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On a container ship in Oakland.

August 1st, 2000

Like A Vegetarian Pizza
Another day in class in San Francisco. Lunch with our old manager at Tadich Grill. I haven't been to Tadich Grill in maybe twenty years. I used to work just two blocks away and I would sometimes eat there, although it was a little more expensive than I liked, the kind of place you go when friends pass through or a full moon is rising. I noticed Schroeder's is still there around the corner. When I started work in San Francisco, Schroeder's was a men's only restaurant, a German mountain chalet type affair with high dark wood beams against white walls and ceilings, beer steins, Bratwurst and potato salad. A scene out of the Student Prince. Through the early 1970's there was a men's only restaurant in San Francisco, if you can believe it. I wonder if it still has that old pre-Nazi feel about it now that ladies are allowed. Do the women who eat lunch there know its history?

One week of class in San Francisco should be about right. See some of the hold haunts, notice that all of these little barriers I've built over the years against returning are more fiction than fact. Crowded, yes. A Starbuck's on every corner, literally. But I actually found a seat on BART coming back to Oakland this evening. Everyone seemed relatively pleasant. Riding in, there were more than two or three rather well dressed young women catching naps in their seats. You could tell they were living a full blast upper middle class existence, advertising careers and the like during the day, a crisis every hour, husband and kids in the suburbs, sleep a luxury. They'll be OK when they arrive in a few minutes, coffee in hand, hyped on caffein, ready again to rule the world. I was there with them when I was younger. Ruling the world. Tomorrow, on BART, a long lens for the camera.

There's a Nova segment on public television this evening about the Vikings. My grandparents on my On a container ship in Oakland. mother's side were Icelanders and on my father's, Danes. The Danes, well, the male Dane, he married a Frenchwoman and they came over, I believe, in the mid 1800's and I've always assumed the Danish side has been thinned over the intervening generations. So I'm sort of a semi-Viking. Anyway, the thing that made me think about all this and will probably get me to watch the Nova segment is that I saw The Thirteenth Warrior on video over the weekend. An OK movie, better than I expected, Antonio Banderas playing a Muslim nobleman banished to the outer lying territories, is thrown in with a bunch of Vikings, who are racing to the aid an allied clan in trouble. The interesting thing about the movie for me was the way they portrayed the Vikings. There was a distinct feeling of a societal culture that was both interesting and different.

I've read some of the Sagas and skimmed some of the histories, but I've never really paid much attention to Icelandic or Danish history and I've never really considered visiting Iceland, although I've talked about it. I'm one of the few members of my family who haven't returned, one of my cousins spending weeks out on the, what, Tundra, on a horse, others who have travelled to Iceland with the Seattle Icelandic Chorus for a series of concerts. The Thirteenth Warrior was a movie, of course, and whatever feeling for the Norse culture it was able to create, is more in the imagination of the writers, I suspect, than anything to do with reality. Not that the reality of a medieval Norse town is anything anyone knows about.

Still, I wonder what they were like. You carry things with you from your culture, even when you've lived in the American culture for years. No big deal. I've read as many Sagas as I want to read and I only occasionally have to fight back an urge to sack an Irish town or invade Russia. Either one seems overly strenuous, something you maybe think about during those long nights along the Arctic Circle. A few long nights along the Arctic Circle and I suspect you start thinking about things you're not supposed to think about and doing things that will get you into trouble. I'm a California boy. Our blood doesn't start to pound until the surf's up and the moon is hanging out over the Pacific like a vegetarian pizza.

The photographs were taken recently on a container ship docked in Oakland. The quote under The Sole Proprietor title is anonymous.