Fall 2005: So it came to pass (at least, once upon a time) I found a job at a local sightseeing tour company. On Fisherman’s freakin Wharf no less.
‘The epicenter of culture in SF’, as a deeply knowing, gifted local social satirist, Johnny Steele, once ironically though accurately observed.
Trust me and Johnny, out of townie folks, Fisherman’s Wharf is the last place to go; the last stop as a foreign tourist to do nothing but load up on ephemeral geegaws to take back or send to the family back home.
That said, there are a few halfway decent seafood restaurants along the piers (I recommend Alioto’s), as well as wondrous secret places like the Musee Mechanique, with its array of vintage coin-operated devices offering nothing but fun and a chance to be transported to childhood for awhile.
So it was there I toiled and earned somewhat of a living for awhile, taking photos of riders, haggling with potential tour goers when the impending motorized cablecar bus was already full to capacity, regularly hearing their standard bleating inquiry: ‘So…how long is the two hour trip?’
What lessened the tension and stress were those tour guides blaring tunes off their vehicles to attract the touristas. One older and most adept tour guide would play a cd mix of one of the more locally relevant classics of sorts, your Tony Bennett and whatnot.
Given his visible enjoyment of his job (which I would only feel on, oh, the third day of each week), I trusted his judgment. In fact, he was responsible for turning me on to a song I’d never heard before.
“I’m Always Drunk In San Francisco” is a silky as sin blues number, written by one Tommy Wolf. Wolf was a pop songwriting lifer who also had a hand in neon cocktail lounge jazz chestnuts like “Spring Can Hang You Up the Most”. It’s a minor but known choon that’s been covered by folks like Carmen McRae and Nancy Wilson.
If nothing else, it’s possessed of an absotively killer punch line, which makes me think of the morning after times, the mornings of sun glare, hunger and corporeal truth…that call to mind the initial urge of what brought me here to SF in the first.
In specificity, of one night outside the City’s Punchline comedy club to see another worthy, intelligently funny performer and ace social commentator, Will Durst.
I stood outside after his set, having a smoke and absorbing the illuminated buildings surrounding and shielding on the close side of midnight, rising above downtown, reinforcing its skyline.
I was moved to blurt, to no one really, ‘this is why I moved here, what’s precious about this town’.
Behind me, I heard the voice of Mr. Durst himself say, ‘me too’.
"I'm Always Drunk In San Francisco":