The imaginary launch of my chain of Karl Rove Conservative Reading Rooms on the west coast was a hit. Radio talk shows, TV interviews, and a spread in the Chronicle -- had they occurred -- would have created a buzz worthy of the latest Apple gizmo. So did the entirely unsubstantiated rumor that Mr. Rove himself would make a guest appearance.
Hell, the man doesn't even know I'm using his good name in my proposed for-profit venture, from what I can tell.
I am back at the Stately Manor to do the same for the Midwest. A framed pin-up of Sarah Palin on the wall, the complete works of Ludwig von Mises on the shelves, a bust of Ronald Reagan, Fox News on the telly, and a nice selection of single malt scotches at the wet bar. In each KRC Reading Room, a Dick Cheney Pro Model Defibrillator. ("Obama is ... what?! Quick, the defibrillator!") Contact the Squire of the Stately Manor for franchise opportunities.
Some more take-home from San Francisco, that city by the bay.
One hears in San Francisco a polyglot of languages; French is spoken on the street -- and Japanese, Chinese, Italian and Spanish and who knows what else? People get around via virtually every mode of transportation known to man -- from ferry boats to the famed cable cars, electric trolleys running on rails, electric buses, and an underground, primarily to connect the city with Oakland across the bay. And, of course, automobiles; I found the city to be easy to navigate. Parking is another matter.
You can be fined for not turning your wheels in toward the curb; parked runaways on these steep hills are a real concern.
No large American city is more densely packed than San Francisco except New York City. (Madison's density of 3,311 per square mile compares with San Francisco's 15,502 and New York's 23,702; albeit 1990 statistics, the most recent I could find -- and indicative.)
Yes, the Squire of the Stately Manor witnessed the 40th annual Gay Pride parade. But that's not the diversity I want to talk about today.
As grand as is its city hall, its museums and monuments, what impressed me most is the quirkiness of the place. The central planner mentality would have brought down the gavel hard. Nyet.
Big government types forget Madison's Mansion Hill was built by private and unregulated hands before planning took hold, with fits and starts, in the first 20 years of the last century. And what is the most oppressive, soul-deadening section of Madison? Could it be the GEF state office building complex? GEF-1 would have brought a smile to Stalin's face.
This is not a jeremiad against planning. John Nolen, Pierre L'Enfant, and Baron Haussman made Madison, Washington D.C. and Paris better places. But you can't master plan quirkiness. Character chokes to death in committee. The spark of individualism, sometimes wrong-headed by conventional terms, is what creates unique experiences.
Vive the quaint and impractical!
San Francisco is the enemy of uniformity
Cottage Row is narrow and inviting
Some of its streets cannot accommodate motorized traffic but they are public thoroughfares just the same, the only access to homes along its way. They are shown on all maps. In the lower Pacific Heights area is a block long "street" that is nothing more than a brick-paved sidewalk called "Cottage Row." Foot traffic only. Maybe a bike. Hard upon its east side is a row of 10 (I think) "cottages" -- some of them three stories. Their entryways are gated; on the other side, high hedges. At one end is a tiny park -- smaller than a Dayton Street front yard -- with a bench and water bubbler, entirely secluded from the bustling street beyond. Too many neighbors to permit criminality. At nights, low intensity lamps light your way. Quaint and peaceful.
Another intimate space is Filbert Street east of Coit Tower. Is "street" even the correct word for a wooden walkway no wider than two walkers abreast? The motorless street descends down a steep hill over many steps toward the Levi Strauss Plaza off Embarcadero amidst a phantasmagoria of nature.
Along the way at the various elevations are residents inhabiting, here art deco-era apartments and there small wood-frame houses demarcated by insubstantial picket fences -- flowering arbors crown the small gate that gently suggests private property. Old-fashioned country mail boxes await word from the postman. A profusion of angel's trumpets, masses of nasturtiums, and clouds of cosmos replace the boredom of lawns. The wooded thoroughfare is said to support a population of wild parrots (which I never did spot).
Those taking this highway less travelled respect the serenity of the place, the better to enjoy the gurgling of small garden fountains and the whirring of humming birds and dragonflies.
Name me the zoning board or transportation committee that would approve such a human-scale transportation route?
Resolved: To introduce more quirkiness to the grounds of the Stately Manor and to Madison's public life in general.
Filbert Street east of Coit Tower is a boardwalk with many steps.