It’s my least favorite month. The only thing it has going for it is its length.

Really: the breadth and density of November is a bulwark against the rush of Christmas. But -

Hold on, there’s an owl outside.




It is not a flammulated owl, I know that much. I just listened to a series of owl calls on line, and none of them matched the peculiar sound I just heard. I’ve never heard this rhythm in nature. Bum, bum, bum-bum, bum bum buh-bumm.




If that is an owl, and not a strangled goose.

Anyway, November gets the big nix from me. It has the ethos of winter without the manifestations, usually, so you don’t feel as if you’re getting through anything. It’s the waiting room. Thanksgiving? Oh, I do love it, but Daughter’s not coming back this time, and it’s one of those years where the usual elements that assemble have been tossed to the wind. At least we'll have a new, working stove for the turkey we're not making.

You know the phrase, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step? The journey is winter. The single step is the first of November.

Saturday I went to the Postcard Show. It’s been a long time. Twenty-two months. This time it was held in the VFW post in Hopkins. I’ve never been there. The previous location, a National Guard facility in the southern suburb, had a memorial to fallen soldiers outside, pictures of the local officers inside in a sealed glass case. In case of emergency, break glass, and Bob from Accounting over at Centrix will soldier up. They’re all shot against the same blurred blue background, some indistinct overwatered 70s heaven.

This post had a box outside where you could leave your flag, so it could be properly disposed. As I walked up, a woman was putting a flag in the slot. It was perfectly folded. It had the dense perfection of the flag the soldier hands you at the funeral. I wondered if she’d gotten it the day before and couldn’t wait to be shut of it. She’d played the somber widow at the gravesite, but that was all the playacting she had in her. First chance, it goes.

Or not. It was from her husband’s brother from seven years ago. Or it was her aunt’s nephew from 1982. You don’t know. You’d love to ask. You can’t.

Inside, the familiar smell of old paper, a library smell, a learned smell. The lingering breath of the past. I paid my four dollars admission, and started wandering down the aisles. Same as ever: where to start? Scan the boxes, look at the card headers, figure out the dealer’s arrangement. Do you break out motels, or are they by state? Do you have a roadside section? Ah, good, thanks. You sit, put the long box in your lap, take out the cards, and check the price. Gah. This guy. Four dollars for a chrome motel. Dude.

Then I found a linen card, and thought "there has to be a story here."

Why, it’s Charlie Coffee.

Meet his brother:

The Coffee Brothers, it seems. Here’s their restaurant:

Looking towards the back. Note the juke.

Here’s what caught my eye and made me shell out more than I usually pay:


Therein hangs a tale, you might think, and you would be correct.


It seems a damned odd thing to call someone. His name isn't Petrovski, it's "Poorly-made milkshake!"

I mean, that didn't come out of nowhere, did it? Who shouts out something like that without a reason? But no one ever seemed to ask.

What did his mother think?


"C’mon, Ma, go along with it. It’ll put us on the map.”

The Coffee Brothers opened many places, it seems. This was the first. It was the Stockholm Cafe when Joe bought it in 1943.

The whole story’s here.


Joe died in 1993.

Is that the end of the story? Stay tuned.



It's pronounced "lin-youp."

Well, no. The Line-Up was a popular TV show, based on a reasonably popular radio show, which was based on Dragnet. More or less. Jack Webb’s police procedural spawned many copeies, and the Line-Up was one. Less focused or effective. It made the jump to TV, ran six seasons; in 1958, two years before cancellation, it got the big screen treatment.

Why, it’s Mr. Drysdale.

I’m not here to review it, although it’s good. Don Siegal directed it; Eli Wallach is a sociopathic drug runner. (In a nice suit and tie.) I’m here for the inadvertent documentary, and since they shot a lot on location, this one has plenty of interesting details.

That’s easy enough - the opulent city hall.

The Seaman’s Club . . .

. . . was really the Y.

It’s still there, minus the big Bromo sign. The movie has some interior shots of the lobby . . .

The comparison with modern shots tells you everything you need to know, I guess.

I knew this would be easy:


The meeting between Dancer and "The Man" (played by Vaughn Taylor) takes place at the Sutro Baths and Museum. Located on the cliffs of Lands End near the Golden Gate, the Sutro Baths were built in 1896 by Adolph Sutro, a wealthy entrepreneur and former San Francisco mayor. A popular family entertainment place for many decades, the Sutro Baths featured seven indoor swimming pools, the largest of which was 300 x 175 feet and held 2 million gallons of heated water. The swimming pools were built under a giant, domed glass ceiling (seen in exterior shots in the film). The complex featured a museum (as seen in the film) with various artifacts that Adolph Sutro had brought back from his travels. By the 1950's, the Sutro Baths were struggling financially due to high operating costs, and in 1954, the largest swimming pool was turned into an ice rink (which features prominently in the film's climax). The Sutro Baths pavilion burned down in 1966. Its ruins are still there, and are a protected part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

It’s like Roman Ruins now.

Inside, a good look at the place, already archaic and creaky by then.

The Embarcadero freeway, incomplete:

It’s gone now.

Finally: this made me alllll kinds of happy.

He didn’t have many movie roles. As it happened, I was looking away from the second monitor when this scene started, but my ears told me to look to make sure.

That voice. The best private eye show in the long history of radio.

  That will  have to do. Matches await!




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