Northside SF
The Final Word

Someone said to me that the world is a wonderful place. It is. San Francisco is a wonderful place. To my astonishment, it works. The Muni operators are mostly kind and humane. In many ways, it’s a cruel and unjustified piece of the world – as every city is. That includes the small town in New Jersey where I was raised. Joe Bologna said to me, “You have a love-hate relation to San Francisco, don’t you?”

“Sure I do. It’s my hometown after 41 years.”

That is, I hate everything that’s been kind to me.

Odd, but that’s a story for another session of analysis.

San Francisco is the greatest town for retaining regrets.

It is also the greatest town for retaining the sweetest of memories.

There’s a terrible sweetness in its seduction. It’s pretty; San Fran, that is. God knows I have friends after 41 years. And enemies? Not really. Are there discrepancies? Arguments? You bet.

Of course for all the terror and the hopefulness that San Francisco affords, I am with it. It’s my town, though, as it keeps its small-town integrity and its small outpost of lunacy.

The lunacy is what attracted me from the beginning when I was 19 years old. That was in 1970. I thought, “Gee whiz, what a crazy place. Surely I could move there and not be blamed for something.”

Fat chance.

But for all the mistakes, all of the silliness, all of the ridiculousness of it all, I love this town – its breeziness, its caprice, its ability to take itself too seriously. That’s part of the funny part. That part keeps San Francisco working; a mysterious rotary element that keeps the City running. That’s the mysterious part that Rick Kerr keeps this computer working. Some odd thing that keeps the computer’s heart throbbing. Or Dr. Mary Gray at S.F. General Hospital keeping my own heart palpitating in the right way.

Then there is the poetry of San Francisco. John Hoag is a master of poetry science. He can recite poetry until the cows come home. Lucky for me the cows never came home – too hard on the carpets. John can recite Hart Crane’s poetry for me at the Hyde-Out Saloon on Nob Hill. He’s like a jukebox of classy things on demand. That’s wrong. That’s too simple. He has to be cajoled into artistic sweetness. John never seems as if you were drawing blood from him. He gives verses so freely, so easily.

Funny thing about this town. I thought that poetry was a driving force. Gas was cheap. Poetry was real. What a silly boy. It’s the true silliness. This is it. To me, San Francisco was driven by poetic force. I love the idea. Still do. I know. Silly. Naive. Ridiculous. But – all the same – there is a force of poetry and beauty in the streets. I can feel it. It’s a force. It’s a terrifying notion. Yes. Yes, indeed. It means I might have to fall in love all over gain.

Bruce Bellingham is the author of Bellingham by the Bay. Catch him, berate him, admonish him at

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The Final Word