Sally and I started doing stand-up comedy together back in the day in San Francisco. I asked her to share some facts about the city—rare and interesting stuff for my readers. As a native, I knew she could help me out.
“Sally, my readers are smart, like to travel and drink a lot of alcohol. What cool stuff can you tell them about San Francisco to help them enjoy a visit?”
“Well, how about this, San Francisco is 350 miles from Los Angeles. It’s just far enough to avoid the LA cloud of phoniness, desperation and bad coffee.”
“OK, that stings a little. What else?”
“Well, it’s the most second-most densely-populated large city in the country, second only to New York City. It is made up of 90 percent cab drivers and 10 percent drunk tourists stumbling around Fisherman’s Wharf.”
“Good. Keep going,” I said, writing notes.
“The city was founded in June of 1776 when some dudes from Spain built a fort at the Golden Gate and named it after St. Francis of Assisi.”
“St. Frances the Sissy?” I said.
“No dummy, St. Frances of Assisi. He was born Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, but his nickname was Francesco. His buddies called him Frank.
“He created the Order of Friars, which was an early fast food chain selling only French Fries.
“He soon gave up the fry business, and took a vow of poverty. He received the Stigmata in 1224. That’s when a person’s hands and feet show the wounds of Jesus from being on the cross. Experienced comedians sometimes experience the Comedy Stigmata, which is when you feel the wounds of prior nights of bombing.
“Three quarters of San Francisco was leveled in the earthquake and fire of 1906. They are still rebuilding Daly City.”
“How about this?: The Chinese fortune cookie was invented in San Francisco.”
“I did not know that. I remember a fortune I read recently. It said, ‘He who bowls a 300-Game talks about it forever.”
“Funny!” she said without smiling. “OK, here is some more. Lombard Street gets all the press, but Filbert street is steeper with a 31.5 degrees incline. I live there–my address is 3-1-2-Woaaaaaah!
“Contrary to popular opinion, Mark Twain never said, ‘The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Franscico.’ He said, ‘The coldest winter I ever spent was the Christmas I told my wife she looked fat in those jeans.’
“The Beatles last full concert was in San Francisco at Candlestick park in August of 1966. Despite a winning season that year, John said at the concert that the Beatles ‘were bigger than the San Francisco Giants.’
“Gold prospectors in 1949 were so eager to strike it rich, they abandoned ships in the harbor. They city turned them into homes and businesses. In fact, the city can turn them back into ships with 30 minutes notice, just in case California starts sliding into the ocean.
“San Francisco has a long line of eccentrics. In 1859, Joshua Abraham Norton named himself as emperor of San Francisco. His first decree was to outlaw reasonably-priced parking spaces.
“The Navy was originally going to paint the Golden Gate Bridge black with yellow stripes. It doesn’t have the same ring to it when you say the Bumblebee Gate Bridge.”
“Wow! This is great stuff,” I said. “Anything else?”
“Here is a weird one,” she said. “San Francisco had the country’s first ugly law where ugly people were not supposed to show their face out on the streets.”
“Ouch, that’s a cruel law,” I said. “In those days, my cousin Ernie would never had been allowed to go outside. He’s so ugly, when he was a kid they used him as a hockey goal.”