Song Of The Day 3/2/2017: Bob Mould – “Stand Guard”

The Final 28

There Go the Neighborhoods

I lived—well, paid rent—in four different locations in San Francisco over five years:

(A) The patio in the Lower Haight, as described yesterday.

(B) On Castro near 23rd Street, in a modest little two-bedroom triplex in the Noe Valley neighborhood.

(C) In a studio apartment on McAllister across the street from the Civic Center, in the same building Dashiell Hammett lived.

(D) In a studio apartment on Chenery Street. The San Francisco Planning Department says I lived in the Glen Park neighborhood, but I was only a block south of the defined boundary for Noe Valley. Even Bernal Heights could have made a claim on my address. If Bernal Heights were drunk.

Speaking of, I patronized these drinking establishments:

(A) Bailey’s on Church near 25th in Noe Valley (defunct).

(B) Glen Park Station on Diamond Street in Glen Park.

(C) Noe’s Bar on Church & 24th.

(D) Someplace on Dolores & 29th. According to Google Maps, the establishment is now called “The BAR.” It was called something else when I was there.

All of them could be considered dives, although Noe’s had polished wood floors, chairs and bars, and served food. The bartenders at Glen Park Station—two of whom I remember, Tom and Judy—wore bow ties, but it was still a dive.

Chenery Street was my first experience as a solo renter in which I didn’t live with anyone else. The bathtub in the Chenery apartment was huge, and covered in multi-colored tiles that had no rhyme or reason. You could fit three people in the tub if you needed to.

These were the Friends years. They correspond with the general time and ages of the people on the TV show, which I didn’t watch but heard a lot about. Especially the Chenery Street apartment.

In personal terms I was either a nervous wreck or pretty depressed. For the last two and a half years in San Francisco I saw a counselor every week named Cherry. I did a lot of unpacking there. She and I moved out of San Francisco at roughly the same time: me to Seattle and her to Marin County. She still has a practice there, I believe.

I was also in some encounter group that Cherry referred me to. It was for creators and entertainers. One time we faced our fears through Gestalt therapy. The leader of the group asked me how I pictured my fears. I said it was kind of like a giant block, yelling down at me. So the leader picked up a couch cushion, put it over his head and shouted out the condemnatory things I told myself. It didn’t really help but I appreciated the effort.

March of the Insurance Brokerages

I loved the College of Recording Arts, but expenses were piling up so I had to find something a little more lucrative. I got hired on as a word processing operator at the Frank B. Hall insurance brokerage, at One Market Plaza at the beginning of Market Street near Embarcadero. That’s where I was during the Loma Prieta Earthquake, 20 floors up. The skyscrapers across the street all shimmied like the opening credits to I Dream of Jeannie. It wasn’t pleasant.

There were four of us in the word processing pit at Frank B. Hall. A few weeks after I was hired one of them quit for a supervisory position somewhere else, with no notice. She was replaced by Mykel, a spindly guy from Texas. He was also an actor. I believe he was doing some sort of play in the Castro District when he started working with us.

Mykel admitted he had a crush on me (look, I was pretty pleasant-looking back then). When he found out I was straight his interest dropped immediately. He then became my best friend in town: the one who’d be honest with me about where I was screwing up, and the most supportive when I was trying to come back. There are many times today when I wish I’d listened to him about a few things.

There are also some times I wish I could get his opinion on what’s happening now. Oh, he would have loved Kate. I wish I could watch the two of them meeting for the first time.

More on that later.

Mykel defected to another insurance brokerage, Marsh & McLennan, and lured me over there when Frank B. Hall declined to give me part-time hours so I could return to school at S.F. State. M&M were substantially bigger than Frank B. Hall (in fact I believe M&M eventually merged with FBH and dissolved the brand). I formed a tighter bond with the pool at M&M, which was slightly larger than FBH. Although I really liked the guys at FBH too, even if Bill hated jazz.

My So-Called Solo Music Career

I managed some musical work in San Francisco. I attended open mics. I paraded my songs out at the Paradise Lounge. They were met with applause, but with one exception I don’t think I could listen to them today. I’m gonna get around to the songwriting issues before this whole thing wraps up.

My friend Jennifer and I did a cabaret act every once in awhile. We strictly did torch songs, or torch-like arrangements of songs, like Tom Waits’ “I’ll Take New York.” We got our own show at the Paradise once. She was great. I… look, I’ll get around to it, okay? I just have to suck it up. It’ll happen. I’m not looking forward to it.

Speaking of torch songs, I played piano for a San Francisco State production of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy. I think the actor who played Arnold was named Ray. Wait a minute, Jennifer was in this too. I think she played the muse. Was there a muse in TST? If there was, Jennifer played it. I want to say we played “Lover Man (Where Can You Be)” at one point in the show. Probably the best play I’d ever been in, although I was the psychically absent piano player and not much else.

Oh, crap, it’s really coming back now: I played in this—thing, called Chat Us Up. It was a horribly fractured improv-type deal in a bar near the Embarcadero Center. Two women were in it. Before the Rocko Grolschnakov (sp?) show in Olympia, which was far better, it was the strangest theatrical presentation I’d ever been involved in. I was never comfortable with it. I don’t know what they wanted. I don’t even think they knew what they wanted. It was an amorphous blob of a cabaret show.

But in general I never felt like I fit in the San Francisco music scene. I sent a demo tape of my songs to some booking manager, who told me I just had to live a little bit more. I hadn’t had the right experiences yet. She was pretty dead-on in that assessment, I think. I was such a freakish bundle of exposed nerves that I could only really feel simpatico with misfits for whom professionalism wasn’t a burden. At the same time, I felt this sense of comic ambition—kind of like Alex Chilton after Big Star folded—that haunted me while I was awake and I didn’t know what to do about it.

Then I got an answer. Crap on a stick, did I ever get an answer. But I’ll talk about L. Ron Shrubbery tomorrow.

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