Tony Bennett left his heart here, Mark Twain said the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer here, and it's where I'm from, originally. In the "good old days," a trip to my City by the Bay was a pleasure any time, but especially just before Christmas.
Some people, and I am one, feel a little "blue" around the Holidays. Is it the angle of the sun? The short, gloomy days? The leafless trees? For us older folks, it may simply be recalling how things "used to be." I can remember a time when the Holidays were anything but depressing, back when a lady got all dressed up, with hat and gloves, just to go shopping! (Imagine that.)
"The City," as San Francisco is called by all who know her (and please don't say "Frisco") was always at her best when she was done up for Christmas, and store windows would be crammed with the brightest -- not to mention the most outrageously priced -- gifts, all around Union Square. Most magnificent of all was the City of Paris Department Store, with its jaw-dropping Christmas tree soaring three stories above the main floor in the rotunda. (How did they manage to get it in there?) Elegant I. Magnin and trendy Joseph Magnin dress shops were on opposite corners of the street, and Gumps, with its sparkling display windows, on the other side of the Square. A string of glittery little shops and pricey restaurants was just down the street on Maiden Lane. Even without snow, San Francisco was a Winter Wonderland.
It's different now. Most sorely missed is the elegant old City of Paris building, which was torn down and a gaudy Neiman Marcus erected on the site. How depressing is that? I've been boycotting downtown San Francisco ever since.
Nowadays people seem to do their Christmas shopping online or at Wal-Mart and Target stores on Black Friday, stampeding through doors thrown open at midnight to admit mobs of pushing and shoving customers desperately seeking the best deal on a TV or a computer game. This year there were even reports of pepper spraying at the counters and shootings in the parking lots.
Is this what passes for the "Christmas Spirit" these days?
If I may be permitted one last gripe: there is hardly daylight between holidays now, beginning with Halloween, when toys (and even Christmas music!) start making their annual appearance. Will the time finally come when we get all of that on the day after Labor Day? Can't we enjoy one holiday at a time anymore?
All right, things aren't what they used to be. But how about looking on the bright side? Andy Williams sings about "the most wonderful time of the year," and in some ways it still is. I see strangers smiling and greeting one another in the street, in line at the supermarket telling the customer in back of them to go first, and buying bags of groceries to be delivered to needy families.
Now, that's the real spirit of Christmas, in my opinion. May we never lose it!