Stop The World ! I Wanna Get Off !

| April 10, 2011 | Comments (4)

My recent visit to San Francisco was a sad journey. I made the trip to say goodbye to dear  friends who are sick and old.  I felt their time was near and I did the needful by seeing them one last time. Our moments together were  bitter sweet.  But there were happier or at least more diverting aspects to the trip.

One  evening around dinner time in North Beach, which is the old Italian section of San Francisco, we came across a restaurant that spilled out onto the sidewalk over-looking Washington Park and the Cathedral.  It had inviting tables set with big white napkins and heavy old flatware. We inquired about  table availability and were told that a party of four had booked ahead of us but had not shown up; if they didn’t appear in five minutes, the capo said, the table was ours. ” You snooze, you lose!”, he announced. When I said that must be an old Italian proverb, he laughed and iterated, “Dormi, perdi !”

No sooner were we  seated than the party of four – actually six – arrived. They alighted from two black limos well-attended by drivers and flunkies, opening doors, bowing and scraping. All middle-aged men , well-tailored, florid and well-fed, they were straight off the set of  Sopranos or the Godfather.

The restaurant capo somehow found them a table and squeezed it in next to us. I found myself literally brushing elbows with a Don who conversed with his cohorts  in a mixture of guttural Sicilian and New Jersey American. Over the next hour, a collection of supplicants visited their table while the Dons held court amid much clinking of glasses, seemingly making “decisions”  on each “case” before them, then dismissing the pleader with a wave of a much ringed, manicured hand.  I was mesmerized by the shine of  clear polish on the nails of their hirsute, waving pinkies, highlighted by the  glint of street lamps and veiled in a blue haze of cheap cigar smoke.

At one point a toothsome, mini-skirted bimbo walked by with her  golden retriever. By chance both my neighbor, the Don, and I were savoring pieces of foccaccio dipped in olive oil. When I offered  the doggie a treat, the Don’s inner-retriever surfaced and he began feeding the dog one piece of  bread after the other.  A rapport crackled between the three of us – dog, Don and myself- and between barks, underworld patois and my all purpose response of  “Yes, yes!” which I use when I don’t understand what is being said, we became fast friends. As we departed the Don looked up at me and offering his beefy hand, came out with one of the best one-liners I’ve heard:  “I’m in construction.”  What else, I thought!

Back in New York, I headed to the gym for an “executive work-out”,  steam room and skip the exercise. While taking the vapors I listened in on a conversation between two latte liberal lawyers who were discussing same-sex marriage and gay parenting. They allowed that gays had the right to marry just like anybody else and that perhaps homosexuals could be good parents. The only problem was, they said,  there was a risk that the kids might end up gay! I walked out of the steam bath and turned the temperature thermostat up to 200 degrees F wishing that I were back in San Francisco with my Don friends. The Dons surely were queer-haters, but at least you knew where you stood with them. Never trust a New York City latte liberal.

My second jolt of the day occurred when I met an old friend whom I had not seen since childhood. We had a nice reunion and, unlike many unsuccessful get-togethers after decades of hiatus, we actually had lots to talk about and relate to. Then he turned to the topic of his life mate whom he described as a fantastic woman. He said she was an adherent of the Bahai faith.

When I got home I did a google and was glad to see that the Bahais emphasized the spiritual unity of all mankind; it was also good to know that they believed that there was a God who was all-loving and all-powerful.

Then the Wikipedia text got a bit bumpy. It seems the Bahais believe that homosexuality is an abnormaltiy, a “great problem” for people  “so afflicted.” However… we are told that the condition of homosexuality is not hopeless because, according to the Bahais, it can be cured by medical treatment.

Folks….I’m planning a holiday, but I think I’m gonna change my ticket and re-route to Bali Hai, that nice place they sung about in “South Pacific.” At least if I need medical treatment, it can be on the beach under the shade of a palm tree ! And maybe the natives will be  friendly…and restless !

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Comments (4)

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  1. Anne (Freimuth) Statland says:

    Thanks for this great story — I really enjoyed it. I will read your (I’ll call it a) blog going backwards. I’m sure your stories will keep me entertained. Thanks Sam — hope you are well.

  2. Roger Cranse says:

    Sam, great to hear about SF and your connection to olive oil and the dons. I have fond memories also of an outdoor table in North Beach. And of these words:

    Bali Ha`i will whisper
    In the wind of the sea:
    “Here am I, your special island!
    Come to me, come to me!”


  3. Tuesday Rose says:

    All religious texts, including those of Baha’i Faith, have flaws and inaccuracies.
    A medical approach and prayers, set forth in the Baha’i Law, may work well for perverts and ‘bohemians’ with genetic disorders, but certainly not for those who become homosexuals by the force of circumstances, i.e. culture, customs, inaccessibility of women and poverty. However, just because there are discrepancies in the Holy Scriptures, we should not run away from the spiritual teachings and be indifferent to religion altogether. Instead, we should embrace God’s precepts – compassion, forgiveness, kindness and goodness – and live by them. Being a woman of faith, I will continue to pray for the man who has wandered away like a lost sheep somewhere in Bali Hai!

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