San Francisco, the last stand of the old, free West.
I walk along on Fillmore street. I try to walk very fast with eyes straight ahead. One needs a strong will to take a-walking on Fillmore street and keep from spending all his money. In fact it is better to have no money at all for then one is tempted to hold on to it.
Everything in the world is in the windows on Fillmore street — everything. There isn’t a phase of human activity that isn’t represented. Every nation has left its stamp. Spain — tamales and enchiladas. France — a pastry shop. Italy — spaghetti and raviolas. The Islands have for sale all that’s hula-hula. Here is a Hungarian restaurant. And the “O. K. Shoe Shop — While U Wait” is pure American.
There is “Sam’s Tailor Shop.” I feel as though I should know this fellow Sam. Apparently he knows me from his chummy sign. Sam, Sam — I ought to remember Sam.
Do you wish to paint and varnish? Well, here you are. Or to be shaved or have your eye-brows arched? Walk right in. Here is a place to learn to paint china. Here are drugs, corsets, religion, fish, statuary, cigars and choice meats all in a row. Meats, on Fillmore street, are always “choice” or “selected” or “stall-fed.” I doubt if you could get just “meat” if you tried. Next to the meats, out on a table before a second-hand book store is romantic, old “St. Elmo” of mid-Victorian fame. He must have come West by the “Pony Express.”
I always stop, if I have time, to look at shoes to be mended. They are like people who have fallen asleep in public, off their guard and at their very worst. Take a shoe — a real, old shoe without a foot in it and it looks so foolish, betraying so mercilessly its owner’s bumps and peculiar toes. There is pathos there, too. A scrub woman’s run-down shoes, a kiddie’s scuffed-out toes, a man’s clumsy, clay-stained boots and the happy dancing slippers of a young girl.
Back of the shoes — the cobbler. Cobblers are always philosophers. Not pretty men, but thinkers. In their little, dingy shops they sit all day with their eyes down, isolated from the “hum and scum” about them, to the tune of their “tap, tap, tap,” their minds are detached to think and philosophize and vision.
Now we are at the corner where we turn away from Fillmore street. There is a window full of dolls. Such a lot of homely dolls. They don’t make pretty dolls any more. They make them to look like humans. “Character” dolls they call them and they are “characters.” Now, when I was a little girl, they made dolls to look the way you wished human beings could look. — It is not hard to turn the corner.
There is something about having money enough to stay at the St. Francis, and to dine there and to wear smart clothes there that makes people step out and act sure of themselves. Even when they can’t afford it, and their stay there is a splurge or an outing, they act just as sure and stepping. And as for the people to whom the St. Francis is but an incident they act sure because they were born that way.