"Ron, would you like to drive?" our benefactress asks. Without hesitation, I pounce behind the wheel of her luxury SUV. Orllyene and I will be spending four days with her, in her condominium on Nob Hill.
Soon, we are crossing the Sierra. Later we see the emerald greenery of the western foothills and become giddy at this first harbinger of spring. As the afternoon sun fades, I slip out of cruise control, and hone in on the Bay Bridge. Yippee, I'm in heaven.
The view from the condo living room is knockout gorgeous. The Bay spreads broadly before us. Coit Tower is to our left, and a battalion of skyscrapers is to the right. A cable car clangs to a stop just around the corner. I expect Tony Bennett to break into song any minute. Madam "X" and I trot down to the Utopia Restaurant and claim our "to go" dinner.
Next day, we visit Mission Dolores (circa 1776). The thick adobe walls and rough timbers speak of quieter times. Pink and red camellias blossoms are as old fashioned as the Mission itself. From there, we strike out for Noe Valley, and Bernal Heights, both locations I have hinted shamelessly to see. Noe Valley is a big time winner. We drive past antique stores, sunny sidewalk cafes, flower shops, and buckets of restaurants offering obscure cuisine choices. Turning toward Bernal Heights, we creep up narrow streets and over common sense defying hills. Lavender, tangerine, and baby blue doll size houses are covered with Victorian frou-frou.
Cresting a hill, we merge with Brisbane, a posh, industrial park where we keep an appointment with Lawrence, "Madam "X's" nephew. Lawrence operates a fine foods distribution center, is 6-foot, 2-inches, and movie star handsome. He and Madam "X" share an undisguised affection for each other. Lawrence has dual citizenship (Swiss and U.S.). "My aunt wants in the worst way to discover she has royal blood flowing in her veins," he announces, obviously pleased with himself. Lawrence and Madam "X" discuss friends and family members still in Switzerland. Orllyene and I prowl the warehouse, selecting an assortment of delicacies, for which to my surprise, we receive the family discount.
Coming to Smith Valley from San Francisco as a young bride, was a tough adjustment for Madam "X". She missed the vibrancy and diversity of the San Franciscan life style.
Today she enjoys both worlds. When a favorite symphony, opera or musical comes to town, off she goes. However, presently this isn't so easy. Several serious family decisions are under consideration. I've watched her study the situation, make a decision, and move on when everyone else is wringing their hands. This is one of her sustaining strengths.
Reflecting on Lawrence's words of royalty, there is definitely a regal quality to Madam "X." Her precisely clipped silver grey hair, and distinctive San Franciscan attire shout elegance. She's been a member of several regional committees and philanthropic foundations. Her husband has been on the board of directors for several major businesses. Although a very private person, her three best friends are optimism, generosity, and enthusiasm. Gloom, doom and indecision don't stand a chance.
A few weeks ago, my spirits were in the dumps. she must have noticed because she said, "Ron, we've had new carpet put in Orllyene and your bedroom in the condominium in San Francisco." It's exactly what I needed. I recovered instantly. What a friend.
Ron Walker lives in Smith Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.