Sitting here at the helm. 05:30 of a Saturday morning. Yawn. To say the fog is "rolling in," doesn't quite do it justice. It's more like all the other air is rolling out. The horn on the south tower of the bridge has been blowing overtime all night. One of my favorite sounds incidentally. I think it's an E flat... at least by the time it gets to me it is. Never ceases to amaze me how that south tower horn is so perfectly audible sitting here on the south east side of Golden Gate Park... about 6 miles as the tern flies from The Gate.
Everybody's going out for Ava Gardner right now, Pioneer Sea Mount etc... Marilyn's picking up too. Yada yada. You can read all about it on the usual sites. Mikey's been absolutely slaughtering the Raquel Welches the last two weeks--better get out there before he catches them all. Doesn't hurt that he's operating the live-well down in Princeton Harbor. What's that you say? Live well in Princeton? That's right. Mikey is helping one "Pete the Greek" haul in his hand-lampara couple times a week and so has access to live bait. If you are planning a fishing trip out of the harbor call Mikey to find out if he's got any live bait:
For a good time (with live bait) call Mikey at:
You can also ask him about guided Marilyn (salmon) and Brigid Bardot (steelhead) trips. He does that too.
Me, I'm sitting here sipping the requisite cup of tea, and feeling the urge to wax poetic. The fog, the E flat tuba fog horn blaring in the dark, it all gets me thinking. Man, what I would give for a time machine. Let's see... if you could go back in time and have a drink... scratch that.... if you could go back in time and have drinks with... scratch that... if you could go back in time and get three sheets to the wind intoxicated with any historical personage from San Francisco's ill-lustrious past, who would it be? Brannan? Abe Ruef? Abe Warner? Harry Meigs? Oofty Goofty? Oh wait a minute... oh yeah... what about this guy:
All discussion of the history of San Francisco, it's settlement and rise to pre-eminence must necessarily involve this man. You have to figure this photo was taken shortly before his end, as he looks to be in his early sixties and he died (as all SF legends must: broken and destitute) at the age of 61. As I see it, what thrust Richardson into the annals of history, was not his brash decision to stay out all night partying with the Spanish officers at the Presidio on a cold August evening in 1822. Nor was it his equally adventurous decision to abandon ship somewhere in the Bay. No, it was his fluency in Spanish that made all the difference.
Richardson was first mate of the British whaler Orion, which had stopped at Yerba Buena for supplies before heading back to Britain via Cape Horn. Having gone ashore to secure food/water for the ship, he was invited to a fiesta at the Presidio. The rest is, as they say, history. He evidently returned the next morning at dawn to find his captain and crew somewhat, shall we say, irked at his behavior. The details of his actual arrival in SF shortly after this are murky. I figure it involved a long swim, or maybe some very fast rowing. The thing I don't get is why the Spanish were so quick to grant him asylum. He had one night to ingratiate himself to them before he went AWOL, and you have to figure the British Captain came ashore looking for him. This was many years before abandoning ship off San Francisco became the thing to do. We're talking about the desertion of a first officer onboard a British sailing vessel (albeit a whaler) in 1822. Was this not punishable by death? 100 lashes? Keel hauling? All three?
Was Richardson so charismatic that he convinced the Spanish authorities he was worth the risk, even though he arrived with little more than the shirt on his back, a pair of brass balls and a long term vision for the future? Or was there a back story here. He evidently met and fell in love with the Alcalde's daughter at that fateful all night party. Did she put in a good word or two? Was there a reason the Spanish needed a British seaman? A translator? Later, when he moved briefly to So Cal, (the one mark against him) his land grant there was contingent on teaching boat building and carpentry skills to Mission residents.
Maybe that was part of his attraction--he had hard skills the Spanish needed. Most likely it was a combination of charisma, leadership abilities, building skills and fluency in Spanish. Who knows? Unfortunately he took most of his stories with him to his pauper's grave. And even in death the poor bugger knew no peace. After his family was forced to sell his Sausalito ranch holdings for a mere 10,000 dollars his remains were exhumed at the behest of it's new owners (The Sausalito Ferry Co... I think... don't quote me on this... I'm operating from memory here) and re-buried at a local graveyard that was shortly thereafter destroyed by fire.
Map of SF circa 1851, showing original contour of Yerba Buena Cove. Richardson's house, the first permanent dwelling built in the area, was located at Dupont (now Grant) and Clay.
So no one knows at this point where the old Brit's bones actually lie. Anyway, while getting soused with "Captain" Richardson (he was never actually promoted to this rank while in the British merchant service, but received the title from the Spanish, as "Captain of the Port Of Yerba Buena" where he often piloted vessels into port) I'm sure all these details would be clarified. But until time-machine technology improves, at least we have this awesome daguerrotype (see top of this post). If only pictures could speak! I've been staring at it all morning. Just look at that face! The lines in it! The eyes shifting dramatically to the side... man, what a drinking partner William Richardson would've made!
For those of you who do not know it, William Richardson was the first settler of European origin, to look out at Yerba Buena Cove and say, "allright, I'm building a house here." You can visit the original spot from which the city of San Francisco subsequently budded and grew: it's at 827 Grant Street. A worthy mecca for an SF history buff. In fact, maybe I'll go there and do a video. Here's what Richardson's daughter later said about their first few weeks in San Francisco:
"Father immediately upon arriving at Yerba Buena pitched his tent and made us as comfortable as possible. Yerba Buena at that time was nothing but sand dunes covered with shrubbery and trees. Most of the trees were what we call the Christmas berry. Wild animals were very numerous, such as bears, wolves, coyotes. I remember before my father constructed his adobe house, while we were still occupying the tent, one night a bear put his paw under the tent and carried off a screeching rooster."
Yeah. People were made of sterner stuff in 1835. No doubt. There's a ton of info about Richardson at Foundsf.org, and also in Herbert Asbury's The Barbary Coast.
A Great SF Wedding
A ha. The fog has lifted. Getting ready for the big wedding today, San Francisco's pre-eminent eccentric, MC, self promoter, mountebank, burning man impresario, ring leader, and proto-hypster, Chicken John Rindaldi is marrying the queen of artisinal coffee: Ritual Coffee roaster/owner: Eileen Hassi. A true San Francisco wedding if ever there was one. I hear it's onboard a boat at Hyde Street, too. Was thinking of sneaking a drop line onboard and fishing for pogies... but maybe I'll just focus on being a good guest, instead.
Anyway... will report back in a few days. Off to New York again. Hopefully I can post from there.