Hilton Obenzinger wrote:
> Here's a question to ponder: Why is there no big Mark Twain business in
The proper California response to your observition on lack of Twainiana
and events would be "Start Something."
I lived and worked in San Francisco during the three decades of late
beat to the early dot.com era, leaving to work in Central Europe ten
years ago. For a time I worked as a visitor guide at the Old Mint
Museum, which I understand is about to re-open under City
ownership/management (It had been a project of the U.S. Treasury, which
didn't give it a lot of respect).
Others can comment on his continuing longing for San Francisco after his
marrying into and acceptance by New England and New York society. All in
all, he might have been happier in the West all his life, I feel.
There were a considerable number of minor events each year devoted to
Twain in "The City" itself, some of which I myself organized for the
City Art Commission, the Main and branch libraries, and the theatre
company I directed (Julian Theatre.
But the average visitor or tourist may still come
and go without ever knowing of the man's considerable presence there
during his makeover from reporter Clemens to author and showman Twain.
The Bancroft Library was there on Mission Street near Cesar Chavez, but
City leaders let the library go to Berkeley's UC campus.
Other "places" where he was a frequenter are just not there any longer
either, so it's hard to get tourists to make the journey to not see
"Clemens of the Call" (newspaper that lasted to the 1960s, I think)
covers some of his reporting and humorous pieces, including some on
Norton and the dogs. And few know that the SF Chronicle was at its
founding the San Francisco Dramatic Chronicle, a theatre program with a
hard news insert. Twain was the first full-time drama critic for it. All
issues, from its January 16, 1865 start, may be available at the
Bancroft, or maybe even from the Chron.
The San Francisco Library's History Dept had and still has some
good people, but tourists usually don't make their way into libraries
in steady streams, even in that fair city.
When I left S.F. the Mark Twain Hotel was doing a good business. The
price was reasonable for the location (near the Hilton), the restaurant
good, and the Mark Twain Saloon was there, but with hardly a funky 1860s
feel or period-dressed clientele inhabiting the stools, though the
servers were costumed.
You're right about Oakland - the Oakland Museum does a better job of
presenting San Francisco history than does The City itself. Some
elements of SF's elite families never wanted the stories told, of
course, including the one that built your university.
The other place nobody should miss, of course, is Virginia City, where
authenticity can still be found. And some Twain spots up and down
Highway 49 in the Gold Country, but Black Bart gets more play there.
Richard Reineccius, in Lodz, Poland <[log in to unmask]>