Monday, December 14, 2020

Sent December 9, 2020: UPPER MARKET RAMBLE


I decided to walk home from the Apple Store in Union Square because I had the time and needed the exercise. I wasn't really thinking about taking photos until I was stopped at the corner of Market and Taylor by a giant poster that jolted me.
The Last Ship. A little heavy-handed irony there. It was The Last Big Musical for me before live theater was obliterated by the pandemic. According to Wikipedia:
"The play was based on Sting's own childhood experiences, particularly his relationship with his father who had been an engineer in a family of shipwrights. It tells the story about community and the demise of the shipbuilding industry in Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, with the closure of the town's Swan Hunter shipyard.  "I did everything in my power to escape Wallsend... I became successful, but I owe a debt to that community. This play is me trying to honour that community, trying to pay back what
they gave me -- a sense of self but also the engine that allowed me to escape. That's the strange paradox. I love where I come from, I'm glad I escaped, at the same time I need to tell that story as a sort of 'soul debt'."

Here's a trailer for The Last ShipI got shivers watching the finale in the theater and in the few moments of the trailer. And I was thrilled that Sting was passionate about honoring WORKERS. But a big musical about a huge shipyard going out of business? That's a tough one to pull off. The music was lovely but not Stingily exciting, and they needed a great playwright to really wrestle with that story, to make a pretty dreary event compelling, surprising.

I think sometimes incredibly talented and successful artists, like Sting and Paul Simon (whose big Broadway project was a total catastrophe) go into theater not really understanding the challenge of bringing to life one long story that will absorb the audience for two hours. Sting and Paul (Paul especially) are brilliant storytellers. Each song is like faceted gem. Think of putting together a great big sprawling gorgeous necklace. It's a different skill. But how amazing that Sting had a dream of honoring his father and the people he worked with and the shipyard that was the life of the town! He went for it. He made it happen. He created a musical with a lot of integrity.

Just a few days ago, putting on a jacket. I found in the pocket my ticket to The Last Ship. I apologize for the photo being sideways. I cannot find the original photo to rotate. I know I shouldn't use a sideways photo but it just seemed amazing to me that, a few days after passing the poster on the side of the theater, I found the ticket.
If the photo was rotated, you would see that I'm sad. I try not to think too much about the disappearance of live theater. I don't want to go there.

As I turned the corner onto Market, I remembered that I have long wanted to ramble home on Upper Market, savoring and snapping the street art I had glimpsed from the Lyft I'd taken one day.


This wonderful long mural came next. I love the black-and-white photographish look. Anyone who takes a photo and turns it into a painting like this -- I'm happy.
You can see a sign for Merrill's Drug Store in the mural. I had a wonderful secretarial temp job on the fifth floor above Merrill's Drug Store. Standard Oil had rented all the upper floors of the building to bring in a whole bunch of computer people to transfer ALL THEIR BUSINESS from paper to digital. Can you imagine how long ago that was? I think 1978.

Anyhow, everyone who worked on my floor was a computer person. Except for me. I was a plain old secretary with an IBM Selectric. Remember the shiny little steel ball that whirled around, back and forth, to print the right letter? Yeah, it was pretty impressive. Everyone was in a three great big rooms, except for me. I was all alone in a little office. They had almost no work for me to do. I mean, maybe I typed three pages a day. Other days nothing. If they came in and I was reading the Chronicle, they would apologize for disturbing me.

My boss was in the Standard Oil building, far away. I only saw her the first day, when she showed me my office. She would phone me at 8am, to make sure I was on time, and at 4:45, to make sure I didn't leave early. But she NEVER phoned me during the workday.

I was in heaven. I took three-hour, four-hour lunches. I walked and walked and walked around Civic Center and Downtown. I discovered a great jazz piano player in the Atrium of the Marriott. He played from 12 to 4pm every weekday, and I was there for most of it. We became friends. I worked on plays. I chatted with friends on the phone. I wrote loooong letters to Carolyn, who lived in Ashland then, detailing the (I thought) fascinating ups and downs of my romantic life. As I said, I read the paper, luxuriating in having time to read EVERYTHING that caught my attention.

I was the only Downtown Working Girl in my group of dykes and fags. After work on Fridays, everyone would meet me at the Pied Piper bar in the Palace Hotel. The room was dominated by the huge and famous Maxfield Parish painting.
At that time, the painting hung in a very large room with many little tables. On Fridays, they offered a big complimentary buffet. Great art! Free food! And all for the price of a drink or two or three. What's not to like?

Life was glorious. Eventually, I realized I should apply for the permanent job I was filling as a temp. I would get paid a Kelly Girl wage to write my plays! When I went to apply, I found out they had just hired someone the day before.

Giant bummer. I was so upset that I got very sick with the flu. After I recovered, I went back to the office to clean out my personal belongings. When I walked in, the young woman who replaced me was standing at the window, staring at the brick wall across the way. She was clearly bored out of her mind and very unhappy. The perfect job for me was lonely hell for her.

Oh! Last Merrill's/Standard Oil story: Every morning in the elevator, there was an absolutely gorgeous woman going to work the same time as me. She was tall, with a mane of blond hair. She was dressed very well, in a business-like suit. She looked exactly like Joni Mitchell. This is a very nice thing to look exactly like. Every single morning I would covertly eye her and think, "I'm in an elevator with Joni Mitchell! Finally, I said to her, "Excuse me, you look exactly like Joni Mitchell!" She replied, "Yes! Everyone in the world must have a double. And Joni Mitchell's mine." Imagine the chutzpah to think Joni Mitchell was HER double instead of vice versa!

Well, Bloggelinis, a lot of stories and few photos -- one of which is sideways. I had no idea I would write so much. I can see the Market St. Ramble is going to be a series. All for now. Terry

No comments:

Post a Comment