Preparation, celebration are watch words for earthquakes
So far, in my long life, I’ve rarely gotten up at 2 a.m. In fact, at that hour I’m more likely heading for bed after an interesting evening. Such wasn’t the case on this past April 18 however. I was up at 2, well, 2:15 to be perfectly honest, unable resist my alarm’s snooze button at that hour. By 3:20, I was waiting on the street in Sonoma to meet a dear friend. A quick change of cars and we were off on an adventure.
My Sonoma friend, Scott Sherman, qualifies as another one of those Glen Ellen honorary citizens; Scott’s just too cool to belong to Sonoma only.
Every year, Scott travels to San Francisco on the anniversary of the 1906 earthquake, April 18, of course. He goes in costume, looking like a dapper gent of the era, with his white beard and jaunty bowler hat. Scott’s purpose has always been to celebrate the survival of all four of his grandparents who were San Francisco residents at the time of the great earthquake. His younger brother, Bruce Sherman, was also born on that day, though not that year, so Scott makes it a double celebration.
The last time Scott spoke to his brother, before Bruce’s untimely death, was via a television newscast, where Scott was filmed spray painting a fire hydrant out on 20th and Church streets, with a filmed “Hello to Bruce.”
Vandalism? No way; certainly not Scott’s way. Painting the hydrant a flashy gold is San Francisco’s way of honoring that hydrant which kept all of the houses in the Dolores Park neighborhood from burning during the fateful fire that followed the ’06 quake. Besides, it just another way for San Franciscans to extend the party. Ditto for the breakfast gathering later at Lefty O’Doul’s. San Francisco surely knows how to celebrate and native son Scott Sherman was right at the center of the action.
Of course, I eagerly agreed when he invited me to join him this year. Why not? Those early morning hours are kinda hard on this aging, crunchy skeleton; but I went. Despite the early hour, and my innate reluctance to be entirely awake right then, Scott kept me entertained all the way to the City, regaling me with tales of his Palo Alto childhood punctuated with memorable visits to his grandmother’s house in San Francisco.
His classy old Detroit wonder, a luxurious ’96 Oldsmobile that maintains its class and style despite its venerable years, was our chariot, while an egg-shaped moon lighted and guided our path.
Scott regaled me with the various exploits of his family, noting especially how much San Francisco has been a part of their family story.
Arriving by 4:30 a.m. at Lotta’s Fountain on lower Market Street, we could see a sizable crowd had already gathered. While the streets were dark all around, the blazing lights from television cameras brightened our small circle of safety. After various speakers, from colorful and flamboyant (like Emperor Norton and his paramour Lola Montez) to ceremonial, but quite ordinarily sensible (like Mayor Ed Lee and Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White) spoke, at precisely 5:11 a.m. the dozens of gathered firetrucks, police cars were all silenced, and that included the some 100 spectators, Scott and I among them.