Day 143: Frisco Disco

No visit to California would be complete without a visit to San Francisco. Laetitia took her group across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, then to Muir Woods to marvel at the sense of peace and harmony one gets when standing in silence under the towering redwoods. They rode cable cars, went to the Presidio, and, in the late afternoon, had drinks at a place on Fishermen’s Wharf overlooking San Francisco Bay.

In Laetitia’s group was a budding novelist whose newly chosen pen name was Cora Charles. She admired Dashiell Hammett’s Maltese Falcon, which is set in San Francisco, but thought it needed a sequel. Hammett, a former Pinkerton detective, was a member of the “hard-boiled” school of detective fiction that flourished from the 1920s through the 1940s. Cora was collecting material for her soon-to-be bestseller.

At this point it seemed people were beginning to view Laetitia as someone with literary expertise and soliciting her advice about writing. It was a mistake, of course, but what could Laetitia do? Cora gave Laetitia what she had written so far for review and comment. It was less than one page, so Laetitia decided to read it.

“Behind the pebbled glass window that advertised his name and business in peeling gold letters, Samuel Spade shook a line of Bull Durham into a cigarette-paper trough, wet the edge with his tongue, rolled and sealed the paper, twisted its ends, lit it, blew a smoke ring, and let it dangle from his lips as he eyed the bundle wrapped in yellowed newsprint that Brigid O’Shaughnessy clutched like a newborn baby. She related—in the voice of a mature woman, but not entirely lacking in schoolgirl innocence—how she had finished her sentence in San Quentin, wormed her way into Kemidov’s household as a maid, purloined the Maltese falcon, made a harrowing escape across Europe pursued by Kemidov henchmen, and hidden out in San Francisco until yesterday, when the sight of a Kemidov gunsel nosing around her neighborhood suddenly reminded her that he, Sam, was the only man she had ever loved. Oozing charm and concern, Spade confessed that he’d had more than a few bad nights since he sent her over; that Miles Archer would have died eventually anyway; and that if she’d cut him in for half of the fortune, they could escape to a comfortable retirement in South America. She agreed, but when he insisted—with the professed interest in ensuring its safety while she went to pack her things, that she give him the bird—she did exactly that, as she walked out of his office, bundle in hand, to seek love and protection elsewhere.”

Laetitia’s advice was, “You might try to drag the story out a little instead of trying to tell it all in one paragraph. I doubt that there is much market of a sequel of less than one page. Terse is great, but there are limits.”

Fortunately, the maitre’ d arrived and told Laetitia that her group’s table was ready, so she didn’t need to pursue the conversation any further. During dinner she heard a story about a local resident named Max that provided the day’s limerick.

After drinking all night in a bar
Max sought love in locations bizarre
‘Neath the Bay Bridge in Frisco
In the loo of a disco
And atop a Powell Street cable car.

Day 142: Flutist in Flagrante

Laetitia chose the city of Modesto as the next stop on the tour, primarily because it is the hometown of George Lucas. Lucas is perhaps best known for his Star Wars and Indiana Jones films, but Laetitia’s favorite was American Graffiti. It is a nostalgic “coming of age” film, ostensibly set in 1962 in Modesto, though actually filmed in Petaluma. It describes an era when youth in their late teens spent most of their evenings cruising the town in “boss” cars, long before the specter of global warming tinged such activities with guilt. Laetitia thought it had a great cast, although most of her friends viewed those actors as “geezers.”

They went to the Modesto Graffiti Museum and in the evening went to dinner before attending a performance of the Modesto Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra was founded in 1931, when Modesto had only 17,000 residents, making it the smallest town in the United States at the time to have a symphony orchestra. Their restaurant was near the performance hall, and while dining Laetitia overheard a conversation among some musicians at a nearby table about some goings on that started in the unoccupied green room. The conversation stimulated the day’s limerick.

A flutist who was caught in flagrante
As he tupped a cute cellist andante
Changed his tempo to presto
When chased through Modesto
By her husband in his Escalante.

Day 141: Bleezin’ Season

As she walked down Raglan Road toward the Emerald Victorian, Laetitia decided it was time for another day off. She had met some friends last evening at one of Hibernia’s Irish pubs to enjoy a ceili band. The band had a fine female vocalist who sang, among a wide variety of other songs, an excellent rendition of Mickey’s Warning. Both the Scots and the Irish claim the song, which is a traditional dark ballad about an unfortunate marriage and a battered wife who rebels in her own way. The first verse goes:

Friends, I have a sad story, a very sad story to tell
I married a man for his money, and he’s worse than the devil himself
So I’ll go and I’ll get blue bleezin’ blind drunk, just to give Mickey a warning
And then just for spite, I’ll stay home all night, and come rolling home drunk in the morning.

It wasn’t clear whether the song had anything to do with it, but shortly thereafter, when the band took a break, a couple who had had a great deal to drink had a spat, that Laetitia wrote up as the limerick of the day.

When Nell’s husband called her a prude
She suddenly stripped herself nude
And told saucy fables
While dancing on tables
And generally acting quite lewd.

Day 140: Denture Adventure

The next stop on Laetitia’s tour of the western United States was in California. She and her group hiked among the cinder cones and ancient lava and pumice fields of Lava Beds National Monument, a relic of California’s volcanic past. They then stopped at Redwood National Park for more hiking amidst the tranquil beauty of the tall trees. That evening they stayed in Big Bar.

At dinner that evening, Laetitia overheard two ladies talking about an older fellow of their acquaintance named Morgan. He dressed well, was a good conversationalist, and was generous with his money. He was often seen with ladies, but never the same one. One woman confided to the other that she had gone out with Morgan and knew the reason for all the one-night stands.

As she thought about it, it occurred to Laetitia how important eavesdropping was in her newfound profession as a Mind’s Eye Limerick tour guide. She imagined her supervisor back at Mind’s Eye headquarters, whoever and wherever that was, using phrases like, “eavesdrops well,” “pumps locals well for gossip,” and carouses well with bartenders,” in her evaluation.

The ladies’ conversation provided the limerick of the day.

When old Morgan, who lived in Big Bar
Courted ladies he never got far
It would seem that each date
Was going first rate
‘Til his dentures went into the jar.