July 2009


About 1980 a couple of guys named Ditmar and Wolfgang came to San Francisco from Munich, introduced themselves as Didi and Waggi, and established The German Oak on Market Street between Noe and Sanchez. It became a very popular restaurant owing to their hard work, the good food, the reasonable prices, the gemutlichkeit, and the excellent wait staff – the two stars of which were Richard, whose last day at the Oak ended, alas, when a couple of large men in shiny black shoes dropped by with the terrible news that according to their records he had died twenty-five years earlier at the age of two in Los Angeles, and Susie.

Susie was about thirty, the daughter of German immigrants, born here and completely bilingual. She was also very pretty, completely charming, and totally on top of any situation that might come up.

Like that time one evening when the Health Inspector paid an unannounced visit. As soon as one of the somewhat over-indulged patrons at the bar realized who the visitor was, he bristled and stood, about to “protect” the establishment. Susie picked up on this instantly, and before anyone else could move, she swooped in and deftly distracted our would-be savior, thus preventing a scene.

I saw her do this sort of thing routinely. Her radar covered the whole restaurant, and she was never at a loss.

But then, toward the end of the restaurant’s run, she announced that she was going to be married, not to anyone we knew but rather to this mystery boyfriend named Philip no one had seen and she hadn’t even mentioned having. A couple of weeks later, she announced that they were having a simple civil ceremony at City Hall followed by a party at her house, where we could all meet Philip.

So on the happy evening Allen and I wrapped our presents and walked over to Susie’s house.

She and Philip opened the door.

” Philip!” I shrieked.

” Aarrgh!” squealed Philip.

“Well,” observed Allen to Susie, “I see your husband knows my husband.”

Susie, on the other hand, was speechless.

And OK, it wasn’t as bad as it looked because Philip and i had met a year or so earlier and done some pawing around, but negotiations over who was getting what broke down before any real sex occurred.

Finally, since we’re in an Amsterdammy mood after that Morcky shot, how ’bout this San Francisco version of a gevelsteen i spotted on 11th Street between Market and Mission. A little harder to read than most, but at least it’s in English:

American gevelsteen

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Body Language

I have written on several occasions about how the ability to read the body language of others is a skill that improves with age. And i’ve been less than modest in describing my own ability at this. Yesterday i had an enlightening experience.

I had gone out shopping, as usual on the Segway, and had stopped first at Costco and then at Rainbow, completely filling my pack and two shopping bags suspended from the handlebars, so i was heavily laden. But on the way home i realized that i needed coffee and could treat myself to a bag of the good stuff at Four Barrel on Valencia.

As i approached the curb i briefly considered jumping it since it wasn’t particularly high and was clearly doable, but before i’d even slowed down much i realized in a spasm of prudence that i was a little too heavily burdened to try it, especially with heavy bags swinging from the handlebars and destabilizing me. So i stopped in front of the curb. And as i was levering the Segway onto the sidewalk, a young employee having a cigarette in front of the store queried, “Didn’t wanta jump it?”

He’d read me like a book, so i immediately confessed and we got a good laugh over it.

Oh, yes. To celebrate my 68th birthday i Segwayed out this noon to Raja for some curried spinach and naan, and what did i discover but a Morcky opus right here in San Francisco that had been there on Fillmore off Haight since sometime last fall. I wrote about Morcky Boy, as he then styled himself, in my 2004 Amsterdam tale Amsterdam by Foot, which was before anybody else had covered him on the Internet. By the following year, he was all over it and even had his own site. Now he’s intercontinental…and getting better.


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