But Morse's expose of touristic San Francisco left another, deeper mystery unsolved: the San Francisco of Rob Morse.
Where is it?
Is it that different from my San Francisco?
And can I go there too?
Yes, you can!
To begin one's sojourn into such territory, a stop at the House of Magic, 2025 Chestnut, is necessary. Gene the counterperson will be happy to escort you past the fake amputated arms and dog vomit to a selection of real human-hair beards ($30, trim to fit), mustaches ($10.95), and spirit gum ($2.49). The shop is currently out of that white theatrical aging spray, so your version of the "Morsian whiskers" will appear slightly younger. For those desiring an extra satirical nudge, add the strap-on latex pregnant belly ($12.95). One sweater and sport coat later, you're ready for your day as a daily columnist in a large metropolitan area.
The dawn breaks in Mill Valley as you wave "so long" to the folks at the Coffee Roastery and pedal off on your bicycle, handlebars aimed across the bay. Make sure that safety helmet is securely fastened, just like the recent photo of Morse riding along with the mayor. You arrive in the city, and, feeling a bit peckish, stop for a nice breakfast. Morse's columns frequently mention food, and he once wrote the food beat for a paper in Palo Alto, so loosen the belt: There's going to be a lot of chow in the cards today.
Extract a sandwich from your coat pocket (Mill Valley's Bookstore Depot Cafe; peppered bacon, lettuce, and tomato, $5.65) and commandeer a bench in Union Square. Reread a favorite M.F.K. Fisher essay from the As They Were collection, dreamily munching away, picturing the author in a restaurant in France as she attempts to order the perfect trout, boiled potatoes, and 1929 Chardonnay from a flustered servant. Chuckle away -- you've been there yourself.
Next stop would be the Examiner building, but they'll never let you inside, since you're stinking of bacon.
Instead, visit the neighboring office of a friend. Settle into a cubicle; boot up a computer. Open your backpack and dump a pile of personal mail onto the desk. Check your phone messages. Everybody wants press. They can wait.
Now comes the most important part of your day: gathering information for the column.
Wander through the office, chatting up fellow workers at nearby cubicles. Sit on their desks; use their phones. Call a friend or family member for ideas -- for instance, Morse's brother is a reputable critic at the Boston Globe. (When I contacted my brother at an Air Force base in North Dakota, however, he abruptly cut me off and began bragging about his new pickup. Others may have better luck.)
Once a column's worth of ideas are gathered, they need to simmer for a few hours. Whoops, it's lunch time. Off to the famous newspaper watering hole, the M&M at Fifth and Howard.
Order a cheeseburger ($5.75) and a pint of beer ($3). Check your vibrissa in the bathroom, adding more spirit gum as needed. Chat up a few people for column ideas. Get a feel for the beat of the street. Hell, have another pint ($3). A couple of beers is part of the job. Scribble some notes. Your moment of truth is nearly at hand.
Back at the cubicle, keypad at your fingertips, it's time to alert the city. Others have had their say today. Now it's your turn. Begin items with quick attention-grabbers such as "Caen's out of town, so why not?" or "Needed:" followed by a pet peeve and your solution. Offer questions about important issues, followed by an effortless, logical answer that will raise an eyebrow of those bastards down at City Hall. Toss in a reference to Harvard, Cape Cod, or Swiss chard. Call Moose's and Washington Square Bar and Grill for a few quotes to season the stew. Pick on a politician. If you feel like mentioning a previous column, go ahead and do so. Wrap things up at the end, don't leave anything dangling, and when in doubt, take the poignant road.
File that sucker, pop a Tums, and start thinking about dinner. Masa's? The Avenue Grill back in Mill Valley? Red or white wine?
Needed: a bigger budget.
Address all correspondence to: Slap Shots, c/o SF Weekly, 425 Brannan, San Francisco, CA 94107; fax: (415) 777-1839; e-mail: Slapshawtsaol.com.
By Jack Boulware