Welcome to the Neighborhood

<!– /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:””; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;} @page Section1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.25in 1.0in 1.25in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} –> By Bruce Karney

I moved to the Bay Area in 1972 to attend Stanford.  Early on, I developed the habit of reading the San Francisco Chronicle each morning during breakfast, and what I looked forward to the most was Herb Caen’s column.

If you read only one of his columns, you might conclude that Caen’s was a raconteur, a gossip, a wit, a sentimentalist, an activist, a bore, a historian, or a curmudgeon.  He was all of those things.  He had time to be.  His column ran from 1938 (when he was only 22) until his death in 1997 at the age of 80.  He had plenty of time to share his complex psyche with his devoted readers.

To me, he was an open-hearted tour guide who gave me five min-utes of instruction each day about what made San Francisco so special.  And he knew, deep in his bones, how special the place was.  He’d grown up in “Sackamenna” and he knew the difference between a good city and a great one.

To do his job, Caen’s spent most of his waking hours – for 60 years! – exploring the hidden corners and byways of the city he dubbed Baghdad by the Bay.  He spent time with the rich and powerful, but also with cabbies, waiters, Muni drivers and washed up boxers who were part of his enormous circle of friends.

I’ve never forgotten how grateful I was that someone sharing his deep knowledge about the people, places, and institutions that made up the San Francisco scene.  Caen made me feel connected to a place I’d barely even visited, and he made me believe that San Francisco was the most fascinating and wonderful place in the world.

During the years that I’ve edited this newsletter I’ve never tried to imitate Caen’s style, but I’ve always thought about how I might be able to help someone who has just moved here from far away feel more connected to our wonderful community and the interesting people who live here.

Near the end of his life, Caen said: ”I’ve loved this town before I was born, and I’ll love it after I’m gone.  One day if I do go to heaven, I’m going to do what every San Franciscan does who goes to heaven — he looks around and says, ‘It ain’t bad, but it ain’t San Francisco.’ ”

That’s how I feel about our part of Mountain View, and I hope you do too.

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