It didn’t take long for us to locate Chris and Chrissie’s spiced tea shop on Haight Street. The only problem was that Chris and Chrissie hadn’t owned the place for a year. The neighborhood was a dump, with boarded up storefronts and lots of vacant houses. My guess is that in ten years the whole area will be bulldozed for car dealerships and shopping centers.
The guy who ran the tea shop disappeared behind a curtain, came back with a slip of paper.
“They run Daddy-O’s Records now, at Kearny and Columbus.”
I stared at him. “Jesus…that’s near Chinatown.”
“North Beach, mister. Relax. Mostly beatniks and kids who THINK they’re beatniks—”
“Yeah, yeah. Been there. Thanks.”
* * *
Actually, except for some recent drinks I had with Liz at The Saloon, North Beach wasn’t a place I stuck around long in. Since the literary and poetry scene exploded there the last few years it’s been overrun by a whole raft of turtle-necked punks in glasses who like to hang out on corners and question the universe. I gave up questioning mine a long time ago.
Daddy-O’s was stuffed with these well-educated vagrants. Political leaflets of every stripe were taped to one wall, including a few for the SAVE THE POINT COMMITTEE. Cigarette smoke and Cal Tjader jazz music filled the room, and Liz and I had to squeeze down an aisle of record bins toward the back counter.
“Ten bucks says we see Cepeda and Gomez here,” I said.
“Isn’t there a day game today? They’re probably doing warmups with their cigars.”
“They’re playing tonight. And don’t make fun of Latin players. Wouldn’t be surprised if Cubans take over the game the next few years.”
I recognized Chris and Chrissie at the counter. They both had hoop earrings and matching fuzz on their chins. God only knew which was which.
“Remember me? Snappy Drake?”
“Vaguely,” said one of them.
“Double Play Bar and Grill, maybe a year ago. We talked about tea. I was an usher at the Seals games.”
“Oh yes!” cried the other, “you left with that boozed-up redhead!”
Liz shot me a look. I smirked.
“Um, this is my friend Liz. We’re kind of interested in Saving the Point.”
“Not like you mean, though,” piped in Liz. “We’re looking for someone.”
“Someone who might be a little angry about the new ball park getting built there.”
“Well,” said the first one, “that could be any of us.”
“Yeah, but I’m thinking of someone who’s so angry they might, y’know…kill to stop it.”
Chris or Chrissie exchanged a worried look with Chris or Chrissie. Then turned back to us.
“We don’t appreciate your sinister thoughts in our shop, Mr. Snappy. Are you working for the police now?”
“Nope. Just a ball park usher trying to get a killer off his back. And you’re telling me no one you know fits this bill?”
They shook their heads. Eyed Liz up and down for more devilish reasons. The first one spoke.
“You two are awful amusing, though. I should tell you there’s a big poetry reading late tonight at Co-Existence Bagel. Lots of Save the Pointers will be there. You can scope out the scene. Isn’t scoping what a lot of you amateur ball park detectives do?’
I wanted to haul back right then and put a fist through his or her cheek, but kept my cool.
* * *
The first game of the Dodgers series that night was amazing. The park was so electric that if the killer was there he would’ve been too gripped by the action to squeeze a gnat. Liz and I changed out of our usher outfits the second it ended. Made it back across town to Co-Existence Bagel for the 11 p.m. reading.
This joint made Daddy-O’s look like a sewing circle. Tables had been removed, and people stood and sat wherever possible. Someone passed a jug of red wine around that Liz and I both sipped from. Somebody else passed me a hand-rolled cigarette. I said I already had my Camels but he insisted I try his, so I grabbed a few puffs and found it a little sweet and strong for my taste.
A raised platform was at one end with a chair and microphone set up. The master of poetry ceremonies, an old guy with wild white hair, bow tie and rumpled tweed sport coat, appeared. Read one of his short ones first. The crowd cheered after the last line, even though I found it impossible to understand and Liz clapped to be polite.
After the third or fourth of these things, my head started to swim. Damn cheap napa wine. Liz nudged me, said I should get up there between poems and say something about Saving the Point. “Y’know, to see which creepy-looking worms pop out of the woodwork.”
So I did. After this overbearing guy named Ginsberg read and the crowd went bonkers again, I slipped my way through the mob and onto the platform.
“Hi folks…” I looked out at the sea of turtlenecks and horn-rimmed glasses and went completely blank for a second.
“Who ARE you?” yelled some guy with a strong, deep voice from the shadows.
“Read your poem, man!”
“Well, I don’t really have a poem. See—”
“Sure you do. It’s in your face!!”
What was in my face was a visible afterglow from the game earlier at Seals Stadium. And either the wine or that weird tobacco was doing something funny to my thoughts. Because I grabbed the microphone and just started to ramble.
“Drysdale and Gomez, Dodgers and Giants
No big deal, neither team wowin’
Mays with a bomb, a cannonball, a missle!
Shooting into the Mission night, two to nothing us
Snider, Snider, the Duke of Flatbush
Old and slower and migrated west
Puts one into orbit”
“YEAH, MAN!” yelled the same guy again.
“Hail Kirkland, and Valmy Thomas
Exploding their balls into bleacher hands
5-1 us but oh no, oh no
Fairly and Rodgers and Zimmer aboard
And the Duke launches another
But Wagner and Mays and Cepeda strike back
And 8-6 for the locals now!”
“GO, MAN, GO!!”
“Hamms and franks fatten the crowd
Big hits dizzy the minds
Furillo out of the park for 8-7
And Grissom for the rescue!
Except 24,000 desires dissolve
Like seagull prints on sand
At high tide
Under a Pismo Beach sky
On Snider, Furillo and Fairly singles
Last gap we say, down 9-8
Willie at the plate, Ed Roebuck ain’t great
Dreams of a Bay Area nation all noosed
A grounder to Gilliam,
And all of us die
Like Doubleday dogs
Lost to American fate on this cool Friday night…”
I stopped. Wobbled. There was a slight pause and the bagel shop exploded. People I would never bother to talk to glad-handed me, pounded my back. Liz just gazed in my direction from the center of the room, dumbfounded.
Then a handsome, chiseled guy in a T-shirt with little curl of wavy black hair on his sweaty forehead walked up. I knew right away it was the guy who had coaxed me on.
“You were gone, man. Real…plain…gone.” He gripped my hand with one of his meaty ones. “Jack Kerouac. And it’s a damn pleasure.”
L.A. 000 114 102 – 9 11 1
S.F. 020 330 000 – 8 11 0
W-Labine L-Grissom SV-Roebuck HRS: Snider-2, Furillo, Mays, Kirkland, Thomas, Cepeda GWRBI-Fairly
CIN 011 004 002 – 8 13 0
MIL 204 000 100 – 7 13 0
W-Acker L-Pizarro HR: Lynch, GWRBI-Hoak
Milwaukee piles up the runs on Brooks Lawrence, while Cincy is wasting all kinds of chances against Burdette. That changes. Four in the 6th, a game-tying homer by Lynch in the 9th (who else?), and a single by Hoak soon after upset the first place Braves.
CHI 000 000 000 – 0 8 2
STL 000 022 00x – 4 7 0
W-Mabe L-Hobbie GWRBI-Katt
One day after bashing the Reds’ heads in, the Cubs can’t even sniff a run against the immortal Bob Mabe. If that ain’t baseball, then I don’t know what is.
PHI 101 010 300 – 6 11 0
PIT 200 110 010 – 5 9 0
W-Sanford L-Law SV-Farrell GWRBI-Anderson
The New Whiz Kids go back east to make life miserable in Pittsburgh this time. Down 4-3 in the 7th, they string four hits together for three runs off Law and Gross and are back over .500 for the first time since Opening Day.
WAS 201 000 001 – 4 9 1
NYY 021 042 02x – 11 15 1
W-Ford L-Clevenger HRS: Lemon, Berra GWRBI-Slaughter
Speaking of miserable…Whitey Ford is awful for the first three innings but the Yanks bail him out by mauling Tex Clevenger for ten hits and seven runs in four-plus innings.
BOS 020 000 010 – 3 8 1
BAL 000 002 20x – 4 10 0
W-O’Dell L-Kiely SV-Wilhelm HRS: Daley, Nieman GWRBI-Nieman
Billy O’Dell becomes the first 5-0 pitcher, as Monboquette tires and the O’s jump on Leo Kiely for a single and game-winning Nieman blast in the 7th. The Red Sox, now at .500, drop to 2-7 in May.
K.C. 010 000 001 – 2 7 0
DET 000 304 00x – 7 9 0
W-Bunning L-Terry HRS: Bolling, Martin GWRBI-Bolling
Frank Bolling goes deep with two aboard to cool off the mildly hot A’s. Gorman relieves Terry in the 6th and scrappy Billy Martin greets him with a 3-run smash.
CLE 000 060 200 – 8 11 1
CHX 000 020 020 – 4 9 2
W-Woodeshick L-Donovan GWRBI-Harrell
Meanwhile, the other Sox are also falling by the wayside. Dick Donovan gets trounced, giving the Tribe six singles to begin the 5th inning.
National League through Friday, May 9
American League through Friday, May 9