A BOWLER’S LAMENT

Pundits have recently made the point that decline of bowling leagues is a symptom of the general decay of civic life in America.

They may be right, but there are other signs of social pathology to be found in the bowling alleys that are sadder yet. One of them bit me just the other day.

I went bowling, for the first time in forever, at a cozy little 12 lane alley in the Presidio. The place was almost deserted that mid-week afternoon, just a mom with 4 or 5 kids screaming it up on lane one, and me, on lane nine. read more

ARE YOU A TRUE SAN FRANCISCAN?

I was rummaging through some old boxes in the garage the other day, trying to get rid of stuff I couldn’t bear to part with when I moved into this house 7 years ago, but which hasn’t seen the light of day since, when it hit me. I’ve lived in San Francisco for 12 years now, longer than in any other place.

So I guess that makes me a San Franciscan, right?

Well, that depends upon whom you ask. As far as some folks are concerned, if your great-grandparents didn’t help put out the fires back in aught-six, you’re a tourist. read more

BASEBALL AT THE MILLENNIUM

Baseball, the game that has had more lives than Shirley MacLaine, is back.

As we in San Francisco get ready to celebrate the last hurrah of the blow-hole by the bay, Candlestick Park (Yes, Candlestick. No parvenu high-tech company paid your humble reporter 500 grand to rewrite his memories), where smoking is illegal but hypothermia is free, the nation turns its attentions to the battered old game that enjoyed such a spectacular renaissance in 1998.

This comeback is popularly attributed to the stellar achievements of Messrs. McGwire and Sosa, Ripken and Wells, not to mention those amazin’ Yanks who marched through the rest of the league like Sherman through Georgia. read more

OLD FOLKS HAVE ALL THE FUN

I was down in Pacifica the other day, looking at the big winter surf, when I spotted an old guy with a metal detector sweeping the beach, swinging that hoop around like an electronic divining rod. He had the headphones stuck in his hairy ears, listening blissfully for the magical music of buried treasure. He never found so much as a pop-top while I was watching, but that didn’t seem to bother him—he just kept on scanning.

I defy you to find me anyone under fifty—hell, make that sixty—who would be caught dead wearing that dorky apparatus in broad daylight in front of God and the world, yet that old guy went along happy and heedless as a naked baby playing in the sand. read more

THE SIXTIES REDUX

Have you noticed the wave of ‘60s nostalgia washing over your TV screen lately? It seems that pivotal decade has gone from being a collective embarrassment to a cause célèbre almost overnight. Yet it’s been a long time coming.

Usually these cultural recyclings take about twenty years. We’ve already had our 70’s rehash: from the Brady Bunch sequels to a geriatric KISS at the Superbowl to a vapid new TV show that does for the decade what Ozzie and Harriet did for the ‘50s. We’ve even started back on the 80’s, Adam Sandler’s semi-amusing “The Wedding Singer” for example. But until now the ‘60s have been notably absent in popular culture. The obvious question is why now? Why, after all these years, are the ‘60s suddenly in such good odor? read more

BARBARA GRIFFITH

All my life I’ve avoided funerals like they were catching. I never got much solace from them, and I didn’t think my absence disrespected the principal, the dead being rather indifferent on the subject.

I never realized the power of publicly contemplating a life well-lived until the lesson was forced on me by the death of an extraordinary woman.

It was a sunny Saturday last May; I drove out busy Geary St. to a funeral home in the Richmond. I was there to celebrate the life and mourn the passing of Barbara Griffith: founder, teacher, critic and cajoler of the Sunset Writer’s Group, my writer’s group for the past few years. read more