The Palace is a great place for women who are alone and a place where a man may bring “the missus” with impunity. The Palace is stylish, perhaps, but principally it is select. It suggests to me women who wear suits of clothes, mostly dark gray, all wool and a yard wide, women who wear two petticoats and Hanan shoes and Knox hats and who carry suit cases covered with foreign express tags, and whom porters run to meet because they know that these women may not be so stylish as they are generous tippers. And the Palace suggests to me afternoon teas, and that peculiar composite chatter of women’s voices which is more like the sound of birds in a flock, and which Powys speaks of as a strange inarticulate chitter chatter which isn’t really speech at all.
The other day a well groomed young official from the hotel took me out to see the famous old Palace bar and the beautiful Maxfield Parrish painting above it. They have taken the rail away, and around the edge of the bar they have built a nicely finished woodwork wall which looks exactly like a great coffin, the coffin of John Barleycorn. After the manner of my species I wanted to see over the edge and the young man, thinking that I might be suspecting a blind pig, boosted me up to peck over. I asked him why they didn’t remove the bar entirely and he said with unsmiling naivete that they were waiting “to see” and that they had saved the rail, “in case.”
If I were a reformer I should agitate and have that remarkably joyous and beautiful Parrish painting placed where it could be seen. I’d take it out to some San Francisco school so that the dear Pied Piper and all the little round kiddies running after should be a delight to school children.
And now I have come to the end and all that I have said is that the Palace Hotel is the San Francisco tradition and everyone in the United States knew that long ago.
Zoe says emphatically that it is not her garden, but everybody’s garden. But it is her garden because she tends it, and every morning goes around among her flowers lovingly, giving a little dig of dirt here, and tying some frail sisters up there and then, with her scissors, clipping, snipping and nipping away. Yes, it is Zoe’s garden.
Anything that has spunk to grow is welcome in this essentially San Franciscan garden. And no one is allowed to bully the others. Big burly geraniums and proud dahlias must keep in their places and give the dainty lobelia, cinnamon pinks, oxalis and candy tuft their chance. The oxalis! How we tended it in pots in New England, and out here in California, bless its heart, it runs around like a native daughter. And as for the fuchsia, how far it has grown from the blue laws.
There is no formality in Zoe’s garden. Marigolds go wandering about in the most trampish manner, and poppies, because they are privileged characters, spring up as they please. Then, as though the two of them were not sufficient California gold, there is the faithful gaillardia with its prim little sunflower-faces smiling up at their Mother Sun.