Northside SF  

The Final Word
By Bruce Bellingham

The other day, a good friend of mine tried to hoodwink me a bit. I almost fell for it.
“Give me your business card, Bellingham,” he demanded. Believe it or not, I have one. Believe it or not, it actually depicts my real business. 
“Here ’tis,” said I.
“Now I want you to write this. ‘I am sorry that I voted for Obama’ – and sign it.”
“But I’m not sorry I voted for Obama. Not yet, anyway.”
“C’mon,” he pressed, “I’m collecting these things from all sorts of people.”
“They’re actually writing these things?”
“Yup, they sure are.”
“He’s only been in office for six months.”
“They’re already sorry.”

I am sorry for all kinds of things. I am sorry that 59 million Americans voted for George Bush in 2004. I am sorry that I did not see the Beatles at Shea Stadium when I had the chance. I am sorry I never met Edgar Rice Burroughs. But no one is inviting me to write anything about that. I wonder why.
I am sorry I did not vote for Eugene Debs in 2008 – but he wasn’t on the ballot. No point in writing in the name of a dead candidate. I guess a write-in on Election Day is the only form of legal graffiti that’s left to us before the authorities take us away. Just as effective, too. I was accused last month of being a socialist. That’s funny. C’mon. I wouldn’t know the difference between being a socialist and being a socialite. 
During the Great Depression, FDR was worried about a socialist uprising. Funny, though, the collapsed economy seemed to play favorites for the fascists.
“What did Franco do that was so wrong?” someone asked me not so long ago.
He killed Garcia Lorca for starters. Is that not bad enough? I am sorry about that horrific crime. But, for the fascists, it was very effective.

For what I am really sorry about, in a personal way, I could not fit on a thousand business cards. Fortunately, most of it is no one’s business, even the business of my readers, whom I hold in high regard. If you really want to know what I’m sorry about, I’ll answer requests individually. But that, as Vernon Alley used to say, makes no never mind.

I still chuckle to myself when I think of the song that Paul Anka wrote for Frank Sinatra, “(I Did It) My Way.”

“Regrets – I’ve had a few – but, then again, too few to mention.”

Sinatra had no regrets? Maybe not. Although I’m sure he found growing up in Hoboken regrettable. He hated it. On the waterfront, you can look out at the Empire State Building across the Hudson River, and dream of reaching the heavens. And Sinatra did. He was a Hoboken Cinderella.
You’ve heard that old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” I have bad news for you. Because of the economic downturn, a picture is now worth about 752 words. That’s about as long as this column. All right already, the picture will come next month. I promise. No column. Just a picture. You won’t have to trudge through all these sentences, and get your imaginary boots all muddy. I promise. Hah! You believed me. Aren’t you sorry now? No, no, no, you can trust me. I’m an honorable man. We are all honorable men. Sure, I gave up my gig at Bear Stearns to become a writer. Listen. If you can’t trust your local columnist, then who can you trust? I promise you, prosperity is just around the corner. There’s something to say about promises. In the stock market, they’re called “futures.” At the Cache Cow Casino, it’s called “gaming.” It used to be called gambling. Let’s face it: we’re all gamblers. That’s because we want to stay in the game, no matter what happens. Most of us are slaves to hope. The Audacity of Hope. That title paid off big for Obama. It’s a good title. I’d be pleased simply to maintain a capacity to hope. I hope. 

“Titles are everything,” says my sagacious friend, Maurice Kanbar. He should know. He’s a marketing genius. Maurice produced a fine film called Hoodwinked. No, it’s not about the Bush years. Good title, though.

One of our local writers, Michael Savage, has a knack for coming up with best sellers, too, you know. Like Obama, he’s made millions off his books. The titles don’t come to my mind immediately, but I think Michael, the former San Francisco Democrat, wrote “I Hate Everybody,” then he published its sequel, “I Hate Nearly Everybody Except Those Who Believe Fox News.” I think the latest is called “Not To Worry: I’ll Hate Everyone You Hate, Just Give Me Their Names.” His books are hugely popular.

I’m pleased to know that, in this depression, people still find money to spend on real literature.
I don’t see fortunetellers going out of business. OK, a few. But they could see it coming. I love that scene in the movie Touch of Evil where Marlene Dietrich is preposterously portrayed in a brunette wig (I think it’s brunette, could be red. I can’t be sure. The movie’s in black & white). Dietrich explains chillingly to a bereft Orson Welles why she cannot forecast his fate: “You haff no future,” she says, “you used it all up.”

When I was a kid, I used to see a folk singer named Tim Hardin at the Cafe Au Go Go in Greenwich Village. One of his great songs was “Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep.” Even as a teen, I sensed that he was singing about himself, knowing that he could not make good on his promises, nor could he find the coordinates for his capacity to hope. Tim was a heroin addict, and it seemed that he had the weight of his world on his shoulders. He’d hover over his guitar like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Out of his great despair came his little songs. He left those great songs for us to savor. I’m certainly not sorry that I, as a kid, went to see Tim Hardin in that little cafe on Bleecker Street, with the rickety wooden chairs and that irrepressible smell of stale beer.

In fact, all these years later, I remain hopelessly hopeful, and regrettably short on regrets.
I could write that down, if you’d like.

Bruce Bellingham is the author of Bellingham by the Bay, and writes a regular column, well, as regular as it can be, for this newspaper, as well as the Marina Times. Newspaper. Now, that’s a beautiful word. Torment Bellingham at


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