EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 Death | Baghdad By The Bay - Part 2

Posts Tagged 'death'

Mommie Dearest

A year ago today marks the day my wife and I found my Mother dead watching TV in our house. That is still a hard day to think about because I don’t really like death. I don’t think anyone does, but I was a 5 year old that was afraid of dying. I suppose that’s when I first understood what it really meant. But I didn’t come here to write a downer piece for today. So let me tell you a little bit about my Mom.

She was born on May 28th, of 1929. That’s seems like a long time ago and you’re right, it was. She was the first of our family born in San Francisco. My family leaning toward the Italian side lived in the Marina when they moved here. Back then my mother told me she as a kid could remember there were still people having ice delivered to their houses for their ice boxes. Being a little girl starting her not too long before the great depression life probably sucked a bit for her, but my family being the type they were stuck together to get through it.

Once she entered her teens she joined the Girl Scouts and was very active with the environment before it was a popular thing to do. She was quite into camping and hiking and seeing as times were simpler then and she didn’t have access to all the new toys like we do she had dolls and a dollhouse that were made by my Grandfather supplemented with a few store bought dolls. In the summers at girl scout camp she would have fun tossing “cow chips”. When you think about it and she never said it, but it would have been a good line, “Why in my day we didn’t have World of Warcraft. When we wanted to have fun we threw dried up cow shit!”

We had family who lived up in Jackson, California which from the pictures back then it was pretty much a farm, so my Mom was a city girl who was raised on a farm part time. Because Jackson had a large population of Native Americans who were the original owners of the land she became interested in their culture and left us with a huge collection of “indian baskets” most of these were from the California tribes, but she did have a few items from the Navajo and Hopi’s, most notable are the collection of Hopi Kachina dolls we have hanging on our walls. What she never told me and we didn’t find this out until we started going through her stuff is that she also had a keen interest in the local Ohlone tribe’s language and it looked like she was either writing a book or just collecting research.

When World War II hit she would spend her days after school at St. Bridgette’s helping out the military by either scanning the skies off the coast for incoming aircraft from the other side to helping out with mapping in the staging areas at the presidio. I suppose they didn’t have child labor laws back then like we do today.

As she grew older she ended up attending SFSU and graduating with a teaching degree and got a job at Francis Scott Key out here in the Sunset working for the city’s then Childcare program. It was nothing like it is today, but it was more like pre-school and a little bit later for kids that couldn’t afford a private school.

Then one fateful Christmas day as my family was gathered into the car to go to someone in our families house for dinner they stopped on a gas station on Lombard street and my Mom saw a gas station attendant that she felt sorry for because he had to work on Christmas. It turns out that a few years later this man would one day become my Dad. For the life of my I can’t remember their wedding anniversary, but then again, I wasn’t there but sometime after that day came me. My Mom had had lots of trouble and after nine miscarriages they finally decided to adopt and that’s where I came into the picture. Adopting was a kind of hush hush thing back then and my parents arranged for a private adoption that only close friends and family knew of. I never would have known myself had I not been snooping around and found the paperwork when I was around ten. Even back then I was a devious kid.

Once I came along she became a stay at home Mom and never worked again. After I got older though she started focusing on her cooking and that is what she will always be most remembered for. If she taught me anything, my Mom taught me to enjoy what you eat and that you can make it from scratch easier than you can buy it from the store [well back then at least]. My Mom would always over cook for most of her life. She and my Grandmother would make vats of minestrone soup or bolognese sauce which was known in my family as Italian gravy. When they were available she would get pickling cucumbers and make pickles. Everyone my Dad worked with and all our neighbors got some along with the gravy and soup which we always had frozen in our big basement freezer.

Mom’s dessert’s were to die for. She could take a package of cake mix and make a few changes and you’d think it came from an uppity bakery that would have charged you ten times what it cost to produce. She made creme puffs and eclairs and cookies that it’s no wonder all the kids liked coming over to my house to play because they always got good food and plenty of it.

I think things started to go downhill for her when my Dad and Grandmother died back in 1999. They died a month apart and my mother had just undergone her fifth hip replacement surgery and the world crashed around her. Her favorite dog Shelly died a couple of months after our daughter was born and if we didn’t have our daughter she probably would have followed the dog in weeks. She at least got to be a Grandmother for a few years and she loved that more than anything else.

The saddest thing to me though is that all I have left of my Mom now are memories that can fit on one piece of paper. Guys, talk to your parents, because one day they won’t be around anymore. Yeah, they can be real assholes at times, but you might learn something from them.

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1906 Earthquake Shacks

Recently, I’ve been giving it to my friends back east or in Europe who are complaining about the snow that while it’s a chilly 45°-55° here in San Francisco we still have sun [usually]. Their usual response is, “I’ll take the snow over earthquakes any day.”

I’ve heard lots of people say that in the past and in reality we haven’t had a quake that’s done any damage in San Francisco since 1989. 21 years and no big quakes. We’ve had a few little ones here and there, but those just give you a little startle.

Now the 1906 quake is one I’m glad I missed. It was rated at between 7.8-9.0 magnitude and left over half of San Francisco homeless. Worse thing is that it wasn’t the earthquake that did the most damage, but the fires that started afterwards that caused the most damage. The quake itself ruptured the San Andrea fault for 290 miles. By comparison, the 1989 Loma Prieta ruptured only 25 miles. Damage by todays standards from the 1906 quake would have put the total loss at over $8 Billion dollars.

So what exactly did the city do to help out the homeless people? They built refugee camps with housing like the one in the picture. This house is an actual 1906 earthquake shack that has been restored. Quite unlike most other museums [this one is at the Randall Museum] you can walk inside of it.

What we have here was a very quickly put together 10’x10′ one room house with no running water or toilet. The walls were built of 1/2″ x 4″ wood planks that are probably much better quality than we have today, but still, there’s no insulation, no caulking to block out drafts. It must have been pretty miserable to live in, but a lot better than living outside in the fog. Back then you could purchase one for $50 on a rent to lease option. Rental was between $2-$15. This one had a sign that said $2/month rent so I can only assume that the $15/month were a bit bigger. Some of these are still being found today. I was at recovery challenge out by the beach that Woody LaBounty of the Western Neighborhoods Project put together. Apparently, someone had one in their backyard and if Woody and his people could come and get it, they could restore it.

[mappress mapid=”10″]The only other one I’ve seen is at the San Francisco Zoo which you can also walk into, but that one is unfurnished. You can tell when you first walk in that life was simpler back then what with your house consisting of a bed, a table, a pot-bellied stove and a sewing machine. At least that’s what this one was furnished with. Most of these houses were set up in Golden Gate Park at the time as it was probably the most stable land in San Francisco to hold them. If you want to feel a little bit happier about where you live come check this out. Oh and by the way, the Randall Museum is free.

Stay off the roads today!

I read something yesterday that I found a bit disturbing. Today, December 15th has the highest amount of car accidents. They can’t tell us why, but statistics have shown over the years that today is the worst day to drive.

This doesn’t really have any connection with San Francisco except that there are cars here, but I’m just saying. Today may not be the best day to be a gamblin’ man.

When I was 16 I was riding my skateboard in the Richmond district and made the mistake of riding down a driveway between two vans. Not the best idea, but I was 16 at the time. Out of the blue right there is a cadillac. Reacting I jumped which probably saved my life. I guess all those action movies taught me something. When you’re going to get hit by a car, jump. It worked. Well, except for my head going straight into the windshield and my foot being caught on the hood ornament that dislocated my hip and then when I fell off the car it popped back in. It took over 100 stitches to get my forehead stuck back onto my skull.

Let me tell you though. It only hurt for a few minutes and then the endorphins kicked in. They didn’t even give me any anesthetic when they put the stitches in because they knew the shock had me covered. I didn’t have to spend any time in the hospital, but it did compress a disk in my spine that causes me pain today. We didn’t think about those things 34 years ago. So I’m just letting you know that if you can today keep away from the car. If you can’t then at least try and not drive too much.