At the back of the hill

Warning: If you stay here long enough you will gain weight! Grazing here strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton. And you might like cheese-doodles.
BTW: I'm presently searching for another person who likes cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Saturday, July 27, 2013


In San Francisco there are more-or-less two main types of folks, with a somewhat large number who do not fall into either category.
The largest segment of the population consists of young adults who go out on weekend evenings to over-indulge in everything which they denied themselves the rest of the week: sex, drugs, painfully loud music, and mediocre food masquerading as "cuisine".

[Please understand that "young adult" is a mindset rather than a narrow definition. It consists of desperadoes aged anywhere between late teens and early forties. Usually single, sometimes messily attached or involved. ]

The second main category are the folks who are or have "committed", with or without offspring. I do not know what you would call them, as the term "adult" is not all-inclusive. Not all of them are 'adult', some of them are amazingly child-like. What unites them is that they realize that they should be responsible. If not to themselves, at least partly to another person who relies on them in some way.

[This second group usually did not want to get so staid, but society and circumstance forced them, sometimes without them realizing that they were manipulated. ]

The remainder are probably more balanced than the two segments just described, and in any case happier. There is less pretense, and far less desperation. If they are attached, their companions are equally sane.

The first category parties in my neighborhood. Not all of them -- there are far too many -- but a large number of them. Early in the evening they may be lining their stomachs in preparation, several hours later some of them are doing the reverse. In between, various temporary connections were made and consummated, multiple beers where drunk, flavoured vodka cocktails flung back, body parts exposed to the elements, and much frenzied activity occurred.

The second category will have gone to a movie, or a bistro staffed by students from the "Academy of Art University". They spent a little more money than they felt comfortable wasting, but one or two after-dinner drinks later they realize it's all good, they don't have to work tomorrow, what the dog did in the kitchen can be rectified in the morning, and next weekend they'll skimp a bit.

I do not fall in either main category.


During my late teenage years Friday and Saturday evenings were spent at the youth club on the Eindhovensche Weg, getting quite cheerful on multiple draughts of coffee or tea, smoking English pipe tobacco, and discussing politics with fellow students. The music was never too loud, and none of us could afford more than one or two bottles of Belgian Ale in any case. There was reading material on the premises.

[Long twilights marked by the aromas of autumn leaves, tannins, fermenting fruit, shag tobacco, and strong coffee. Often it rained; that added to the fragrance and the mood.]

No, I wasn't dating anyone in those years; all the nicest girls already had boyfriends, and one should not poach. I did mention that they were nice, did I not? Naturally they had attracted nice companions.
One rather has to be a gentleman in those circumstances.
I did not date until I returned to the U.S.


My early adult years were marked by severe fund-limitation. Consequently I spent a lot of time in book stores, often reading instead of buying. First in Berkeley, then for several years in San Francisco.

[In Berkeley the Caffe Mediterraneum was a favourite place for a while. It usually smelled of French cigarettes, and sometimes of patchouli. Early in the morning one could have hash browns, fried eggs, and hot sauce with one's cappuccino. North Beach in San Francisco was fragrant with coffee roasting at three separate places, and in Chinatown food and drink were affordable. The light is California is very different from Holland. It seems less intense, though often much brighter.]

If you asked me what I intended to do on Friday and Saturday evenings, my answer would probably have been "read, and swill a lot of coffee or tea". This could as easily be done at home, and society had already starting to frown on pipe tobacco, so there was precious little incentive to hang around much at the Caffe Trieste or the Roma.
Besides, those places were rather loud at night.
They still are. Seemingly more so.


For a number of years after work on Friday I would return home, and my companion and I would spend a quiet evening together after good food. After she fell asleep, I headed out to North Beach to enjoy a drink or two people-watching with a friend and colleague, while discussing books, languages, Monty Python, food, and politics.
On Saturday evenings I worked at the Indian restaurant and did not return till late. Perhaps with a quiet drink in the interval between closing out and coming home.

[North Beach and Polk Street. Hipsters, poets, and transgender working men. Cigar stores, and very happy people. Perhaps a bit too happy, even artificially so. The city does not smell of coffee at night, but our sewer system appears to be working.]


Nowadays I take a long nap on Friday evenings, or doze while consciously dreaming. My previous companion is now just a good friend, and her life has separated quite considerably from mine. Around midnight I will still head over to the hill to meet my colleague, and we still discuss what we discuss. But many of the familiar places have disappeared, others have become louder and crazier over the years, and both of us wonder whether we should not change times and venues. Neither of us is fond of noise and public displays of stupidity.

[At the intersection of Broadway and Columbus many strange things may happen. The Tosca is currently being renovated, so we might sit upstairs at Vesuvio observing the suburban jugend acting out their fantasies in traffic or the high-legged trollops strolling up and down with purpose. Fog often swirls in from the avenues, further strengthening the perfume of a city perpetually in heat. It is colder at night than during the day, and in summer the days aren't very warm in any case. The tourists did not bring their sweaters, the smelly city is ours again.]

The Indian Restaurant no longer exists. Now on Saturday evenings I venture to a comfortable environment after dinner in Chinatown. Usually there are some friends there, and if there's no ball game on the idiot box many subjects can be discussed over cigars.
Well, their cigars; I'm still a pipe smoker.
And I would prefer a cup of tea.

[Dense fragrances from Brasil, Honduras, and Dominicana, faint hints of oaken casks and copper stills. Among the florals also the whisp of aged Virginia, or dark sooty Syrian. If it is early, the afternoon alcoholics may still be there, with their ciggies and depravity. But they will soon leave, they hear the siren sounds of pizza calling them. Occasionally refined young ladies stick their noses in, then scrunch up and persuade their young men to go elsewhere. It seems that adults are icky.]

Cigar smokers are mostly swillers of Bourbon and Brandy.
Pipe smokers are a very much more temperate lot.
And, unfortunately, somewhat alone.
North Beach is a dump.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older