search   index   by subject   by year   biographies   books  SF Activities  shop museum   contact

Out of the Crowd
By Rufus Blair

One more year, perhaps two, and they’ll all be mission centers or Salvation camps—the fading resorts of Barbary Coast with their barmaids and dolorous whang of forgotten tangoes, clinging to Pacific Street—the last straw of a tarnished glory.

The bouncer is still there. So is the blind man who plays the piano and the mouth organ. Also the little fiddler with the biggest feet I have ever seen on a man. “Yes, Sir, She’s My Baby,” he thinks is
the latest thing out in sheet music. His body is warped but his face
is handsome—an elfin handsomeness. Sometimes he sings. A voice like a worn-out phonograph record—“I wanna be-ee in Tennuhsee-ee..”

A sprinkling of patrons lean against the bar or slouch in their chairs. Now and then some important men with large faces and watch charms to match will come in to talk over a small table. And everybody looks.

Outside on the narrow sidewalk, gas lamps flicker away the night. Some hangers-on, render a selection around the lamp-post. Those gas lamps, so abhorred on our street when I was a kid because neighboring avenues beamed with electricity—now they kindle a tranquility akin to the stars. How mysterious is the vengeance of time!

The night grows old. Jerry, the cop, strolls leisurely up the street. Sometimes café owners must be reminded of a closing hour. The melody of ribald songsters rises Rabelaisian from the “Thirst Emporium” of Abie Vasquez. Jerry taps the window with his nightstick as a half minute’s warning that he’s coming in to do his duty. A minute later Abie Vasquez bolts the door.

April 9, 1928