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...