In February I went out to visit granddaughter Teresa and she kindly accompanied me on a walk through my Mission past. Stopping first for Vietnamese.
We started on Shotwell and 17th where I presented dance artists in the New Performance Gallery (now the ODC Theater). I wasn’t very successful. In fact the only time one of the international companies I so proudly brought to the Bay Area was reviewed by the important critic of that era, everything about the performance bombed including the dance itself, the lighting, the publicity…and maybe the snacks were stale and the wine too cheap for even a contemporary dance audience. I did present a beautiful Hungarian artist in a striking emerging-from-a-giant-eggshell piece who later became a major Hungarian dance star. So where was that damn critic then?
I wanted to follow the route I walked home every night after closing up the theater at nine, ten, eleven. Just to show Teresa how comfy it could be walking among the homeless and the artists and the Nicaraguan, Palestinian and middle-American refugees from shooting wars and culture wars. Drugs and AIDS and poverty around the corner; friendly nods wreathed in cigarette smoke, and the odoriferous pleasures of old pee, new wine, sizzling grease and over-boiled coffee on the street ahead.
On our way to 307 Valencia and my old studio apartment (around $300 a month I think!) we went by Picaro Tapas Restaurant on 16th. I wanted very much to sit down and savor the surroundings of what used to be just plain old Picaro’s where I drank coffee and watched the colorful assortment of real Mission characters like the black-cloaked (as Halloween witch, not enforced Saudi uniform), red face-painted lady. But this day, already having had lunch, we settled for coffee and flan, dipping a serving of baguettes slices in the creamy caramel-coated custard—which caused the people at the next table to remark on what interesting luncheon tastes we had.
307 Valencia. San Francisco, CA. I’ve already written too much about this little studio. Heat off in the daytime; all toasty at night. Worked well except for the weekends. Middle Eastern guys, Palestinians I think, or Syrians, across the street, who would sell single cigarettes to their favorite customers, me among them. Big Fran was my landlady; I wrote and posted a story about her before. She died a long time ago.
Yeah. Left some little piece of my heart there, I did.
16th and Valencia
I joined… the waitresses the norteño trios the flower sellers
the blind guitarist wailing boleros at a purple sky
the shirtless vagrant vagabond ranting at a parking meter
the spray-paint visionary setting fire to the word
and I knew this was the last call…
and we were going to stay angry
and we were not ever leaving
not ever leaving. (Murguia)