Posts Tagged ‘california’

A Very Short Story: Mission Dolores, San Francisco

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

I wait in line at the trendy breakfast place, swaying on my feet, one of many, with people who are in town from Los Angeles and Paris. People with baby strollers. People with neon yellow hair. People commenting on standing for as long as they’re standing, as the line snakes its way around the block. Kids squirm and cry. Nervous moms look up at the clouds, without a plan B. The first place I think to go in the neighborhood is not the Mission itself, but this breakfast place, because that’s what everyone does. Because if you don’t go, you’re missing something. A perfect bite. A thing that cannot be tasted anywhere else.

I finally head to the Mission — the actual Mission — when it’s almost closing time, after I’ve exhausted all my expendable income, curiosity, and energy in the jewelbox-sized neighborhood shops. A fat stack of second-hand books. A black lace dress. I go because there is nowhere else to go, and my visit is the cheapest thing I’ve done all day — $5. The Mission is named, like the city, for St. Francis of Assisi but people call it the Mission Dolores after the nearby creek — the creek of Our Lady of Sorrows. Mary with her heart pierced by seven swords. You won’t see her inside, but you will see the chapel with its whitewashed adobe brick, its neat holy water fonts cut directly into the walls. And the ceiling — all brilliant color, recreated in vegetable dyes in a pattern that would have been known — and created — by the Ohlone tribespeople who lived, and worked, and were converted by, and died within the Mission’s walls. The Mission that stood longer than the cathedral itself, that withstood the earthquake.

On Dead Famous People in Los Angeles, California

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014


I said to my friend M_____, who lives in California. “Death is terrifying to me until I visit a cemetery. And then it just seems quiet.”

We were standing over Frank Zappa when I said this. Well, over who we thought was Frank Zappa, according to a web site I found on my phone. Frank Zappa, you see, has no marker. So you have to work your way over from a nearby tree, and some nearby graves.

George C. Scott doesn’t have a marker either. He’s on the other side of the cemetery, next to Carroll O’Connor. It’s less surprising that he doesn’t have a marker. I mean, the man didn’t want his Oscar either. But maybe being buried under a big blank tombstone next to Carroll O’Connor and Walter Matthau has the same effect as refusing an Oscar. Basically, at the end of the day, it’s exactly the same as winning an Oscar. Death is an equalizer, too.

All the colors in the cemetery, which is behind a skyscraper and is hard to find amidst the parking meters and the fire hydrants, are sort of the same. Brown, green, darker green. Stone, grass, leaves, a bench, a brick, a vine. There is Natalie Wood, with her married name and an Orthodox cross. Fanny Brice and her children. Peggy Lee is by a fountain. Louis Jourdan has a marker, and he’s still alive. Truman Capote has humble little yellow flowers, not nearly fabulous enough. Dean Martin has red roses, as you’d imagine, left just a few hours before.

But with Marilyn’s grave, her little shelf in the wall, all you see is fuchsia. The flowers, the lipstick marks on the outside. Apparently Hugh Heffner has bought the drawer next to her, so he can leer at her without her consent into eternity. But Marilyn’s flowers. Nothing in that green patch in that concrete block of Los Angeles on a cloudy day. Nothing is like those flowers. A pink bunch and a red bunch and a peach-y bunch, maybe from the day before. Even a little wilted, they are right on cue. Ready for their closeup, blaring into the heat of the day.