San Francisco Beat

My first memories of San Francisco came not from an actually visit to that city, mom and dad were not great travelers, but from the old crime drama, San Francisco Beat aka The Line Up.  One of the sponsors was Rice-A-Roni, a product that mom wouldn’t buy, either.  Later on as an adult I figured out how to make my own and do it better.  But the scenes of San Francisco I saw on the old Hoffman black and white television set were enough to put that urge to see the city.  You know, very few movies are set in San Francisco.  There is the Maltese Falcon, Guess Who Is Coming For Dinner, Dirty Harry, and a few others, but most are set either in LA or New York.  Even so, those movies don’t show that much of the city.  But I know a fair portion of the city even though I’ve never lived there.

So the other day I was searching Youtube for that old cop shop, I had actually watched a few episodes a year or two before and now I can’t find it.  Oh, there are a couple of two minute clips but that’s all that seems to be left.  Sadly so many of the old television shows and films have been destroyed either for the silver in them or through neglect.  With Jack Webb and Dragnet, LA always looked the same.  Dull business streets of one and two story buildings and housing that consisted mostly of bungalows.  For all the glamor of Hollywood, LA appeared to live a dull life.  Even downtown Burbank was off limits to mirth and merriment.  As for New York City, it appeared to be full of bars and tenement houses with the occasional high rise of glass and steel.  One of our class trips was spent in New York City, we were suppose to learn about the UN.  Guided trips are never very educational, you’re better off reading the guide book.  I was not terribly impressed and even though I have been back twice it is still a city I don’t like.  Tell the truth, I’d rather spend time in Budapest and that is a lovely city to walk.

I’ve lived in a few cities in my life, Cincinnati back when the YMCA hotel was downtown.  The rent was cheap and one could find a little entertainment to be had near the university campus.  I remember that the city library was very good, very large.  I’ll skip Philadelphia, I never did like the place.  I found it a very racist place in the mid sixties, yet to hear them all the racism was in the south.  Well, go figure.  It seems that Pittsburgh is just as racist now as it ever was.  Now this is from a white male’s point of view.  Do I know the way to San Jose?  Oh, god, please, Dione, don’t ever care to hear that song again in my life.  Yeah, I know the way.  Spend thirty years in that area.  Well, work is work and it gets you through life and some loves or two.  Sometimes I feel as if I had been sentenced to life but got paroled for good behavior.  Back in 1974 when we actually had some layoffs at the phone company, I and a couple of other linemen/cable splicers were sent up to San Francisco to change the dialing instruction cards on all the public pay phones in the city.  I think we spent ten weeks or so commuting by van to 666 Folsom, yeah, I know, house of the devil, as many thought of the phone company.  It is true what was said int the movie, The President’s Analyst, in every country they hate the phone company.

Now I came to the Bay Area in July of 1968, home from the hill, so to speak.  I was in the Air Force and assigned to the Satellite Test Center in Sunnyvale,the big blue cube now since demolished.  Interesting times then.  Lots of bands to go watch in the city and across the bay in Oakland.  I could run over to Berkeley and watch the idiots who knew nothing of life and death demonstrate as if their struggle kept us all from the hounds of hell.  A few years later I would head up 101 and see Ukiah and Fort Bragg.  Always wanted to buy some land and live off road.  I eventually did that in the Santa Cruz mountains.  Speaking of which one could head out east on Summit Road to The Chateau for weekend parties and jam sessions.  Yeah, the hill, like Norway, were alive with the sound of music

So there we were, in the business district going from business to business with a list in our hands and a coupe of hand tools and supply of plastic dialing instruction plates.  My partner and I drew the Bank of America Building, all fifty two floors.  The top two floors is a very expensive restaurant called the Carnelian Room.  You get off the elevator and to each side are these very large two story plate glass windows, floor to ceiling that really give you a view of the city.  Poor Ray, I thought he was going to kill me.  I started swaying back and forth, asking,”Do you feel that?”  You should have seen him hug the floor.  No, it wasn’t an earthquake but if it had it was a long way down the stairs to the streets.  In those ten weeks we walked so much of the city, north to south, east to west.  You know it is only some ten square miles.  We’ve been up and down hills, hanging around the Aquatic Park, the wharf, Union Square, Golden Gate Park, everywhere.  Ray and I developed a system so that we did the work very quickly and then had time for a nice breakfast in the morning as light lunch and plenty of time to sight see.  I don’t think we actually worked more than three hours a day.  It was like being paid to visit the city and be a part time tourist.

It’s been a couple of years since I’ve spent the weekend in the city.  It’s nice, it’s still a great city to live if you’ve got lots of money, such as a million or so.  But it is a colder place, almost a bit barren compared to the sixties and seventies.  It’s lost so much character, I could never live there now.  I mean Denver never really had much of anything compared to other big cities, one doesn’t miss that area.  Boulder is too snotty for it’s own good and too much the hypocrite to be taken seriously.  On the other hand, Fort Worth Texas is a nice place.  In some ways DFW reminds me of LA in the late sixties, sort of sprawl but not all that connected.  Like the Silicon Valley before they ripped out all the orchards and paved it wall to ugly wall.  I once said in 1972 after having visited Disneyland that the South Bay area would never become like LA.  I must state for the record, I was wrong.  It is like LA, it has, along with the rest of that area from San Francisco to Stockton and from Monterey to Santa Rosa one big vast LA like area.  How do I know.  I drove truck for enough years after the telecom bubble burst.  I hate driving truck in California.  I hate going near New Your City with a 53 foot trailer, but I so dislike driving in California.  Lucky for me I had a slight stroke and can’t drive commercially any more.  Most likely it saved my life, but that’s another story.  No, Fort Worth is a nice place, a bit laid back and good attitudes by all.  I spent my primary years in Arlington, which has become one ugly city.  My god they used the ugly stick there.  Hell, three quarters of the place didn’t exist when I was a kid.  All that unbounded growth did the place in.  No, I like my little spot.  This neighborhood has that fifties rural feel, quiet, spacious, and uncomplicated.  I’ve come a long way since I first watch San Francisco Beat, and back.


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