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Thursday, July 12, 2012
[Norma Photos] #3, Trainride
It is not uncommon to feel fond attachment to one's town. It was 106 degrees in our town yesterday, so I was unencumbered by this sentiment. I worked outdoors for forty years in this hot valley and it had an effect on me. When I began, I was slightly over nine feet tall and had the figure of a discobolus but got worn down by heat, life and labor to the toughness, appearance and intellect of beef jerky. I spent my last iota of mentality in a decision to retire. Had I the mind-power, I would have moved to San Francisco as two of my sons did decades ago but it was beyond me and I content myself to visit.
It was time for a trainride.
Norma took pictures. The one above finds us settled with coffee and newspaper, pulling out of the depot. Construction on our town's station began early last century and has not stopped. One can look out at work being done in infernal heat as one departs. There is only one other place in the universe where a strenuous, soul-killing job hectored by incendiary, demonic heat may be begun and be still underway a hundred years later and that is Hell.
Much as I love my town, I felt a sudden need to find the funny pages.
As we made our way over the bay, it was time to look out again and judge the weather. Fog rolling in from the west, people boating and all the wavy heat lines over everything had disappeared behind us. This was promising.
Even more promising was how far the fog progressed and how comfortable the city looked by the time we gained the middle of the bay. This meant sea wind inland, locking the temperature at maybe 65 degrees tops, proving once again one does not escape damnation by conversion so much as by rail.
Cab took us to The Beanery at 9th and Irving, where we rounded ourselves up and hiked into Golden Gate Park. This park was the idea and retirement plan of a remarkable man, John McClaren (1846-1943), who sold the city on his certainty of getting things to grow on 1000 acres of sand dunes. He imported soil-building shrubs like rhododendrons from Australia, fertilized it with horse shit collected from a million horse-power city, built windmills to water it and pinned it to the peninsula with eucalyptus trees. For this horticultural miracle he was awarded title of Park Supervisor In Perpetuity and a salary of $60,000 a year --which he collected from ages 70 through 96. But that's not all, John McLaren's stipulation before taking the superintendent job was, "There will be no 'Keep off the Grass' signs." Now THAT'S a gardener.
We headed for Stow Lake.
Stow Lake is mid-park, beautiful and quite haunted. A lady in white emerges from its water and asks if you've seen her child. This is true. There is a statue of her there. But we were more interested in the row boating, turtle watching and other Stow Lake recreations on a brisk summer day. The chief supernatural wonder of the place is that it is built on shit, dross and offal laid from dray wagons onto the restless, insubstantial sand of California's coast.
There are many statues in the park, even one of John McClaren who didn't like statues. He called them stookies and planted things to hide them. But Norma couldn't resist photographing at least one. We posed. Unfortunately, she has an old-style camera that doesn't label the names of things electronically. It carves them in stone. Sometimes, as in this picture, it gets our names wrong and mistakes in stone can't be corrected. We have learned to take it philosophically.