Dale Says

June 27, 2014

Shadowing Dashiell Hammett

Filed under: Colorful Characters, Profile — Dale @ 10:29 am

He looks the part, and we could tell who he was from a block away. Today was the day he was going to guide us around the parts of San Francisco where Dashiell Hammett lived, worked, and wrote. And there he was, standing on Market Street, in front of the historic Flood Building, on a sunny Sunday afternoon.

Don Herron looks to be around 60. The years and the San Francisco fog have drained some of the color from him, and his hair and beard are turning gray. His face and hands have also taken on a gray tint. His attire is subdued – a well-worn tan fedora and open tan trench coat, which partially covers his black shirt, tan slacks, and brown shoes. He could easily fit in on the foggy streets of San Francisco in the 1920’s.

Don came to San Francisco from Tennessee in 1974. In 1977, he recognized the value of the tour, trademarked it, and began operating it for a living. Since then, he has led it hundreds of times, and it is now the longest-running literary tour in the nation.

In his book (The Dashiell Hammett Tour), Don figures he reached the peak of his fame when his tour turned up on the TV quiz show Jeopardy!:

Category: American Cities.

Answer: “The city in which Don Herron leads the Dashiell Hammett Tour.”

Question: “What is San Francisco?”

Don is a wealth of knowledge about Dashiell Hammett, San Francisco, and 20th-century American literature. He talks nearly non-stop throughout the four-hour tour, relating stories about San Francisco, Dashiell Hammett, and Sam Spade.

The tour begins at the Samuels clock in front of the Flood Building, on San Francisco’s Market Street.

“Hammett came to San Francisco in July 1921 to get married and stayed eight years,” Don says as the tour begins. “He went in to this building and hired in with the Pinkerton Detective Agency.”

Around the corner at John’s Grill, Don dispels a myth.

“Hammett did not write The Maltese Falcon at John’s Grill,” he states. “But he probably ate there.”

Don strides on, pointing out the Geary Theater, the Palace Hotel, the Stockton Tunnel, the Hunter-Doolin Building, and Burritt Street, where (in The Maltese Falcon) Brigid O’Shaughnessy shot Miles Archer. He shows us where Hammett slept, where he wrote, and where his characters lived and died. The final stop is 891 Post Street, Hammett’s residence while writing The Maltese Falcon.

“There,” Don says, “In the top-floor corner apartment, is where Hammett wrote The Maltese Falcon.” Don has been in the apartment, and he re-read Hammett’s most famous book there.

That means a lot to Don and to us.

Today, Don lives in two distinct worlds: the high-tech, instant communication world of the 21st century, and the hard-boiled, shadowy world of Dashiell Hammett’s roaring ’20s. He seems to enjoy both. When he isn’t giving the tour or lecturing to clubs, Don manages a website and blog on Dashiell Hammett and other mystery writers. He has found something he loves, and he has figured out how to make a living doing it.

At this point, Don would probably agree with his man, Dashiell Hammett, who wrote, “I don’t know anything else, don’t enjoy anything else, don’t want to know or enjoy anything else. You can’t weigh that against any sum of money.”

June 11, 2014

Ruby Loved Her Seniors

Filed under: Colorful Characters, Profile — Dale @ 2:20 pm

Ruby Gim worked at the Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center (Tel-Hi) for 36 years, and everyone at Tel-Hi knew and loved Ruby. She held several positions at Tel-Hi, and she worked with all ages of people, but for most of the time she ran the senior program – starting and running a variety of programs for senior citizens. The core of the program is a hot meal, which for some of the seniors is the only full meal they eat each day. For many, it’s the only time they get out of their homes. Ruby developed activities for her seniors to do while at the Center; including exercise classes, Tai Chi, line dancing, educational programs, and time in the computer lab. Ruby also put together special events for her seniors; such as a Lunar New Year luncheon, Christmas meal, and a Mother’s Day lunch.

Tel-Hi was home away from home for many of Ruby’s seniors, and they counted on Ruby for a friendly face, positive advice, and a hug. And Ruby was a great hugger! She would get down on one knee to hug the pre-school kids, and she would stand on her tip-toes to reach up and hug the teenagers, who all respected and loved Ruby. She greeted her co-workers each day with a warm hug, and she would lean down to hug and give a comforting word to her seniors. She knew and loved everyone at Tel-Hi.

“Ruby was the soul of Tel-Hi,” is how Nestor Fernandez, Tel-Hi’s Executive Director described her. “Many of the staff members considered her a mentor and even a second mother.”

Ruby got involved in many of her seniors’ lives. Whether they had health issues, financial problems, or other difficult situations Ruby was always there to listen and help — always accompanied by a hug and an encouraging word.

Each of Ruby’s seniors had a “special” relationship with her, and Ruby went out of her way for them. She took food to Bea’s apartment when Bea was sick; walking several blocks from Tel-Hi to deliver a hot meal, bread, and other supplies. When Ina was feeling blue, Ruby wrapped a white scarf around her neck to cheer her up. And Ruby gave a pink sweater to another senior to keep her warm.

No one knows for sure where Ruby got her compassion and caring. Maybe it came from taking care of her father. When her mother died, Ruby moved in with her father and took care of him until he died, many years later, at age 103. She doted on her dad; cooking for him, cleaning, and taking him for walks. When he died, she turned some of that love toward her seniors, and she treated them like family members.

Recently, Ruby developed health issues; including an irregular heartbeat and a lump in her breast. The health issues, the life she led, and the care she gave to others took a toll on her, and she became thinner and weaker. Yet she continued to give, and as she did there became less and less of her.

Everyone older than ten knows that life isn’t always fair. But someone as good and as caring as Ruby deserves a better fate than hers.

A while back, Ruby allowed her ex-husband back into her house, on a temporary basis. She loved him, but something had gone wrong between them, and he abused her. Eventually, Ruby had to file a restraining order against him. They stayed away from each other for a while, but the ex-husband had heart surgery and had nowhere to go after the surgery, so our dear Ruby took him into her house and cared for him. She wasn’t happy about it, but she did what Ruby always did — take care of those who needed help. But this time it back-fired on Ruby when the ex-husband beat her to death. There are no words to explain why such a horrible thing could happen to such a wonderful person.

Ruby was taken from us way too soon. She had more love to give and more seniors to take care of.

Now, Ruby is taking care of her seniors in heaven.

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