Little Green Apples


On Wednesday night, a crowd of us gathered at the Great American Music Hall to celebrate Green Apple Books' 50th Anniversary by way of Porchlight. Several well-known people told stories filled with bookstore boosterism (possibly my favorite kind of boosterism) and a few people sang heartrending songs (definitely my favorite kind of song). One singer who had a very winning "aw shucks, ma'am. It's my first time in the big city" type vibe, proved upon later Google search, to be the critically-acclaimed author of several novels.  Another man, unscheduled to speak, was plucked from the crowd and introduced as a bartender and former Green Apple employee. Friends, to hear a Glaswegian recount being buried in an avalanche of hardbacks in the '89 earthquake is a delectation you do not know you long for until the very moment the Scottish vowels of "earthquake" unfurl before you. The man is a born orator. As far as I'm concerned,  he's the goddamn King of the North.

There was also a racy Mary Poppins burlesque number, complete with sparkling black umbrella and one faulty pasty.  Mergatroid, the Green Apple gnome, was there too, handing out free books.  Natch.

In other words, it felt like home.  My San Francisco.  It's still here after all. 

After the show, I went merrily along with with an assortment of book people and story people to Tommy's Joynt, the slightly dubious late-night hauf brau that has been on the corner of Van Ness and Geary my entire life.  I'm pleased to report that no one has ever looked more delighted with anything than the "aw shucks" singer/novelist looked with his cafeteria tray of roast beef dinner.  

After a couple hours of alcohol and general conversation, people recalled their adult responsibilities and headed home, leaving just five of us: me, Beth, the King of the North, and two of his friends who had happened along. He announced that duty required him to resume his post at the bar down the street. I demurred since it was nearly 1AM and a school night.  So, the four of them made their way down Geary, and I turned the corner reluctantly to go home.

From the end of the block, I saw three men leaning on what I thought was my car and braced myself for the imminent confrontation. As I got nearer, I realized that, not for the first time, I had confused someone else's prosaic black sedan with my own prosaic black sedan. Suffused with the particular brand of relief that is not having to talk to strange men at 1AM in the Tenderloin, I reached my own Toyota. 

As I unlocked it, something felt wrong. The interior light didn't come on as usual when I opened the door. Why?  It took me a strangely long time to diagnose the problem, considering it was not an unfamiliar one. I looked at the open glove compartment and the trash on the passenger seat and slowly, slowly it dawned on me.  "Oh." I said aloud. "Someone broke into my car is what."  I groped for the overhead light and once it was on, I realized that 1) nothing had actually been stolen. Including my dinner leftovers. Including my library book. 2) only the back, passenger side vent window had been broken.  This explained why I hadn't immediately understood what had happened.  The smallest of windows?  In the back? On the passenger side?  This is practically courtly behavior.  Never before had my car been broken into in such a gentlemanly fashion. Nevertheless, no matter how decorously one may do it, a break in is a break in and I didn't want my glittering evening to end so darkly.

I drove around the block and found a parking place right in front of the bar. When I walked in, my friends were sitting around a table just inside the door. "Heyyyyyyy!" they all called out happily, raising their arms in greeting, for all the world as though I were Norm, back at last, where everybody knew my name.  

There was just one empty chair at the table, waiting for me.  I stayed until 2.


I called for an appointment today and the window replacement will run me 120 bucks, which seems like a lot for such a comparatively small piece of glass, but then, someone else bought my Wednesday night gin and tonic, so I think it all evens out.