Tell her that her father is a terribly useful man. That if he should fail to function, then the disposal of garbage would become an individual problem and that the mamas of kids whose fathers are not garbage men would be obliged to say to their husbands — “Ed, dear, don’t forget to take the garbage bucket to the public incinerator on your way to the office.”
Tell her that just because her father collects dirt, it is no disgrace. Tell her to look at the people in good standing who peddle dirt. Tell her to look at the papers. Tell her to tell the world that it’s better any day to collect than to peddle dirt.
Tell her that when her father, up on his great smelly throne, drives around the corner of Powell and Geary that dressed-up folk needn’t disdain him so much. He’s a sermon. They won’t like him as a sermon so much as a garbage man but he’s a sermon just the same. The text is that back of most things that are dainty and beautiful is the drudgery worker. Tell her that there isn’t an immaculate kitchen in San Francisco that doesn’t depend upon her father.
Nor a feast at the Palace or the St. Francis. Tomato skins and the nests that cauliflowers come in, and gnawed “T” bones. What would become of them if she had no father. And coffee grounds and the nameless things that have been forgotten and burned by the absent-minded. Tell the little girl about Omar Khayyam and how he might have said — .
Oh, many a charred secret into the garbage can goes
That from the kitchen range in blackened cloud once rose.
Tell her that there is a professor at Yale whose father was a junk man.
All this and more tell the garbage man’s little girl.
Someone was telling me of an old couple who lost everything they owned at the time of the fire, and that they were very brave about it and never broke down, and even helped others, but that when someone came running up and said: “The Palace is on fire,” they both sat down on the curb and gave way completely to grief.
And they say that after the fire the first piece of publicity which was given to the world as a proof that San Francisco would come back, was that the Palace would be rebuilt immediately. And a man from Virginia City, a descendant of the Comstock days, told me that in Nevada they speak of “The Palace” as Russians speak of the Kremlin as a pivot of destiny. What I am trying to say, of course, is that the Palace is a tradition just as the Waldorf-Astoria is a tradition, only not at all in the same way.