For five years, I travelled a lot. The West Coast was always a treat, particularly San Francisco. Whenever I was done with my work day, I would get a drink at the Fairmont on Nob Hill, on the look out for Kim Novak/Madeleine Elster’s car next door, as in Vertigo. I would walk to City Lights on Columbus, pick up a book there and cross the street to Tosca for more hot drinks and a silent homage to Ferlinghetti’s third piece from A Coney Island of the Mind: The poet’s eye obscenely seeing/sees the surface of the round world […] and all the other fatal shorn-up fragments/ of the immigrant’s dream come too true/ and mislaid/ among the sunbathers
On my first trip to San Francisco, a dozen colleagues and I landed in a restaurant on Polk Street. We all sat in a rather dark corner under a stained glass panel. The whole place had something medieval going on, but I didn’t stop to look into it. Instead, I recall being very distracted by the sight across the table and having a first long conversation with the striking blond who would some time after become my wife.
Five years almost to the day, on my last business trip, I set out to find the restaurant where our first dinner together had taken place. Having retraced my steps and relied on a pretty accurate photographic memory I entered the joint. Lunch hour was almost over and the place looked mostly deserted. I sat down at the exact same table where everything had started for us. Except that nothing really looked the same anymore.
Wanting to give myself the time of reflection, I waived down the waitress and placed an order. I asked her if the place had been remodeled at any point in time and she said, yes, the ownership and name had changed some months before. She went on to describe the alterations, all of wich – the stained-glass panels removed, the wooden floorboards scraped away and turned into table tops, the heavy crimson red drapes drawn and hidden away to let the light flow in – suddenly struck me as a complete betrayal, a desecration. In a voice where I could not discern the slightest hint of second degree, she concluded: It used to be The Holy Grail.
I now know for a fact that The Holy Grail used to be in San Francisco, at 1233 Polk st., CA 94109 – Station 9