The Warp and The Weft

Jun 24, 2018 | 0 comments

Cliff House Today

If I knew anything about weaving, I’m sure I could use its particular vocabulary metaphorically to describe my anticipation for the day ahead.  But I don’t so I can’t.  Not succinctly or specifically, anyway.  I can only say that I’ve lived long enough now to realize that certain threads have followed me since the beginning.  And even before.

Cliff House , 1878,

They are part of the tapestry – no, more like a simple wall hanging – of my life.

Take the famous Cliff House in San Francisco, for instance.  We are going there today to meet my old high school boyfriend (never mind that neither he nor I knew then that he was gay) for brunch.  The Cliff House is familiar territory to me, but not as an eating establishment.  I remember gazing at it from the time I was a little girl on the rare occasions that I got to go to Playland at the Beach.  As much fun as Laffing Sal and the Roller Coaster and the Fun House were, I always longed to go to the Cliff House.  But not so much the Sutro Baths.

I think that desire had to do with my grandmother.  She had grown up in the 1870s and 1880s in East Oakland and, since her father worked in San Francisco, outings across the bay to “City” and even to the redwoods in Marin County, were still fond memories.  I remember begging her for stories about “when she was a little girl” and the Cliff House was among the images that stuck in my mind.  I was also fascinated by a small wooden box with the Cliff House etched and hand-painted on its lid. It was the container for the paper dolls she and her friend Mary Wallace made when they were just my age – probably eight or nine.

Cliff House, 1954

A decade later, I worked summers at the Cliff House Gift Shop.  I remember selling dozens of teacups and saucers (“Lovely to Look At; Delightful to Hold; If You Should Drop It, We Mark It Sold”) to the busloads of tourists and eating my lunch in a room behind the Manager’s Office.  Once in a while, I’d treat myself to a corn dog (were they 10 cents?) from a stand just outside the front doors and once my dad stopped by to take me out for coffee.  But I never set foot in the Cliff House Restaurant.  I was saving my money for college expenses and the items on that menu were out of my league.

Today, though… brunch with a friend of seventy-plus years!  At last!  I don’t know if the Sutro Baths still exists but they are not on the agenda.  Just as well.  A bathing suit was not among my threads this trip.


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