battalions of people in electric wheelchairs who are attracted from all
over the country by some sort of grant.
The footpaths in Berkeley are thick with street vendors (every day,
not just Sunday as in Melbourne). They sell the usual handicraft things.
I bought a couple of remarkable belt-buckles as gifts, and decided not to
buy a doll with a head made from a dried-up apple in case Customs refused
to let me bring it home.
The evening saw my first introduction to "Happy-Talk News" a team
of newsreaders not doing much reading but continually joking with each
other, oblivious to the visual content of unfunny scenes (stabbing in the
Mission District, and the camera got to the body before the man with
the blanket...). The next morning Carey and I shocked Charlie by partaking
of bagels and Vegemite for breakfast. I'm sure that anyone in Australia
who has bagels for breakfast puts Vegemite on them as a matter of course;
I'm sure they also put butter on their bagels (or bread) first, What with
plastic milk at every turn and unbuttered sandwiches one can only assume
that the American dairy industry is on its knees.
Carey proved that you could so get the wheelchair into the boot of
Randy Newman's rotary Mazda, and we set off for downtown San Francisco
to collect Charlie's incredible mail at the Post Office, which is decorated
with striking murals depicting the history of the area. Then we went for
a walk past the street market and a walk-through fountain and finally into
a very large building that was obviously an hotel. Into a circular lift
which turned out to be made of glass and going up the hollow interior
of the Highett Regency! It was like being inside an interstellar starship.
I must have looked like Mabel from Manangatang on her first visit to the
big city that's certainly how I felt.
After dropping Carey off at the bus terminal we went for a drive
up and down the incredible hills, After picking up Fritz Leiber we went
to lunch in Chinatown. It really was a Chinese enclave even the rubbish
in the gutters was Chinese rubbish and it goes on for blocks and blocks.
We went for a dim sum tea lunch (my first ever), at the "Golden Dragon"
a huge and noisy restaurant decorated with golden dragons twined round
red pillars. When I could tear myself away from the food I managed some
conversation with Fritz, who is a real gentleman in the proper sense of
the word, and a Norman Lindsay fan to boot!
After lunch we went to pick up LOCUS from the printers back in
Oakland, Because my chair was in the boot they all went in the back seat
(Carey was gone). Not only have I collated LOCUS - Charlie could not
understand visiting Australians volunteering for such a task I have propped
it up and been just about smothered by it! Some sheets got loose and flapped
around as we drove, while I hung on for dear life to the rest. I thought
that collating was fun, for me it was a chance to meet some of the local
fans, including Mel Gilden who introduced himself as "A neo-writer of Yid
spec fic, to wit "The Ice Cream Golem", and who appeared to be the local
version of Paul J. Stevens.
I enjoyed myself hugely in San Francisco. Staying in a comfortable
home, and surrounded by such kind and interesting people was the best
possible start to my trip. I think I coped successfully with light switches
that work the other way and strangely-flushing toilets and all the other
little cultural differences that make travel interesting; however, Charlie
assures me that he will remember forever my plaintive cry "I'll give you
a penny if you'll tell me what it looks like!"