of the window of my kitchenette I can look into the window of a girl
in the next house. Every morning I get my breakfast by her dressing. My
coffee I start as she begins to unwind her curls from their steel cages.
I have a suspicion that she also dresses by me. If she sniffs my coffee
first, I imagine she hurries with her curls. She is usually fixing her
eye-brows to my toast and by the time I sit down she is doing her lips.

After that she goes off for the long day and so do most of the people in
the block. Then at night they all return, drawn by some tie of love or
habit or despair, each to his right place in the long row of houses,
which have been sitting there all day with their poker faces, waiting.

The Greek Grocer

He had just opened a store on our street and in a Lady Bountiful spirit
of helping him out, I went in to do a little trading. I told him I
would like a can of baked beans. Baked beans, but he didn’t seem to
understand. So pointing over the counter where they were in plain sight,
I said with all my teeth and tongue: “Baaked Beens.” He followed my
finger. “Oh,” he said correcting me, “You min Purrk ind Bins.”

That was the beginning and for weeks that Greek has been correcting
my pronunciation. There is no use to argue about it. The fellow has no
reverence for Noah Webster and besides there are more Greeks, nowadays,
than Yankees, and their way is probably getting to be the right way.
Sometimes I think it is we who are the “foreigners.”

Once it was cauliflower. Now, I say cauliflower exactly as it is spelled
but that isn’t right. It is “Culliefleur,” said staccato. And honey--one
day I wanted honey and after I had sung “Hunnie, hunnie” in high C, and
he didn’t understand, I went around and picked out a jar of it. “Oh,” he
said reproachfully, “you min hawney.”

A Scotch woman had a scene with him the other day over some “paeper.”
 There is no way of spelling it as she said it. She kept repeating it
and he kept getting the wrong thing. No, she didn’t want paper but
“paeper”--seasoning for the table--salt and “paeper.” The more excited
she got, the more Scotch she got and the more confused he. Then, when
they were both fairly hysterical, I discovered that it was pepper.

Then you should have heard that Greek scold. He told her that it was

And she said back, “Paeper.”

Then they argued and never once did either one of them get it “Pepper.”





One day I heard him laying down the law to a woman who had dared
question his price of “Rust Bif.” He told her what he had to pay for
it in “Cash Mawney” and asked her if she could do so, to explain.
“Explin--you kin explin--explin.” But she couldn’t explain. So,
chastened, she meekly bought the roast beef at his price.

Yesterday a U. C. girl was in and asked, “You are a Greek, are you not?”

“Naw,” he answered, “you min Grrik.”

Billboards or Art

If you like billboards you are not artistic. Take it or leave it. That’s
the criterion. It’s not my verdict. Ask those who know, the literary
clubs, the art clubs and our distinguished guests from Europe. I can
remember away back when Pierre Loti visited this country and was so
shocked at the glaring billboards that marred the beauty of New York
harbor and blinded his continental eyes with their gaudy colors.

Now, I would like to be both artistic and fond of billboards. I can’t be
both. So I choose--billboards. Everyone who reads these words must make
his choice.

I not only enjoy them; I think they are beautiful. A lovely splash of
color in the grayness of the city, a sincere expression of American
life, so sincere that the critics who take their opinions from Europe
never have been able to sneer us out of them.

We must admit, those of us who admire billboards, that the critics had
their justification in the early days. We have not forgotten the days
when mortgaged farmers prostituted their barns by selling advertising
rights to Hood’s Sarsaparilla and Carter’s Little Liver Pills and to
Lydia Pinkham, and when Bull Durham marred every green meadow from
Boston to Washington. Billboards were an unsavory addition to the
landscape then. But the modern art of bill posting is quite a different
thing and in California it has reached its highest development.
Segregated spots of color in the dun cities, surrounded by well
manicured lawns, supported by classic figures in white and lighted by
dainty top lights. And out along the boulevards, how lovely they are at
night, luminous breaks along the dark highways, suggesting so tactfully
the kind of tire to use or the sort of mattress to lie upon.

The critic has had his mission. He has forced the Poster man.
Fortunately though young America has not taken him seriously. If he
had this country would have missed some of its most distinctive
contributions to Art. The electric sign for instance. That was condemned
as vigorously as the billboard. And today, tell me, anybody, anywhere
what is more beautiful in all the world than the dancing lights of
Market Street at night. In what a unique and vital way they express the
life of the great modern city.

And anything that expresses Life, whether that life be mediaeval or the
life of the machine age, that is Art. There.

How pleased everyone is to know that the pretty Palmolive girl who “kept
her girl complexion” is married and has a sweet little daughter who has
inherited her mother’s skin.

I don’t always take the posters seriously. Now, I don’t believe that
that man “would walk a mile for a Camel.” He’d borrow one first. And
“contented cows.” Cows are always contented. All I’ve known. But they
may have had bolshevikish notions recently, cud strikes, perhaps. Hence
the accent on “contented cows,” to reassure us that there is no “Red”
 propaganda in the milk. Then, there is the parrot; what a long time it
takes to teach him to say “Gear-ardelly.” And that sentimental touch,
“If pipes could talk.” They do.

Sometimes, in an absent-minded way, I get them confused, movies and
merchandise, and find myself wondering who’s starring in “Nucoa.” Then
there’s that ecclesiastical looking party, the patron of Bromo-Quinine,
whom I always take for some bearded movie star.

But to return to their artistic merits, they are artistic. Take those
same “contented cows.” What could be more futurist than the coal black
sky under which they so contentedly graze? Or the henna hills so
far away, or the purple grass they chew. Matisse and Picasso, great
modernists, could not out-do those cows.

The cigarette men are particularly interesting. A bit over done. One
cannot help wonder what enthusiasm they would have left for a gorgeous
sunset having spent so much on, a cigarette. But I expect they are good
men at heart and not so sensuous as they appear. There’s that jolly old
boy who hasn’t had such a good smoke in sixty years. One wonders if his
teeth are his own. They all have teeth. Everyone has teeth these days.
It would be a change to see someone on a billboard with his mouth shut.

Golden Gate Park

Enter slowly, by foot is much the better way, and join the long,
loitering procession.

Black-green foliage, the curious old-green of trees that never wither
and never resurrect. Something very foreign or is it San Francisco?
Cubist effects of the horizontally-lined cypress, vertical lines of the
eucalyptus, and the soft, down-dropping of the willow trees and pepper.

Women on the benches tatting, reading, resting. A retired Kansan widower
passes, glances sidewise. Well, no harm in looking at a comely woman.
Gossip of mothers over baby carriages, “Only nine months old! Mine is a
year. Well, we think he’s pretty fine.”

Comes the sight-seeing bus. Blare of the megaphone. “Seventeen miles of
driveway, boost, boast, greatest in the world.”

All day long the swings are swinging, rhythmic, slow to the touch of
loving hands. Then at night when all is still and dark, they go on
swinging dream children, rhythmic, slow.

Down the slide into the soft sand. Grandpa tending Nellie’s children:
“Careful there.” Ding, ding like the sound of a temple bell the
whirling, dizzy iron rings clang against their iron pole. Tramp of the
patient little burros. “Mother, I want another cone.”

Bum-ti-bum, too-too-too, ta-ta-ta, ta-ta-tahh, the band. Wagner by
request. Music lovers in the crowd. A symphony orchestra is very fine,
but simple people like ourselves, we also love a band.

I’ve never been to Japan, but this must be the way it looks. Tinkle of
the wind bells, petals of Cherry floating down. Sorry, but I’ve used the
last of the films. Well, we’ll come again.

The bears, the big brown grizzlies, leave them now. Out, what is this!
Fairyland of flowers and fragrance. Bears and orchids, wise planned

People with accumulative minds wander through the museum, very
interesting, “Just look at this mosaic, John.” Exhibit of modern art in
the gallery. “Portrait of a girl,” only a daub to the wayfaring man.

Lovers in secluded places stealing a kiss, caught by the middle-aged.
“Silly young things,” wistfully.

Once all parks were private grounds. Free now to the poorest serf. Well,
there’s something century-gained. Some people say the world’s growing
worse all the time. Perhaps, perhaps....

Who cares. Lying flat on your back close to the smell of the earth, the
great kind mother. Up, up at the sky, how deep, how blue. Is there a
God? There must be Something; look at each perfect blade of grass. An
airplane across the blue. There’s something gained.

Automobiles in stately procession proud as horses ever were. Automobiles
proudly rolling, swings swinging, people passing, and the swimming of
all the water fowls, the swans, the Japanese ducks and the little mud
hens. Infinitude of movement, infinitude of life, ineffable beauty.
There must be a God. There must be Something back of it all.

Extra Fresh

Some one in San Francisco keeps hens. Not only hens, but a rooster. I
distinctly heard him crow. It was in the very early morning, and like
Tennyson’s “Queen of the May”--lying broad awake--“I did not hear the
dog howl, mother, but I did hear this crow.”

It is Ralph Waldo Trine, I think, who says that “So long as there
remaineth in it the crow of a cock or the lay of a hen a city is not
a city.” But I would not base the citifiedness of a city upon the mere
crow of a cock any more than on the census. It is a vulgar criterion.

For human nature is human nature and nothing betrays human nature like
hens. It is not surprising, therefore, that some woman has sneaked
into the city limits a mess of hens. Neither is it an aspersion on the

Besides this was to be about eggs.

Has anyone noticed how eggs of late years are never just eggs, but
classified? The hens seem to lay them classified. There are hen eggs and
pullet eggs and large hen eggs and small hen eggs and large pullet eggs
and small pullet eggs and strictly fresh eggs and ranch eggs and choice
eggs and large dark eggs and all-mixed eggs and fresh cracked eggs and
mixed color eggs and small brown and, oh, hundreds of sub-divisions.

The very latest I noticed were “dirty” eggs, 2 cents cheaper. I look
next for “small dirty eggs.” Why should they sound so unrefined? More
so some way than “small dirty boys.” But an artist must paint life as
he sees it and I saw these “dirty” eggs on that bazaar--and bizarre--of
diversities--Fillmore street.

On Haight street I saw “extra fresh eggs” and how an egg can be more
than “fresh” I fail to see. Now, a man may be “extra fresh,” but an
egg is different. Even if it left the hen early it would still be only
“fresh.” Well, the grocer probably knows.

Every adjective he uses has its significance. Take “ranch” eggs, how
pastoral they sound and fanned by fresh zephyrs. The same with “yard”
 eggs, such an “out in the open--let the rest of the world go by”
 impression they confer. And so reassuring, too, as though they couldn’t
have been manufactured for Woolworth’s.

There is much, I find, to be written about eggs.

Isn’t it “up-looking,” as Mr. Wilson would say, that they are so cheap

I cannot help wondering if that woman’s hens--the hens that went with
the crow--if they laid well when eggs were so high.

On the California-Street Car

She was a little black girl about four years old, riding with her mother
on the observation seat of the California street car. She was a little
black girl and didn’t know the difference--she might have been as white
as milk for all she knew. She was poor but daintily dressed beside being
very neat.

The rest of us in the car were grown-up and white--well-dressed people
who looked as though we knew a lot. We were all riding along; we and the
little black girl with her mother, when suddenly we came out from
the surrounding wall of apartment houses into the open, facing a side

And there before us, in all its morning glory, lay the great city of
Saint Francis. It was just emerging out of fog. The smoke and steam
rising, touched into color by the sun, softened it into a great mystery
with forms and hulks coming into relief through the mists. For a moment
it wasn’t a city but a magnificent singing of the morning.

In a dull, inert way I suppose all of us, the grownup people, glimpsed
some of its beauty. But we were all intent upon the business of the
day--we didn’t look out very far--.

But the little black girl who didn’t know any better, the little black
girl raised her two arms above her head and exclaimed in a high, joyous
child voice--“GEE WHIZ!”

Western Yarns

The men around the corner store at home were forever telling stories
about the big yarns that Were told in the West. One of the favorites
was that ancient one of the Western town that was so healthy they had to
kill a man to start a graveyard.

Having been brought up on this tradition of Western yarns, I have been
surprised since living here never to have heard a single story that
didn’t sound perfectly reasonable. But it has dawned on me recently that
the “Yarns” are true. Therefore, they are no longer yarns, but facts.

Here is an oil boom story I heard first-hand the other day. I believe
it, but you couldn’t get those men around the corner store to believe

It was in a dusty town where everyone rushed in to make quick money and
never mind about the main street even if they did have to plough through
dust to their knees. Then one day a heavy rain came that made the street
one slough of soft oozy clay which no one could cross.

Then enters the hero. Even while they stood dismayed, gazing at each
other across the clay, he appeared with a mud sled and took them all
across for 50 cents a passenger and $1 if you had a bundle.

Now, I believe it. Didn’t I see the man who had been there and paid his
four-bits to cross? Imagine, if you can, though, trying to make those
Yankees around the corner store believe that there was a town where one
had to pay 50 cents to cross a narrow country road in a mud sled.

I believed a man who told me a story down in Kern County last summer. We
were riding over the desert and I asked the stage driver the name of
a low yellow bush that grows down there. He was an interesting fellow,
that stage driver, who had been a buccaroo all his life and apparently
knew all about the sage brush country. And when he didn’t know he was
not lacking in an answer. I like a man like that. Answer, I say, whether
you know or not.

He said with great assurance that the little, low, yellow bush was
“Mexican saddle blanket” or “Tinder bush,” this last because it burns
like tinder in the fall of the year.

“Why, that bush is so dry,” he said, “that once when I lighted it to
cook my bacon for breakfast it traveled so fast that by the time my
bacon was cooked I was five miles from camp.”

I laughed--I couldn’t help it when I imagined that six-footer traveling
across the desert with a frying pan over that low bush. I laughed
because it was so real to me, but he misunderstood, and said so sort of
hurt, “Don’t you believe me?”

And I told him I did. And I did. And I do. Five miles isn’t a great
distance to travel over the desert after one’s bacon.

Mr. Mazzini and Dante

Mr. Mazzini will never be rich. He takes too much time for philosophy
and gossiping with the women, and he loves a joke too well, and his
heart is too kind. He is a universal type, as old as the world is old,
Theocritus knew him well.

“You pick me out some good cantaloupes,” I said with deadly tact, and
Mr. Mazzini answered that it couldn’t be done and that melons were like
men, that there was no sure way of picking them out for their kindness
of heart. Then he took time over the melons to tell me how his mother in
Italy, who was evidently something of a match-maker, had gotten fooled
on a young man who was both “laze” and “steenge” in his youth but who
made a very good husband.

One day it was figs, and I was strong for the nice appearing ones,
but Mr. Mazzini told me a lot about figs and chose me some that were
lop-sided from packing. What delicious figs they were, all stored with
sunshine and sweetness and flavor just as he had told me. Mr. Mazzini
owns his own store, and yet when he throws in a few extra, as he always
does, because they are soft or a little specked, he will wink and glance
slyly around just as though he were putting one over on the boss.

One morning I saw him sweeping out his store and he wore a woman’s
sweeping cap with the strings tied under his grisly old chin. When I saw
him I just stood and laughed aloud, and he asked me why not, and said
that a sweeping cap was just as good for a man as for a woman, and then
he stopped his sweeping and gave me quite a male feminist talk. And
he has a horse, Mr. Mazzini has, a fat old plug that peeks around his
blinders as humorously as his master. Oh, I could just keep on talking
about Mr. Mazzini for pages, but I started to speak of Dante.

I like the Italians and I like the Latin quarter where they live. I like
it better than Ashbury Heights for instance. I like the way the Italians
use their windows to look out of and to lean out of, and I like the way
they have socialized the sidewalk. It’s all a matter of taste, and I
wouldn’t criticize the people of Ashbury Heights simply because they use
their well-curtained windows only to admit the light, and do not lean
out and gossip with their neighbors and yell to their children, “Mahree,
Mahree,” nor sit out on their steps in the evening and play Rigoletto on
the accordion. It’s all a matter of taste.

Six hundred years ago Dante was an Italian, but he is much more than
that today. After six centuries Dante belongs to all those and only
those who can read him with appreciation and pleasure. Our scavenger
is an Italian, and he reads Dante just as so many of the Anglo Saxon
proletair read Shakespeare. So Dante belongs to this garbage man,
not because he is Italian, but because he sincerely loves the Divina
Commedia. A waiter, in Il Trovatore, a rarely honest man, acknowledged
to me that he could not read Dante, and that every time he tried he got
mad and threw the book away.

Dante belongs to the literary elect of all nations, Dante belongs to the
great internationale of the immortals. Dante belongs to Eternity. And
for that matter so does Mr. Mazzini.

On the Nob of Nob Hill

On the very nob of Nob Hill there is the ruin of a mansion which was the
Whittell home. In ruins it still is a mansion. In ruins it is grander
than any place around because it belonged to the grand days.

There is an enclosed garden in the rear after the fashion of old Spanish
gardens in Monterey. And between the boards that cover a door in the
high wall, one may peek and catch a glimpse of hollyhocks in a row and
roses running wild, trellises of green lattice and ghosts of beautiful
ladies having afternoon tea.

To one side of the mansion there is a formal garden that hugs up close
to the ivy-covered walls of the house. It is such a garden as one sees
in elaborately illustrated copies of Mother Goose “with silver bells and
cockle shells.” It’s so beautiful that it doesn’t seem real. California
gardens are like that, and to those of us from bleak countries they look
like pictures out of books. There is this well-groomed garden of the
living present hugging up close to the ruins of yesterday and then, if
you please, Mother Nature, with her penchant for whimsy, has grown right
up against these two a riot of purple and gold lupine, a product of her
own unaided husbandry.

I am not much on allegory nor sermonizing, but I declare San Francisco
gets me started. And when walking along about one’s business, one
sees such a vivid picture, the allegory forces itself. The grandeur of
yesterday, the serious beauty of today, and then the wild flowers that
covered the hills before man interfered and will live on after man has
gone into dust to make new flowers.

Such a contemplation would make some people blue but it gives me a
feeling of something basic and secure and eternal in all this strange
puzzle of life. It was a beautiful day up there on the tip-toe of Nob
Hill. What a beautiful view they must have had from the mansion windows.
The same sky and the same banks of heavy soft white clouds. And Job,
that mysterious man of the Bible, must have looked up at just such a sky
when those stern questions came to him:

“Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare if
thou hast understanding.

“Dost thou know the balancings of the clouds, the wondrous works of Him
that is perfect in knowledge?”

“Hast thou with Him spread out the sky, which is strong, and as a molten
looking glass?”

The nob of Nob Hill, how close it is to the sky.

The Leighton Press San Francisco, Cal

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