Touring the Fairmont’s Penthouse Suite during our visit to “Ess Eff”

We returned to the Bay Area this weekend — this time to San Francisco to enjoy some of our favorite haunts. The reason for back-to-back trips is the looming expiration of our Fairmont President’s Club certificates, earned with prior stays and a branded credit card that is expiring now that Fairmont has been acquired by French-based Accor Hotels.

I love the Fairmont, a “grand dame” atop Nob Hill that was built in 1907. It stirs fond memories: The hotel is two blocks from my first apartment in San Francisco, when I went to work at The Chronicle in the ’80s (It was a small studio with a futon, kitchen, and bath but no parking near the corner of Taylor and Clay streets). I often walked past the Fairmont to ride the cable car to work — sometimes cutting through the lobby.

The hotel is next door to the historic Brocklebank building, where Herb “Ess Eff” Caen lived. The last publisher of The Chronicle before it was sold to Hearst, John Sias, lived in the Brocklebank too. Huntington Park and Grace Cathedral are other neighborhood landmarks, and I frequented both. (Herb’s memorial was at Grace Cathedral).

On the way to our room at the Fairmont this weekend we ran into two receptionists who were on their way to the hotel’s Penthouse Suite to prepare it for a visiting guest (a “king” we were told).

They looked at our inquisitive son, and we were invited for an impromptu tour of the luxurious suite. We had been once before for a party, back in the “go go days,” but were happy to go again, and I knew our son would enjoy it.

Created in the Roaring Twenties by famed American archaeologist and art historian, Arthur Upham Pope, the 6,000 square-foot suite epitomizes the opulence of the era.

The suite — which has been lovingly restored — features three bedrooms, a living room with a grand piano, a  dining room, antiques, exclusive china, a kitchen, a two-story circular library crowned by a rotunda, a billiard room coved in handcrafted Persian tile from floor to vaulted ceiling, and a terrace with sweeping views of San Francisco.

The suite’s guests have included President Kennedy, Prince Charles, Mick Jagger, Tony Bennett, Nat King Cole, and Marlene Dietrich, among others.

This time we learned some more stories — like the brightly colored lipstick that pop icon Katy Perry accidentally spilled on the wool carpet, as well as President Clinton’s impromptu walk from the suite onto the hotel’s rooftop, which caught the Secret Service off guard. The Kardashians also are fans of the suite’s amenities, including its opulent bathroom.

Our private tour was a wonderful window into history. Later, we received a knock on our door and a housekeeper handed us an envelope with a card that read, “We hope you enjoyed touring the Penthouse as much as we loved showing it to you! Here’s a little history book about the Fairmont and all its glory! Enjoy the rest of your stay.”

The book is titled The Fairmont: The First Century of a San Francisco Landmark. It is a gem: well written and loaded with photographs. It will find a home on the shelf of our bookcase that includes all sorts of history books about California.

This month I added another book to our collection, thanks to a suggestion from local resident Niel Locke. It is titled, It happened at The National. I look forward to the restoration of our local hotel too.


Radiologist: “What I saw treating the victims from Parkland should change the debate on guns”


“They weren’t the first victims of a mass shooting the Florida radiologist had seen—but their wounds were radically different,” observed radiologist Heather Sher in The Atlantic.

“As I opened the CT scan last week to read the next case, I was baffled. The history simply read ‘gunshot wound.’ I have been a radiologist in one of the busiest trauma centers in the nation for 13 years, and have diagnosed thousands of handgun injuries to the brain, lung, liver, spleen, bowel, and other vital organs. I thought that I knew all that I needed to know about gunshot wounds, but the specific pattern of injury on my computer screen was one that I had seen only once before.

“In a typical handgun injury that I diagnose almost daily, a bullet leaves a laceration through an organ like the liver. To a radiologist, it appears as a linear, thin, grey bullet track through the organ. There may be bleeding and some bullet fragments.

“I was looking at a CT scan of one of the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, with extensive bleeding. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage?

“The reaction in the emergency room was the same. One of the trauma surgeons opened a young victim in the operating room, and found only shreds of the organ that had been hit by a bullet from an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle which delivers a devastatingly lethal, high-velocity bullet to the victim. There was nothing left to repair, and utterly, devastatingly, nothing that could be done to fix the problem. The injury was fatal.

“With an AR-15, the shooter does not have to be particularly accurate. The victim does not have to be unlucky. If a victim takes a direct hit to the liver from an AR-15, the damage is far graver than that of a simple handgun shot injury. Handgun injuries to the liver are generally survivable unless the bullet hits the main blood supply to the liver. An AR-15 bullet wound to the middle of the liver would cause so much bleeding that the patient would likely never make it to a trauma center to receive our care.

“One of my ER colleagues was waiting nervously for his own children outside the school. While the shooting was still in progress, the first responders were gathering up victims whenever they could and carrying them outside the building. Even as a physician trained in trauma situations, though, there was nothing he could do at the scene to help to save the victims who had been shot with an AR-15. Most of them died on the spot, with no fighting chance at life.

“As a doctor, I feel I have a duty to inform the public of what I have learned as I have observed these wounds and cared for these patients. It’s clear to me that AR-15 or other high-velocity weapons, especially when outfitted with a high-capacity magazine, have no place in a civilian’s gun cabinet.

“I have friends who own AR-15 rifles; they enjoy shooting them at target practice for sport, and fervently defend their right to own them. But I cannot accept that their right to enjoy their hobby supersedes my right to send my own children to school, to a movie theater, or to a concert and to know that they are safe. Can the answer really be to subject our school children to active shooter drills—to learn to hide under desks, turn off the lights, lock the door and be silent—instead of addressing the root cause of the problem and passing legislation to take AR-15-style weapons out of the hands of civilians?

“But in the aftermath of this shooting, in the face of specific questioning, our government leaders did not want to discuss gun control even when asked directly about these issues. Florida Senator Marco Rubio warned not to ‘jump to conclusions that there’s some law we could have passed that could have prevented it.’ A reporter asked House Speaker Paul Ryan about gun control, and he replied, ‘As you know, mental health is often a big problem underlying these tragedies.’ And on Tuesday, Florida’s state legislature voted against considering a ban on AR-15-type rifles, 71 to 36.

“As a radiologist, I have now seen high velocity AR-15 gunshot wounds firsthand, an experience that most radiologists in our country will never have. I pray that these are the last such wounds I have to see, and that AR-15-style weapons and high-capacity magazines are banned for use by civilians in the United States, once and for all.”

The rest of the article is here.

Closure of iconic burger and pizza joint near Stanford stirs locals’ memories

This afternoon I shared a Facebook post on my page that an iconic hamburger and pizza joint near Stanford, The Oasis in Menlo Park, was closing after 60 years:

“It is with heavy heart that we announce the closing of our beloved bar and restaurant, The Oasis. After several months of effort, we were unable to negotiate a reasonable lease for our business, nor meet the requested terms of the building’s owner. Therefore, we have made the very difficult decision to close our doors, and bid farewell to the endearing community of Menlo Park and Stanford University. Our last day of business will be March 7 — please stop in for a visit and say goodbye!”

Known for its affordable beer and food, The “O” was a landmark. “Founded in 1958, the original furnishings included carved tables and booths, Stanford mementos, a shuffle board and a mishmash of barroom memorabilia you’d never see any place else,” as its website reads. “A big 27″ black-and-white Sylvania TV lit up the end of the bar.”

I posted some memories and some of our locals, who are Facebook friends, weighed in:

Mine: “Great memories of the area too. My dad worked at SRI International, and I was a junior and senior at Saratoga High School. My mom and I would meet dad for lunch at a restaurant called The Acorn (Greek food) in Menlo Park. Years later, when I worked at CNET, I ran into Steve Jobs at the Apple Store in Palo Alto.

“Peter Salaya’s dad (New Moon Cafe) was the chef at Scotty Campbell’s restaurant on El Camino in Redwood City. The New Moon kitchen has a black-and-white photo of Peter and his dad there. I went there with my senior prom date. I enjoy sharing that past with Peter.”

Sandy Woods (retired CEO of the Nevada County Fairgrounds): “Wow, we were there at the same time. I went to Hillview and then to Woodside. Grew up playing all tag thru Atherton. Enjoyed advanced studies with Nobel prize children at Stanford — so stimulating! We were blessed!

“Grateful for down to earth discussions at The Oasis, especially in the height of Vietnam! We celebrated my father’s life at Scotty Campbell’s — the interior they purchased from the Mark Hopkins Hotel in S.F. We were so blessed with amazing beauty and awesome intellect!”

Katy Jacobs (local lawyer): “Darn. Used to go there with my dad.”

Dick Law (local realtor): “Menlo Park takes great pride in making life difficult for the small businesses.”

Doug McDonald (Penn Valley Rotarian): “Not the ‘O’! I wonder if the ‘O’ will auction off the customer-carved tables — I want the ones with SAE lovingly chiseled in.”

(Photos: The Oasis)

George Boardman: “All hat and no cattle”

(Credit: The Union)

Editor’s note: This is one of the most pathetic resumes I’ve read for a journalist who deems himself qualified to pass judgment on others’ professional achievements as The Union’s paid weekly columnist— whether it’s other journalists or elected officials. Small towns are a hoot!

“Boardman to cover business for The Union
The Union staff
March 22, 2004

“George Boardman, a veteran journalist and public-relations professional, has been named business reporter for The Union.

“In 2001 and 2002, Boardman served as assistant city editor for The Union. He previously served as a copy editor for the Independent Newspaper Group in the San Francisco Peninsula.

“His extensive resume also includes stints as business editor and city editor for the San Mateo Times in the early 1970s. He worked in public relations for a variety of businesses in the 1980s and worked as a public-relations writer and consultant through much of the 1990s.

“In recent months, he has contributed several free-lance articles for The Union.

“A San Francisco native, Boardman is married to Mimi Boardman, a co-owner of the Stonehouse Restaurant in Nevada City. They have one daughter in Portland, Ore.”

The article is here.

Millennials “will be the generation that finally brings in tough gun control laws”

“Millennials will finally bring in tough gun control measures when they are old enough to achieve positions of power, a new study claims,” London newspaper MetroUK is reporting.

“The poll, by the respected Harvard Institute of Politics, revealed 61 per cent – close to two thirds – of 18-29 year olds back stricter gun control laws.

“That is a dramatic increased in just four years, when 49 per cent of people in the same age bracket backed tougher regulation.

“And in 2011 just 46 per cent of Millennials polled felt the same way, suggesting the latest result could climb even higher in the coming years.

“Poll director John Della Volpe shared the result on Twitter, saying: ‘Polling shows #Millennial attitudes related to stricter #gun laws changed swiftly after #LasVegasShooting massacre.”

The rest of the article is here.

“Constitutional Sheriff” Richard Mack: He’s baack, this time to host a local candidate forum!

Richard Mack at Pro-Gun Rally (Credit: Jim West)

“No one in your county has more power than your sheriff — not the Legislature, not Congress, not even the president of the United States, according to author and former Graham County, Ariz., Sheriff Richard Mack,” according to a press release introducing Mack the last time he came to town — in 2013. The event was hosted by The Nevada County Republican Women Federated.

Mack’s extremist views are outlined here and here. Sheriff Royal was going to introduce Mack at that event, but he dropped the plans after learning more about his beliefs. More background on some of Mack’s  admirers are here.

And now “Sheriff” Mack is riding back into town. Mack will host a Nevada County Tea Party “Candidate Forum” on March 23 at the Foothill Event Center, according to the group’s website. “There’s going to be a NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN this June! Will he or she keep their Oaths­­­­­­­ of Office?” it continues.

I can’t think of a more inappropriate host.

Nevada County voting safe from Russian hacks

Nevada County’s elections are safe from Russian hacking, the County’s Clerk-Recorder, Gregory J. Diaz said today.

“While the indictments by the special prosecutor in Washington focused mainly on Russia attempts to influence who voters decided to vote for, it was widely known that the well-financed Russian intelligence effort also looked at altering vote counts,” Diaz said.

“We were well-protected in the 2016 election,” Diaz said, “and we will be firmly protected again this year.”

Diaz noted that Nevada County is one of but five California counties that have qualified for a new, augmented voting system, called Voters’ Choice Act, that will make it easier for citizens to register and vote, while security to safeguard who votes and how the vote is counted remain in place.

“Ten years ago, when the Board of Supervisors asked me to take over the tasks of Clerk-Recorder and Registrar of Voters, they made a commitment to our county to assure efficient, safe elections,” Diaz said.

“All credit should be given to our supervisors for recognizing the deficiencies that existed then, and for continuing to provide the means to upgrade all of our systems in the intervening years,” he continued.

Diaz and his staff will conduct a series of workshops over the next few weeks enabling voters to examine all aspects of the new act and take advantage of them. The Voters’ Choice Act transforms voting in several ways:

• Elections are all mail; every registered voter will receive a ballot in the mail 28 days before the election. Voters can cast their ballots by mail, as in the past.

• Alternatively, voters can cast ballots at convenient Drop-Off Locations and Vote Centers, all listed in the ballot material sent to voters.

• If, for instance, a ballot is mismarked or not received, voters can go to any Vote Center on Election Day for a replacement ballot or to address other problems quickly.

• Eligible residents can also register to vote and cast a ballot on Election Day at any Vote Center. Diaz explained that the new system makes it impossible for anyone to vote more than once. In addition, renewed emphasis has been placed on guarding against hacks, or cyber-attacks.

—Nevada County Elections Office