Monday, July 03, 2006

Goodbye To All That

A trio of institutions are closing up shop in the Civic Center this summer.

The bookstore with the excessive name, "A Clean, Well-Lighted Place for Books" on Van Ness Avenue, announced their closure one day at the end of June and started selling off everything in the store.

Though the official story was some nonsense about Amazon driving bookstores out of business, the unofficial story was that there was a divorce among longtime business partners.

The huge bookstore has been in the Opera Plaza location since the 1970s, and was famous for holding readings by every famous person in the world who ever wrote a book. If a list was ever published of the literary floggers over the years, it would be most impressive.

The staff was always a trifle rude but they were definitely knowledgeable and interesting and came up with heartfelt recommendations. They are all going to be missed.

A few blocks away in the Hayes Valley, another institution dating from the 1970s is set to close later this month.

The Blue Muse restaurant is an odd Continental Cuisine Restaurant and Bar owned by Sidney, who has always looked a bit like a Chinese Seiji Ozawa in his 70's Beatles haircut period.

He also owns a Chinese restaurant around the corner from The Blue Muse called "Sage," and the two restaurants not-so-secretly share the same kitchen and chefs.

The staffing was always a bit odd, a mixture of Sidney's immediate family (who we all got to see grow up into adulthood) and a collection of extraordinarily idiosyncratic gay waiters and bartenders, some of them saints and some of them bitches, though in truth they were often both.

The rent was raised by some incredible amount recently and Sidney has thrown in the towel. The place was an anachronism almost from its opening, but a completely charming one, and it didn't cost an arm and a leg to eat and drink there like its more trendy recent neighbors.

The saddest closing of all is John Swett grammar school on McAllister Street between Gough and Franklin.

The San Francisco school district needed to close a few schools due to declining citywide enrollment, although this particular school probably shouldn't have been on the closure list.

Though the powers that be have never actually admitted it in public, John Swett's closure was partly because the school district wanted to expand out of their offices across the street and take over the real estate for more bureaucracy.

It was a shameful act and everybody on the school board connected with the closure deserves public rebuke for the rest of their lives.

The school was a living place almost a century old, and kids seemed to love it there.

The daily playground commotion will be deeply missed.

A group of us also said goodbye to what I've been referring to as "Opera Summer Camp" when Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" had its final performance on a Sunday matinee.

The end of a theatrical production is usually a bittersweet affair.

The same group of people will never be together again once the show is over.

Still, the end of the season allows me to take a holiday to my boyhood beachtown haunts in Southern California, the Land of Gidget. I'll be sure to send a few digital postcards.


sfwillie said...

The Blue Muse is sort of like life in general--enjoy it while you can. The after-opera party you hosted there was memorable.

The screaming of little kids at recess is music too real for your highly cultured neighborhood. The saddest of these passings.

CWLPFB--always seemed like expensive square footage for a bookstore. Their business must have been mostly gifts.

Not a girl, not a midget... a Gidget! You go!

markleym said...

Mike, have a wonderful holiday. Roll in the surf for me. I've sworn never to go into the water again up here--it's never warm enough. I love and miss the beaches of yesteryear.

Pedro said...

happy 4th..
i can't believe that they're closing the's fucking's nice mafia around know, i have my parents here, and they can't believe that they're shutting down schools...i mean , that's unheard in Portugal...and they have the worst school system in Europe...
sad, very sad..
txau...still got the book for you.

Kit Stolz said...

Well, thanks for remembering.

It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.