Memories of San Francisco

The early Summer Sun is flashes on City Hall’s golden dome — a beacon for the West — as I step inside, moving along the long marble staircase, in the heart of our secular Vatican where we paid $75 to be married all those years ago.

I pause next to the statue of Harvey Milk. We took photos here, Julia’s little boxy TLR making the whole thing so retro, and Sebastian’s weird digital camera pulling us down the Peninsula into the future. We were Bladerunner-Poets, beatniks from the future sent to kill each other.

It’s quiet inside. Saturday, skeleton crew. There’s the room where we said our vows. I did, I’d swear. Nothing’s changed, even with so many differences.

I walk back to the staircase and sit down, palms on the cool, wide steps. We went from here to Tommy’s Joynt, just up the road, for a beer and pickles reception. We could just about afford a cash bar and choice of hot meal from the line — most of our friends stuck to the free but technically illicit pickles. The bartender turned a blind eye, and even bought a round of well shots. Someone told him that this was his place in history, and he played along.

I pass it as I walk up the street. It’s nice that it’s still there — so much of San Francisco has gone missing. But I won’t go in — I don’t drink like that any more. The Sun is beating down — merciless. It’s quiet at this hour, even if the streets around here are never totally quiet. People are hung over, or hiding from the heat.

The Cable Car is waiting for me when I reach California. It was expensive then — thankfully we had Fast Passes; if we’d had to pay cash I suspect you’d refused my touristy obsession — too cool, too local, too Native to love the Cable Car the way I do. I don’t have a Fast Pass now, but I pay cash. How could it be even more expensive?

The little car is mostly empty. People have other things to do, I guess. It’s not the prettiest part of town, the west side of the Hills, but it doesn’t take long to get to the Fairmont. And then the Bay is there, Bridge and Tunnel still carrying a Jersey-like connotation. But it’s beautiful; it still takes my breath away.

I step off and walk up into Chinatown. You hated that I loved the tourist spots, no matter how long I lived in the City. It’s still tacky souvenirs, strange groceries, and mixed illegally imported goods — all designed to take the money of tourists who think they’re getting a deal. I’m thinking about Vesuvio, North Beach, long Summer nights at tired neighbourhood dives, late meals of ethnic food — Burmese, Ethiopian, Indian pizza, whatever was trendy.

The corner opposite Old Saint Mary’s is where it all came to an end. My Emperor left me here, a lifetime ago. You were always such a drama queen.

‘Why are you crying, Daddy?’

The face of a six year-old shouldn’t hold that kind of concern.

‘Daddy knew a man, darling. He died here.’