Friday, May 22, 2009

parks and rec...

I crashed at my folks' last night, basking in the fact that they're in New York but seem to have left me presents as some kind of payment for getting the paper and watering the plants.
Brie, Diet Coke and crumpets ordered from the internet?
Oh yes, this is for me.
My childhood home is just up the hill from my office, meaning I crash here often, but everytime I'm back in this joint, I notice another clue of my father's absolute love of living in a small town. It's too goddamn cute not to talk about.
My dad grew up in the Marina District of San Francisco long before it became the gigantic Pottery Barn/Peet's/Matrix it is now. His house was on Francisco Street, the same house his grandparents bought brand new, the same living room his father proposed to his mother in, the same steps down which my great-grandfather, a city sanitation worker, tossed an intruder he found hiding under his bed in the middle of the night (awesome.)
I guess back then, in the 50's and 60's, the Marina was a lot more like a small town than a douchey pitstop in between the frat house and a conviction for date rape. My dad knew everyone in the neighborhood, including some creepy dude known as the "Popcorn Man." I've never really gotten the full story on the Popcorn Man but dad and his friends maintain, "No, no, Bethy! He wasn't creepy. He was great! He built this cart and he sold..."
"Yeah, popcorn. I got it. Sounds fishy."
My dad's dad was a cop which meant he rode Muni for free. I guess if shit went down on the bus, my grandfather had to leap into action. Thus cops got gratis Muni rides all over town. My grandfather would step onto the bus, flash his badge and the driver would nod him on. Then my little dad would follow him onto the bus, flash his toy badge and maintaining his same, stoic stare, the driver would nod him on.
This is the kind of stuff my dad loves about small towns. And since I can't really see some jaded muni driver doing something so sweet in between running over pedestrians and taking up two lanes on traffic, it makes sense my folks decided to move to Mill Valley after they got married.
My dad's a joiner. If you have a club, organization or enameled lapel pin one can only get by volunteering somewhere, my dad wants to talk to you, get involved and eventually work his way up the ranks of your Grand Poobah Society to co-chair the "Beautify Main Street" Project of 2010.
This small town life he's carved out for himself really worked out. He even got to be Mayor of the small town for awhile. And trust me, you have never seen a man happier than my dad riding in the 1988 Mill Valley Memorial Day Parade with a hand-drawn, scented-marker "Mayor Dick Spotswood" sign hanging from the side of his friend's borrowed convertible. Why Gavin never gets this excited, I'll never understand. My dad drives around town pointing out patches of street."That used to be a pothole!"
This morning, as I sipped purloined coffee from a Mill Valley Community Center mug, enjoyed a crumpet and watched the West Wing, I noticed a printed performance program on the kitchen counter. I'd heard my dad mention the event, but never really paid attention. Reading the program, I finally got what he was so thrilled about. My dad was the Master of Ceremonies at the Las Gallinas Valley Sanitary District Non-Marching Band 51st Annual Spring Concert.
I smiled at the program as his headshot smiled back at me. "Oh Dad." I thought."You're such a weirdo."
And then I remembered what I'd agreed to do this weekend.
Should you be attending the 2009 Mill Valley Memorial Day Parade, swing by the after-parade festival at the Mill Valley Community Center where I'll be selling Marin Brew Co. beer out of a tent to benefit my day job.
Hey, my dad's out of town. Someone's got to represent...


Greg said...

What a wonderful story of local life in the San Francisco Of The Then...this was a nice little pick me up on an otherwise busy day.

Oh and this line made me laugh coffee all over the screen: "I guess back then, in the 50's and 60's, the Marina was a lot more like a small town than a douchey pitstop in between the frat house and a conviction for date rape."

kwk said...

This Marina Bashing seems strange: you're aware that Marin County is the Marina of the whole Bay Area and that Mill Valley is the Marina of Marin.

Way back when the folks in the Homestead Valley section (where Laverne makes that hairpin loop around to Montford) wanted to incorporate separate from the Throckmorton/Blithedale set that was written about in Cyra McFadden's "Serial". They didn't want to be associated with those folk.

Remember the movie opening? Martin Mull pedaling his bicycle from MV to Sausalito to catch the ferry. Green and sustainable in 1977!

The PacSun interviewed McFadden at the 30-year anniversary of her book. She had recently gone downtown and noted that both sides of Throckmorton were bumper to bumper SUVs, not one passenger car in sight.

Sounds like it could just as easily be Chestnut St.

Big Jer! said...

Is Dad the third kid from the right?!

Another funny touching story!
Thanks and Have a great weekend!

Spots said...

@Greg: Thanks!

@kwk: I see your point, I guess. I suppose my horribly-made point was that the Mill Valley I grew up in was the Chestnut Street my dad grew up in. And I guess another point to be made is that we both drive "passenger" cars, we both actively volunteer in Mill Valley to keep it the small town vibe we adore so much/still try and enjoy and we both write about what we love so that anonymous strangers can comment and tell us how fuckin' wrong we are all the time. As for my Marina bashing, it's really half-assed. I spent 3 mornings a week flying kites with my grandfather on the Marina Green, my best friend Kate (the daughter of one of the guys in that photo) growing up 3 blocks away on North Point.

@ big jer: I love you! You are SO right. That's my dad! I can't believe you figured it out!

Anonymous said...

Way to kill the sweet, nostalgic vibe, kwk.
I loved this post! It's the perfect Friday post! And I'll swing by your beer booth and introduce myself. I know how much fun you've made of the pure-bred dogs and SUV's of Marin. I get it, Spots. Don't let someone who feels the need to wander the internet searching for places to interject their opinion tick you off. The rest of us just enjoy the history and obvious affection you have for your dad.
Also, break a leg with Opening Day this weekend on top of Mt. Tam!!!!!

jfbf said...

Hi Beth,
Just a random Friday comment to say that I read your blog all the time, and your blogs on SF Gate and even sometimes the Appeal... and I love your stories & your writing, and appreciate you sharing so much of the fun stuff - and the kind of shitty stuff - with random strangers like me. A totally unnecessary comment, I suppose, but this post was sweet - I grew up in Berkeley, and it felt like a small town to me then. Have fun this weekend! I'm looking forward to enjoying the results of your day job on an upcoming weekend...

Spots said...

@anonymous: Thanks, hon!

@jfbf: How sweet! Thanks! Please come say hi. I'll be at every show, usually in the T-Shirt booth. Just ask for me and someone'll come find me.

Kneecoalie said...

Third from the right was my guess too - you both have the smile!

jmc53 said...

Beth- Very good story, grew up in a small town, and miss it.

I have an unrelated question, what happened to picture, quote and favorite on the right of this blog?

Spots said...

@ Kneecoalie: Awww, thanks!

@jmc53: What do you mean? Looks the same to me...

Natalie said...

What a nice story - I love your writing. The comment about the Marina made me laugh out loud. Your description was perfect.