Friday, August 08, 2008

Going Back to San Francisco

Monday we will be going back to San Francisco. It has been interesting looking at the different emotions that the visit is bringing about. I bought a new journal just for the trip as I want to write down a lot more of what I am experiencing when I go.

I chose a hotel in my old stomping grounds of South San Francisco. It is close to both my great-grandparents niches at Olivet Cemetery and to my father's burial place in Golden Gate National Cemetery. Going to see my father is always a bittersweet thing for me. I lost him when I was 9. Everytime I go back, I find a part of me...the little girl part of me that I so carefully bury away...coming to the surface and remembering the day we buried him there. 42 years ago and that memory is still so fresh..the sight and smells of fog and rain on wet pavement, and the loud crack of the rifles as they saluted my father. I cried then and I cry now everytime I go. This time I am taking him a cup of hot coffee and a mounds bar (two of his favorite things) as well as the red roses I always take when I go.

Going to see granny is different. There is a sense of unbelievable warmth and love where she is with my great-grandfathers, Jacob and George. It is very light there, as well. I have always loved Olivet's Columbarium. The warm dusty sunlight and smell of flowers lifts my spirits immeasurably. I go to see Granny after I have visited Dad. I always take my camera and take photos of the unusual urns and tombstones that add to the beauty of the Colma Cemeteries. I will go to the now unmarked graves in what the cemetery is now calling Potter's Field. This is where two of my grandmother's still born children were buried in the 30's. There had been small, round, cement markers with numbers on them placed at each gravesite, but they have long since disappeared since the time of my childhood.

I go to the statue of the Drowned Seamen next and place flowers there as well, as many of my ancestors were sailors on both sides of my family. On the way out we stop by the mausoleum of the lady whose ghost I saw when I was 4 or 5. I always hope that Margarite will show herself again back in Potter's Field as she did that foggy, wet morning in the early 1960's. Dark huge Cypress trees that siloutte themselves against the brilliant emerald of the grasses and the white of the headstones. That is how I remember something from an old episode of Dark Shadows. It is very much like that for me and still is. There is a sensing of many things.

That will be our first stop on our trip around "the City." I want the blessings of my ancestors and their guardian influences. San Francisco has become a city of the dead for me in many ways...not just Colma.
There are mysteries there that still linger for my obcession with Sutro Baths and Land's End, Ocean Beach. All are places that I am drawn to in daydreams and memories.

There is anticipation along with the bittersweetness of the visits. Places of my childhood that are still there and relativly unchanged. The wharf is one of those places and the Chopinno at Nick's #5. The smells of crab boiling on the wharf is like perfume to me. Shops selling seashells, postcards and buddhas. We're going to visit the wave organ this time and walk up to Coit Tower, which I haven't done since I was 6. We'll eat lunch (a cheeseburger) at Louis' over by the Sutro Ruins. I want to take a picture of the house Janis Joplin once lived at and my greatgrandmother's house on Geary and 16th.

I guess I want to walk where Granny did. I have photos of her at the Cliffhouse when the Ohioan ran ashore, and when she had walked around Golden Gate Park and Sutro Heights. I want her to guide me around and whisper her secrets in my ear. Yes, she can be my tourguide.

My granny was wild and ahead of her time for coming to San Francisco in 1900. She was her own woman and knew what she wanted and didn't. She could scold you with a mere look. She sailed to Alaska with her second husband, Jacob, who was an Alaska Packer on the Star of Alaska (now the Balclutha). I have a photo of her standing on the beach in Seward, Alaska aiming a Winchester rifle. She was all of 4 feet 11.

Before coming to America, she had an illegitimate child in the old country. My grandmother never knew about her half-sister until she was about 57. When Granny had enough of her first husbands philandering in the Washington State lumber camps, she left him. She opened a boarding house in Crescent City, which was washed away after the tidal waves from the Alaska earthquake in 1964. She met Jacob there and they moved on down to San Francisco where she opened yet another boardinghouse in the Avenues.

I was never really sure if Granny divorced George Orkey. There are no records that I have ever been able to find. But she took the last name of Carlson, Jacob's last name. Granny must have still had a hold on George, though, as he also moved to San Francisco, following her. He stayed in San Francisco where he passed on in 1959. Yep! Granny must have been really something in her day. She did when I was two, but I remember her clearly and the wonderful old boarding house she had. She had boarders living htere until she passed away. She specialized in taking on boarders from other countries that other "respectable" boarding houses would turn away at that time...folks from India, Fiji, and other places.

I want her to take my hand and guide me. She can point at places she knew and loved or where they once were; places that were important to her. Tell me the history I long to know and will never read in a book.

My husband has gotten used to all of this. He realises I think that there are unresolved pieces and bits in my past and te past of my family...I guess as there is in most families. Tony likes hearing the stories and seeing the place through my eyes. I don't know that my children really care about their history. It's ok. I want to try and write down as much as I can so that if they have the chance they can someday perhaps explore it from my descriptions and memories in my journals and photos.

So, for the time being, I am cleaning house and getting ready for the trip on Monday. I want to look up a few places and write down the addresses so I can take photos to add to the history I am trying to write. Yeah. I'm going home.

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