Tag Archives: San Francisco

Bay To Breakers ©

A Story by Patti Isaacs

              To Protect and Serve

I lived in the Bay Area for a year and a half. The job that brought my husband and me there evaporated in the recession, so we moved back to Minnesota. But we can’t stay away. Running Bay to Breakers is a great excuse to come back, reconnect with our friends here, and revel in San Francisco’s joie de vivre.

As dawn breaks, we gather at the BART station. The train pulls up at 7:10 a.m. and we skip aboard in high spirits. A gangly young man in 1970s retro basketball shorts and a frizzy, multicolored clown wig like mine gives me the high five as we enter the train car. His pseudo-Afro is cinched in the middle with a green terrycloth sweatband to match his Celtics jersey.

I sit down with my group of friends: Suzanne in a fuchsia feather boa; Gauss in his Minnesota moose-antler hat; and Sean and Jeff, serious runners, in nondescript wicking tees. At each stop the car takes on more costumed participants, all jolly and some already a little tipsy: A cow and a milkmaid; a kitty-cat with pointed ears and leopard print tail; Superman and Wonder Woman. Several of the characters discreetly sip spirits from bottles encased in brown paper bags. Laughter fills the background as I catch up with our friends after a year away from them.

At the Civic Center stop, two San Francisco police officers board the car. I can tell they’re the real thing and not costumed runners because they’re wearing long pants. Bay to Breakers participants dressed as cops would be wearing the same blue shirts and carrying the billy clubs and handcuffs—but they would replace the regulation trousers with Speedos or buttless chaps.

The officers walk up and down the aisle, smiling and chatting amiably.

“Sorry, no drinking on the train,” the male officer says to the Devil, grinning. “Hand it over.”

The Devil shrugs his shoulders and gives up his booze.

“I’m going to have to take that from you,” the policewoman says, stretching her arm toward a glitter-dusted man in a gossamer tutu and crooking her fingers.

“Can’t blame me for trying,” Tinkerbell replies, a lilt in his voice. He’s not angry and hands her the bagged beer can.

The train stops at a station and the officers take the alcohol to the open door, pouring it out onto the tracks. They walk back down the aisle, handing the empty containers to their owners. Then they return to the door. Before stepping out, the policeman smiles and calls back, “Have a good day, and be sure to recycle!”

Only in San Francisco.

photo by patti isaacs

WISDOM Wednesday: The Hippie Elite©

A story by Malati Marlene Shinazy


I am among a select group of people who happened to graduate high school in and around San Francisco — and then attend one of theUniversity of California campuses in the northern part of the state — during a pivotal point in early Baby Boomer history. Those of us who attended UC Berkeley, UC Davis or UC Santa Cruz, had little idea we were at the epicenter of a time, space and energy vortex for an entire sub-generation. Unknowingly, we were theHippie Elite.

The oldest of boomers already graduated with their Bachelor-of-Something degrees and were deep into social/political movements or getting jobs or going to grad school.  Many of them were either fighting in the Vietnam War or fighting against the Vietnam War.

We were naïve but not neophytes to the massive social changes going on.  We made our statements from the position of uncomplicated and relatively protected lives. Half of our women friends burned their bras.  The other half didn’t wear them.  And, we all registered to vote, the moment we turned 18.

The City became an integral part of our higher education.  We’d hang out in The Haight just to have fun.  We were the ones who followed the first two Timothy Leary tenets, eschewing the third. We didn’t Drop Out.

Back at school, we attended lectures outside, stretched out on blankets, wrote research papers and made it to the Dean’s List.  We also celebrated the conception of Earth Day, became vegetarians and started recycling in earnest.  We chatted with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (the founder of Transcendental Mediation), Hare Krishna devotees and members of the Black Panthers – all were on campus often.

We hitchhiked to Altamont, the West Coast version of Woodstock, and back to school again.  Many of us drove from campus to San Francisco on weekends to attend concerts at The Fillmore Auditorium, Winterland, or Avalon Ballroom.  We saw every band Bill Graham booked including:

  • The Grateful Dead
  • Jefferson Airplane
  • Santana
  • Janis Joplin
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • The Doors

During school breaks, some of us hitchhiked alone throughout Mexico and Central America without incident.  We felt safe; hitchhiking was just another accepted mode of transport.  Plus, we met other solo travelers, mostly Europeans, and learned first-hand about the cultures of the countries we visited. Riding hot, crowed busses with people and chickens for hours on end was just part of the journey.

Upon writing this story, I realize that being a member of the Hippie Elite is not about “our glory days.”  Living at that particular intersection of time and space was rich and full. It contributed to our adult worldviews and launched us into lives of continual discovery, expansion and personal responsibility. It contributed to the quality of how we express ourselves now as business people, doctors, attorneys, and parents. By a whim of birth date and location, we, the Hippie Elite were fortunate.

photo by teamstickergiant

WISDOM Wednesday: Two Grandmothers©

This story written by Malati Marlene Shinazy

If you are raised in a San Franciscan multi-ethnic / multi-cultural family, you automatically get an education in diverse worldviews that most people must study diligently and travel extensively to comprehend.  We had no idea that we were the recipients of a treasure trove of experience that shaped who we would become and continue to be relevant in each of our lives.

Earlier BOBB stories introduced my renaissance grandmother Pauline Josephine Robinet Chaine Kennedy Shinazy, the matriarch of our Gold-Rush pioneer San Francisco clan (see: “A Room of My Own,” “Pauline Shinazy, Artist,” and “Wonder Woman.”)  A consummate seeker of spiritual and political truths, she converted from being a French-Irish Catholic, to the follower of a Guru, to a Socialist, to a Jew.  For my tenth birthday, she gave me a copy of Khalil Gibran’s “The Prophet.”  She refused my request to spend junior-year-abroad in France because she didn’t approve of Charles de Gaulle’s politics.  Still, she took me to Temple to tell me she was traveling alone to Israel immediately before, and during, the Six-Day War.  She was a brilliant, wise, artistic, and spiritually worldly woman.

My maternal grandmother, Casimira Erang Chang Pacheco Smith Price White, Nana, was more modest in her worldly pursuits.  Raised on the province of Pangasinan, Philippines, she married an African-American Army Corpsman and immigrated to the U.S. as a young woman.  After several years in Arizona and San Francisco, she found herself living as a struggling single mother of three young children.  She kept her family afloat by learning how to out-negotiate poultry and vegetable vendors in Chinatown, through the goodwill and charity of her neighbors and the local Catholic Church.  Later, she would marry and adore the man I loved as Grand Father (see Grand Father’s Little Girl).

By the time she was a grandmother, Nana was the woman into whose bosom I could cuddle when I felt sad or just needed affection — way into my 20s.  She was also the only woman I consulted as I was considering giving birth to my first child at home, rather than in a hospital.  When I asked what it was like to have a baby, she admitted,

“Oh, I could feel the baby coming, so I tucked my skirt up between my legs and ran home to get on the bed.” 

There was no need to give me verbal permission.  The naturalness of birthing a child I had intuitively suspected was confirmed by her experience.

She also encouraged me not to let my babies cry, “There’s enough time for crying in life.”  And, to breast feed them for as long as I wanted, “It’s mother’s milk.  It’s good milk.”  I received countless disapproving looks during the times I was negotiating with each of my toddlers about ending the nursing ritual.  But Nana supported me with resolve, “They will stop when they’re ready.”  And, they did.

Two grandmothers.  Two distinctly different worlds.  Two uniquely rich contributions to the person I would I become as a spiritual being, a woman and a mother.

photo by Alex E. Proimos and fradaveccs