A Contest Lost…An Effort Saved… A Soul Remembered


I wrote this as an entry in a “Write Like Herb Caen” contest. To those of you unfamiliar, Herb was an iconic columnist in the San Francisco Chronicle until he died in the late nineties… By the way… I didn’t win the contest. I carefully kept mine in the same word length format Herb used. The guy who won…his was considerably longer…
But I liked the flow of this. I thought it was too good to waste and present it here…

Baghdad By The Bay

A “Herb Caen Write Alike Contest” so called…

I dunno…is that even doable?

Writing like Herb would be seeing like Herb, smiling like Herb or sipping a Martini like Herb…
We can all see, smile and sip…but to write like a man who did it for a living, producing columns that read like quiet inner thoughts…
Tricky, indeed… for there’s more to it than clacking 3 dots…
Would you need an Olympia typewriter and carbon paper to do it right?

It takes the soul of a Poet mixed with the wit of a Punster, one who takes things seriously Only When Necessary…
The City Herb loved so much seems largely gone. Much of it floating away in the yellow rivers of uncaring urine generated by the uncared for yearning… The Homeless almost outnumbering the Tourists and the Tourists don’t tour like they used to…
The Chron he loved isn’t what it once was… but then is anything ever what it once was and was it even what we thought it was at the time?

The Mayor would have been a constant Source for items… but using Politicians for items was as easy for Herb as spotting is to a Seagull…
It would take a month of Write Like Caen to even touch the Washington crowd we have today both in sunlight and shadow… mostly in shadow…
But The Fog is still here…
And The Bridge…
And Alcatraz…
Write Like Caen…? You have to start there first…with the Fog…the Bridge and Alcatraz and from there try to find the city’s Heart, now broken and lonely, that Herb loved so much…
And Herb would find it if anyone could. And he would have told us our quiet, inner thoughts about Baghdad By the Bay…
…three dots and all…

Through another’s eyes…briefly…

A certain reviewer for the San Francisco Weekly, Casey Burchby, had arrived at the Fox Theater on a Wednesday night to see and write about a certain character making an appearance there.

For those of you who don’t know, there is a night club setting adjunct to the Fox Theater called the Club Fox and it was my habit to go there on Wednesday nights.

When I go to Club Fox, since it is a music venue I go in “full regalia” that being black boots, pants, a black vest, white shirt a very colorful cravat and my legendary black hat with its long tail feather from a Blue and Gold Macaw and a gold filled ebony walking stick.

Some nights I would go there with Kevin Jarvis and some nights I would go alone. On my ‘loner’ nights I liked to take a cab.

Imagine my surprise when the owner of Club Fox told me this Casey Burchby had written about me…

You wonder how you look to others…

Sometimes you find out…

There were no costumes, sadly, amid this Wednesday afterwork crowd. There was, however, a very tall older gentleman who alighted gingerly from the rear of a limousine in front of the theater, sporting a Western-themed mode of dress, a long salt-and-pepper beard, and an oversized black cowboy hat with a two-foot pheasant feather sprouting from its band. Sadly, my technical ineptitude with the camera means that there is no photographic evidence of this cane-wielding Deadwoodian character — but he lives in my memory like a mythic specter of the old West.