Northside SF  

Bellingham by the Bay
By Bruce Bellingham

They call it Indian summer. Wasn’t that the first line of the novel written by Grace Metalious called Peyton Place? I think so. It’s funny how one can recall dirty books with alacrity. “Memory has no respect,” Federico Fellini wrote in his great film, . Because of the recession, it has now been reduced to .

But the Indian summer this year in San Francisco was spectacular. Such a pretty world in such an ugly time.

“I can’t die now,” I said to Dr. Debbie Brown. “Miniskirts are back.”

Tish Peterson tells me that it sometimes feels like we’re in a Town Without Pity. She’s referring, of course, in her inimitable ability to recall pop tunes, to the Gene Pitney hit from the 1960s: “Ours is not an easy age, we’re like tigers in a cage.” The lyric is by Ned Washington. It amazes me that young Tish has this knowledge of things that arrived all those years ago. She’s an antidote to the idiotic response from so many people: “That was before my time.” Yes, the Spanish Civil War was before my time, too, but I still took the trouble to learn something about it. Good on Tish. . . .

Kim Nalley and husband, Michael, threw a swell party last month – for Scorpios only. Not sure how well that Scorpio stuff was enforced, but the music was very good, of course. Kim’s such a wonderful singer. She invited wonderful musicians like Denise Perrier, Tammi Hall and Pamela Rose. All great, warm performances.

Then along comes Mary. And along comes Frank Gilson, who runs Potrero Chiropractors. He recalls when he used to tend bar at the now-disappeared Pierce Street Annex bar on Fillmore (now the site of the Matrix-Fillmore.)

“I used to walk Anna Nicole Smith home when she lived in the Marina,” says Frank. “She was often in need of guidance.” Anna Nicole, who was a sweetheart, had a major crush on Gavin Newsom, our new lieutenant governor. “I don’t know what to do to get her away from me,” lamented Gavin.
Yes, I saw Anna Nicole zigzagging up the street once in a while. Tall, blonde, recklessly beautiful. Staggering in a long dress from Valentino. One afternoon she blundered into me, then joined her friends from the Hell’s Angels at the Pierce Street Annex. Yes, all their bikes were arranged in solid formation. How come they’re not in Afghanistan? They seem to have a penchant for heroin and regimentation. . . .

Ah, but who needs management or regimentation?

Look at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. They took an elegant drubbing from Scott Simon on National Public Radio last month about the ridiculous efforts to ban toys from Happy Meals at McDonalds. Does this not invite ridicule from hither to yon? Yes, San Francisco, the airwaves bluster, would like to ban happiness.

Gee, I thought we did that a long time ago through parking fines.

A couple of years ago there was a happiness conference in San Francisco. It costs $545 for two days. That would make me unhappy. Or would it? I dunno. I was turned away for being gloomy.
“It’s a gloomy day in Branson,” writes Debby Boone. Yes, the Debby Boone of “You Light Up My Life.” She’s working at Larry Gatlin’s club through Christmas. If there is an answer to gloom, it is the ever-ebullient Debby. I recall happy days when she’d sing at The Plush Room.

Silly me. Happy days are here. I just need better glasses to see them.

Here’s a silly jest from Valerie Pinkert: “I want a Dickens’s martini. That is, with an Oliver’s Twist.” Funny line. I love A Christmas Carol. My fave Dickens’s novel. Full of horror and redemption. The perfect story for a pretty world in an ugly time. Of course Dickens was describing an ugly world in a very ugly time. It amuses me when people say they were born at the wrong time of history. I remind them to think about the plumbing.

For 34 years ACT has produced Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. This year is going to be great. Check it out. James Carpenter, the terrific actor, is Ebenezer Scrooge. Such a great story. One of those stories you cannot screw up, no matter what. The novel is a song in homage to redemption, of renewal.

Dickens would love this.

“This year has been so great for me,” says Jessica McGhee. “I turned thirty, I finished college, I got married, and we found a new house. This gives me a reason to be hopeful.”
Good on Jessica.

Dickens was all about new beginnings. That’s what Christmas is all about.

Bruce Bellingham writes for the Marina Times and is the author of Bellingham by the Bay. Torment him at

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