Walking with My
When our son
Donald was little Id 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 developments one and only main
street. Donald would look up at me and say,
Walk? Id say Walk.
Id put on my cap to protect my then balding head from the Sacramento sun
and hed put on his cap. Wed walk out onto the
main street and then walk to its end and back. Donald was
obsessed with cars and hed identify the cars parked on the street as we
He knew almost every
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. Were both still ambulatory but I dont
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 wasnt 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
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
So here I was. A
couple of weeks ago Id 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 Id promised myself when Id arrived in San
Francisco and started to look for a job.. This morning, after only a couple of
weeks, Id gotten a job in the Research Department of a local ad
agency so my gamble had succeeded; I was employed and Id be staying in
San Francisco. Not too long ago, leaving New York City, where
Id lived all my life, for the unknown West would have been
unthinkable. Id 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 Deans List didnt impress would-be
employers. Why didnt 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 didnt 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 didnt especially like my job; it seemed to lead to nowhere.
Id met someone in the Army in Germany who was from San Francisco, Ray
Foxboro, who still lived there. Wed kept in touch and he urged me
to come out there. Then another fellow whod 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 Id take my chances and try San Francisco
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
mornings 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, Id 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. Id 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 shed appeared
at first sight, was, to put it politely, a lady of the night. Id
like to buy you a drink, I said, but Im broke. I took a taxi
here and I have just enough money for a taxi back to the place Im
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. Id 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 Id be staying in San Francisco.
It was great but maybe not as great as it appeared. Id be 3,000
miles from my family and friends. No more Broadway plays. No more Yankee games.
Maybe Id never play handball again. And Id have to find a place to
live. Id gathered that in my new job Id be
viewing outdoor advertising posters and billboards. This would probably require
me to drive and, like most New Yorkers, Id never had a car. Id have
to learn how to drive and figure out how to buy a car with no money. Well,
Id tackle all of this stuff later. Id better get some sleep now. A
brief picture of the lady of the night flashed before my eyes. Too bad she
wasnt just a regular girl and the start of a romance, but no
matter, Id had my night at the Top of the Mark.