Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything

Bride.Ru

Books Menu

Home
Author Catalog
Title Catalog
Sectioned Catalog

 

- The Californiacs - 3/4 -


Californian. I repeat that California throws her first tentacle into your heart as you stand there wondering whether you'll go to your hotel or, plunging headforemost into the crowds, swim with the current.

Imagine a city built not on seven but a hundred hills. I am sure there are no less than a hundred and probably there are more. Certainly I climbed a hundred. On three sides the sea laps the very hem of this city and on one side the forest reaches down to its very toes. That is, when all is said, the most marvelous thing about San Francisco - that the sea and forest come straight to its borders. And as, because of its peninsula situation they form the only roads out, sea and forest are integral parts of the city life. It accounts for the fact that you see no city pallor in the faces on the streets and perhaps for the fact that you see so little unhappiness on them. On Sundays and holidays, crowds pour across the bay all day long and then, loaded with flowers and greens, pour back all the evening long. As for flowers and greens, the hotels, shops, cafes, the little hole-in-the-wall restaurants are full of them. They are so cheap on the streets that everybody wears them. Everybody seems to play as much as possible out of doors. Everybody seems to sleep out of doors. Everybody has just come from a hike or is just going off on one. Imagine a climate rainless three-quarters of the year, which permits the workingman to tramp all through his vacation with the impedimenta only of a blanket, moneyless if he will, but with the certainty always that the orchards and gardens will provide-him with food.

Through the city runs one central hill-spine. From this crest, by day, you look on one side across the bay with its three beautiful islands, bare Yerba Buena, jeweled Alcatraz and softly-fluted Angel Island, all seemingly adrift in the blue waters, to Marin county. The waters of the bay are as smooth as satin, as blue as the sky, and they are slashed in every direction with the silver wakes left by numberless ferryboats. Those ferryboats, by the way, are extremely graceful; they look like white peacocks dragging enormous white-feather tails. By night the bay view from the central hill-spine shows the cities of Berkeley and Oakland like enormous planes of crystal tilted against the distance, the ferryboats illuminated but still peacock-shaped, floating on the black waters like monster toys of Venetian glass. In the background, rising from low hills, peaks the blue triangle of Mt. Diablo. In the foreground reposes Tamalpais - a mountain shaped in the figure of a woman-lying prone. The wooded slopes of Tamalpais form the nearest big playground for San Franciscans - and Tamalpais is to the San Franciscan what Fujiyama is to the Japanese. Would that I had space to tell here of the time when their mountain caught fire and thousands - men, women and children - turned out to save it! Everybody helped who could. Even the bakers of San Francisco worked all night and without pay to make bread for the fire-fighters.

By day, on the city side of the crest, you catch glimpses of other hills, covered for the most part with buildings, like lustrous pearl cubes; for San Francisco is a pearl-gray city. At night you can look straight down the side streets to Market street on a series of illuminated restaurant signs which project over the sidewalk at right angles to the buildings. It is as though a colossal golden stairway tempted your foot.

Perhaps after all the most breath taking quality about San Francisco is these unexpected glimpses that you are always getting of beautiful hill-heights and beautiful valley-depths. Sunset skies like aerial banners flare gold and crimson on the tops of those hills. City lights, like nests of diamonds, glitter and glisten in the depths of those valleys. Then the fogs! I have stood at my window at night and watched the ragged armies of the air drift in from the bay and take possession of the whole city. Such fogs. Not distilled from pea soup like the London fogs; moist air-gauzes rather, pearl-touched and glimmering; so thick sometimes that it is as though the world had veiled herself in mourning, so thin often that the stars shine through with a delicate muffled lustre. By day, even in the full golden sunshine of California, the view from the hills shows a scene touched here and there with fog.

As for the hills themselves, steep as they are, street cars go up and down them. What is more extraordinary, so do automobiles. The hill streets are cobbled commonly; but often, for the better convenience of vehicles, there is a central path of asphalt, smoothly finished. I have seen those asphalt planes by day when a flood, first of rain and then of sun, turned them to rivers of molten silver; I have seen them by night when an automobile, standing at the hilltop and pouring its light over them, turned them to rivers of molten gold.

Within walking distance of the ferry is the heart of the city. Here are the newspaper buildings, many big and little hotels, numberless restaurants, the theatres and the shopping district. The region about Union Square, Geary street, Grant Avenue, Post and Sutter streets, is a busy and attractive area. You could live in San Francisco for a month and ask no greater entertainment than walking through it. Beyond are various foreign quarters and districts inevitably growing colder and more residential in aspect as they get farther away from the city heart. Beyond the heights where one catches glimpses of the ocean, the city slopes to abrupt cliffs along the outer harbor, and here are mansions whose windy gardens overhang the surf. Beyond Market street is the area described in the phrase, "south of the slot". Superficially drab and gray in aspect, it has been celebrated again and again in song and story. From this region have come the majority of San Francisco's champion athletes. Near here beats the red heart of the labor world. And not far off still stands that exquisite gem of Spanish catholicism - Mission Dolores.

Here and there - and it is a little like meeting a ghost in a crowded street - through all the beauty and freshness of the new city project the bones of the old: the lofty ruins, ivy-hung, of a huge Nob Hill Palace here; the mere foundation, bush-encircled, of a big old family mansion there; elaborate rusty fences of Mid-Victorian iron which enclose nothing; wide low steps of Mid-Victorian marble which lead nowhere. The San Franciscan speaks always with a tender, regretful affection of that dead city, but, as is natural, he speaks of it less and less. For myself, I am glad now that I never saw the city that was; for I can love the city that is with no arriere pensee.

They serve, however - those bones of a dead past - to remind the stranger of a marvelous rebuilding feat, to accent the virility and vitality, the courage and enterprise of a people who, before a half decade had passed, had eliminated almost every trace of the greatest disaster of modern time.

Perhaps, after the beauty of its situation, the stranger is most struck with the picturesqueness given to the city by its cosmopolitan atmosphere. For San Francisco, serving as one of the two main great gateways to an enormous country, a front entrance to America from the Orient, a back entrance from Europe and a side entrance from South America, standing halfway between tropics and polar regions, a great port of the greatest ocean in the world, becomes naturally one of the world's main caravanseries, a meeting place of nations.

Chinatown is not far off from the heart of the city. And Chinatown pervades San Francisco. It is as though it distilled some faint oriental perfume with which constantly it suffuses the air. You meet the Chinese everywhere. The men differ in no wise from the men with whom the smaller Chinatowns of the East have acquainted us. The women make the streets exotic. Little, slim-limbed creatures, amber-skinned, jewel-eyed, dressed in silk of black or pastel colors, loosely coated and comfortably trousered, their jet-black shining hair filled with ornaments, they go about in groups which include old women and young matrons, half-grown girls slender as forsythia branches, babies arrayed like princes. You are likely to meet groups of Hindus, picturesquely turbaned, coffee-brown in color, slight-figured, straight-featured, black-bearded. You see Japanese and Filipinos. And as for Latins - French, Italians and Spanish flood the city. There are eight thousand Montenegrins alone in California. I never suspected there were eight thousand in Montenegro. And our own continent contributes Canadians, Mexicans, citizens from every State in the Union. In addition, you run everywhere into soldiers and sailors. The bits of talk you overhear in the street are so exciting that you become a professional eavesdropper, strong-languaged, picturesquely slangy, pungent narrative. Sometimes the speaker has come up from Arizona, or New Mexico or Texas, sometimes down from Alaska, Washington or Oregon, sometimes across from Nevada or Montana or Wyoming. And with many of them - at least with those that live west of the rocky mountains - San Francisco is always (and I never failed to respond to the thrill of it) "the city". Not a city or any city, but the city - as though there were no other city on the face of the earth.

All this alien picturesqueness adds enormously of course to the San Franciscan's native picturesqueness. Not that the Californian needs adventitious aid in this matter. Indeed this cosmopolitanism of atmosphere serves best as a background, these alien types as a foil, for the native-born. For the Californians are a comely people. No traveler has failed - at least no man has failed - to pay tribute in passing to the Californian women. And they are beautiful. In that climate which produces bigness in everything, they grow to heroic size. And as a result of a life, inevitably open-air in an atmosphere always fog-touched, they have eyes of a notable limpidity and complexions of a striking vividness. To walk through that limited area which is the city's heart - especially when the theatres are letting out - is to come on beauty not in one pretty girl at a time, nor in pairs and trios, nor by scores and dozens; it is to see it in battalias and acres, and all of them meeting your eyes with the frank open gaze of the West. San Francisco is, I fancy, the only city on the globe where any musical comedy audience is always more beautiful than any musical comedy chorus. They are not only beautiful - they are magnificent.

Watch in the Admission Day parade for the Native Daughters of the Golden West - stalwart, stunning young giantesses marching with a splendid carriage and a superb poise - they seem like a new race of women.

And the climate being of such kind that, for three-quarters of the year you can count on unvarying sunny weather, the women dress on the streets with nothing short of gorgeousness. All the colors that the rainbow knows and a few that it has never seen, appear here. And worn with such chic, such verve! Not even in Paris, where may appear a more conventional smartness, is sartorial picturesqueness carried off with such an air of authority. Polaire, who was advertised as the ugliest woman in the world, should have made a fortune in California. For the Californian does not really know what female ugliness is. I have a theory that the California men cannot quite appreciate the beauty of their women. They take beauty for granted; they have never seen anything else. Nevertheless, that beauty and that dash constitute a menace. A city ordinance compels traffic policemen to wear smoked glasses, and car conductors and chauffeurs, blinders. Go West, young man!

But everybody celebrates the beauty of the Californian woman. Probably that is because heretofore "everybody" has been masculine. He has been so busy looking at the California woman that he hasn't realized yet that there's a male of the species. The California man, I sing.

It is curious what a difference of opinion there is in regard to him. I have heard Californiacs say in their one moment of humility, "Why is it, when we turn out such magnificent women, that our men are so undersized?" Now I know nothing about average male heights and weights. I have never seen any comparative statistics. I can say only that the average Californian seems bigger than the average man. And often in


The Californiacs - 3/4

Previous Page     Next Page

  1    2    3    4 

Schulers Books Home



 Games Menu

Home
Balls
Battleship
Buzzy
Dice Poker
Memory
Mine
Peg
Poker
Tetris
Tic Tac Toe

Google
 
Web schulers.com
 

Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything