Friday, November 7, 2008

Open your Golden Gate

It is about 8am on a bright Tuesday morning, April 18th, 2006, and I am on my way to work on San Francisco's F line streetcar, a restored wooden-bodied affair that originally served Milan in the 1930s. The train has stopped at 5th and Market, and the conductor has turned off the power and gotten out of his seat. When conductors in San Francisco do this, especially on one of the beautifully-restored but mechanically-problematic streetcars, it means a long delay -- riders will mutter annoyances and file out the doors. On this car the exits are of course marked with only the original signs: "Uscita".

But today everyone remains seated, and silent. That's because today is April 18th. The driver is talking to us. "Ladies and Gentlemen, one hundred years ago today, the Great Earthquake reduced Market Street to rubble, and fire destroyed most of the City of San Francisco." He paused for a moment. "Here, at 5th and Market, many people died by fire at the Windsor Hotel."

At the back of the train, a drag queen, who I only now noticed, stood up and began to sing:
It only takes a tiny corner of
This great big world to make the place we love ...
Quicker than you would think, the rest of the streetcar, mostly in business clothes, seated, shyly smiling to one another, joins in. Everyone knows the words:
My home upon the hill, I find I love you still,
I've been away, but now I'm back to tell you,

San Francisco, open your Golden Gate
You'll let nobody wait outside your door
San Francisco, here is your wanderin' one
Saying I'll wander no more.

Other places only make me love you best
Tell me you're the one in all the golden west
San Francisco, I'm coming home again
Never to roam again...

San Francisco, right when I arrive
I really come alive...
And you will laugh to see me,
Perpendicular, hanging on a cable car

San Francisco, let me beat my feet
Up and down Market Street
I'm gonna climb Nob Hill, just to watch it get dark
From The Top of the Mark

There's Brooklyn Bridge, London Bridge,
And the Bridge of San Louis Rey
But the only bridge, that's a real gone bridge,
Is the bridge accross the bay

San Francisco, I'm coming home again,
Never to roam again, by gum
San Francisco, I don't mean Frisco
San Francisco, here I come!
By the end of the song, a full chorus.
And the streetcar is on its way.

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