San Francisco, California

Last Sunday we were in San Francisco, eating lunch with two depressed people. Charlen’s cousin is four feet ten and weighs about 220 pounds. Her hair isn’t brushed. Her face is puffy. She talks about how sad everything makes her. Her husband didn’t say too much. He appraises houses in the Phoenix real estate market. He talked about that a little. He said he’s still making money. Their children are all right, daughter an MIT graduate and an architect; son learning his dad’s business. They drive a new Land Rover, which the woman hates: it uses too much gas. Why didn’t they buy a hybrid? I don’t think gas is her deal. I suggested a bicycle for Charlen’s cousin. Maybe she could ride to the store for her beer instead of driving the SUV. Charlen said she’d never do it. Her husband is about six feet tall and pushing 300. He takes pills during lunch and after lunch. He repeats himself. Maybe he’d like to ride a bike to his office. Where’s his office? Charlen says it’s in their house. So that was last Sunday. The lunch took two hours. We were in a restaurant on Hayes Street called Thanatos, which is Greek for death. It’s a nice little bistro with black-and-white photographs of mortuaries on all its walls. You walk in and see a photograph of a funeral in Colma in the 1930s, long line of people. Maybe it’s a politician or an athlete in the coffin. It doesn’t say. There’s a priest at the head of the line of mourners. He’s got a censer. He’s wearing a stole and alb. He’s churched his fingers. Charlen thought it might lift their spirits a little, this death-theme restaurant. They loved the place, hence the too-long lunch. The woman said it reminded her of a cathedral. “Which one?” Charlen wanted to know. “I don’t know,” the woman said. “Any cathedral.”

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