By the Bay

Rome wasn’t built in a day. But on a day when nothing seems to have been built at all, the Roman comparison is not helpful. After all, who would want to build Rome these days? It really isn’t a model for much of anything modern. Its charms and virtues are ancient. As opposed to San Francisco which is rapidly getting out of the charm business and chucking virtue into the bay.

Which brings me to the one thing that was accomplished today. Perspective.

When I think of the term ‘adult education’ various images come to mind. Night school. Basket weaving. Great Short Stories That Don’t Threaten Or Challenge Anyone IIB. That sort of thing. Yet as one of my aging classmates put it as we staggered out of our morning course on modern urban political economics…it feels frighteningly like actually being back in university. I expect to begin waking up with paranoid nightmares about examinations I’ve forgotten or papers I have failed to write. Or failed period.

In any case, our lecturer from Sarah Lawrence seems to be on an extended sabbatical in Berkeley and, for whatever reason, teaches at San Francisco State University…or more precisely, teaches courses for old guys like me. Which is a miracle. I digress.

San Francisco is being stretched. Or maybe drawn and quartered. The information economy keeps gathering force. And people keep gathering by San Francisco Bay because they like being here. And in terms of business they like being where everyone else is. I am sure that somewhere in this town is an expert on Brazilian patent law…who is keeping close tabs on 5G mobile phone standards…and quietly consulting with Apple. And who has every intention of sticking around because the money is good, the nightlife is excellent and the views are stunning.

Because he and his mates spend as much at a Friday happy hour as Togo annually spends on road repair, the price of cocktails keeps going up. Yet so does bar attendance. Not to mention rents. And everything else. I found it sobering to learn that when the cast of a Broadway revival of ‘Porgy and Bess’ toured to San Francisco…they commuted to and from the Golden Gate Theatre from a motel in Walnut Creek, a suburb 25 miles east.

Before class this morning I had a quick espresso con panna on Market Street, historically San Francisco’s main drag. Surprisingly, I found myself chatting to a young Italian woman. And her brother. Both here on a language course, and setting out tomorrow for Yosemite. I was almost late for class. No time for chat, really. But I made time anyway. After all, they were Italians. I praised them for having such a wonderful nation. They seemed a bit shocked at the numbers of people sleeping rough in San Francisco. I apologized on behalf of everybody and everything. Businesses run this country, I tried to explain. Knowing that the real explanation was about to come in the classroom just down the street. Yosemite, I told them, was about as good as it gets. I turned my wheelchair on to ‘high’ and hit the academic road.

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