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Two Stories
by Martin Green



Walking with My Son


 When our son Donald was little I’d take him for a walk almost every Saturday or Sunday morning..    At the time my wife Ellen and I lived in a small development in Carmichael, a suburb of Sacramento.    Our house was in a court which led out into the development’s one and only main street.    Donald would look up at me and say, “Walk?”    I’d say “Walk.”   I’d put on my cap to protect my then balding head from the Sacramento sun and he’d put on his cap.    We’d walk out onto the main street and then walk to its end and back.    Donald was obsessed with cars and he’d identify the cars parked on the street as we walked along.

He knew almost every one.


Donald now lives in San Francisco, where he has his busy job and his own family.    Ellen and I still live near Sacramento but in a retirement community.    We’re both still ambulatory but I don’t go for walks any more, certainly not of any distance.    What led me to recall those walks that had taken place so long ago?    The other night Ellen and I watched an old British movie on Netflix which wasn’t very good, something about a young man who could travel back in time, but at the end there was a scene in which he traveled back in time and went for a walk with his father.    The walk was on a beach, not on a suburban street.


But when I went to bed that night I thought of those walks I used to take with my son and wished I could travel back in time and do just one more again.




Top of the Mark


This story took place many years ago, when the Top of the Mark, a cocktail lounge atop the Mark Hopkins hotel on Nob Hill in San Francisco with a panoramic view was the place to go.


So here I was.  A couple of weeks ago I’d been in New York.  Now I was at a table by myself in the Top of the Mark, looking out over the lights of San Francisco. Being here was something I’d promised myself when I’d arrived in San Francisco and started to look for a job.. This morning, after only a couple of weeks,  I’d gotten a job in the Research Department of a local ad agency so my gamble had succeeded; I was employed and I’d be staying in San Francisco.    Not too long ago, leaving New York City, where I’d lived all my life, for the unknown West would have been unthinkable.  I’d grown up there, gone to school there, played handball there, had gone to Broadway shows and games at Yankee Stadium and Madison Square Garden.  Why then had I chosen to leave all this behind?  For a number of reasons.  After graduating college during the Korean War I was drafted and sent to Germany. All during my time there I looked forward to getting back to New York and starting my life there. After all, New York was the center of everything.    


My disillusionment with New York was gradual. First of all, I had a hard time getting a job. My college degree and being on the Dean’s List didn’t impress would-be employers. Why didn’t I want to go on and be a teacher?  When I finally did get a job, at an ad agency in mid-Manhattan, I had to commute from my parents’ apartment in the Bronx in a hot, crowded, noisy subway to get there. Why didn’t anyone on the subway at least open a window? Were New Yorkers sheep?  Advertising was supposed to be a glamour industry; maybe, but the starting salary, mine at least, was too low for me to get my own place to live. I didn’t especially like my job; it seemed to lead to nowhere. I’d met someone in the Army in Germany who was from San Francisco, Ray Foxboro, who still lived there.  We’d kept in touch and he urged me to come out there. Then another fellow who’d worked in San Francisco joined the agency and told us how much better it had been living there. Finally, against the objections of my family and the advice of almost everyone else, I decided I’d take my chances and try San Francisco myself.


I left New York shortly after the first of the year. My friend Ray Foxboro lived with three others, all Cal graduates, in an old house on Telegraph Hill and I bunked down on a couch there while looking for a job. I was surprised by how nice the people in San Francisco were after my icy reception in New York, then had come that morning’s job offer. The ad agency had some clients who used outdoor advertising and I supposedly had some knowledge of that. Afterward, I realized that working in a New York ad agency had lent me a certain prestige.


In any case, here I was, at the Top of the Mark, sipping a drink while celebrating my success.  I was alone by choice.  Earlier, I’d done a little celebrating with Ray and the other guys but I now I wanted to be by myself. I was to start work right away, the next morning. I’d wait until the weekend to call my parents and my friends to let them know. A beautiful young woman sat down at my table and said, “Do you mind if I join you?”  Of course, on a night like this something of this sort was bound to happen. She asked me why I was there alone and I told her my story. “We should have a drink to celebrate,” she said.  


We did, then went back to her place and … no, even though I was pretty naïve back then, I recognized that the beautiful young lady, not as young as she’d appeared at first sight, was, to put it politely, a lady of the night. “I’d like to buy you a drink,” I said, “but I’m broke. I took a taxi here and I have just enough money for a taxi back to the place I’m staying.”  We talked a little more, then she wished me good luck in the city and left to look for a more promising customer.    I looked at my watch and decided it was time to leave. I’d have to get up early the next morning and walk from Telegraph Hill down to Montgomery Street. I took a last look at the San Francisco panorama and left.


When I got back to the house Ray and the other guys were already asleep. I retired to my couch. I thought about my Top of the Mark encounter.  In a way, it represented how I felt about getting that job and knowing I’d be staying in San Francisco.  It was great but maybe not as great as it appeared. I’d be 3,000 miles from my family and friends. No more Broadway plays. No more Yankee games. Maybe I’d never play handball again. And I’d have to find a place to live.    I’d gathered that in my new job I’d be viewing outdoor advertising posters and billboards. This would probably require me to drive and, like most New Yorkers, I’d never had a car. I’d have to learn how to drive and figure out how to buy a car with no money. Well, I’d tackle all of this stuff later. I’d better get some sleep now. A brief picture of the lady of the night flashed before my eyes. Too bad she wasn’t just a regular girl and the start of a romance, but no matter,  I’d had my night at the Top of the Mark.




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