The Grand Marina’s wireless was not so very grand. I was suffering from a malaise attributable to only one thing – internet-connect withdrawal. I headed out on foot for Peet’s on Park Street to get my, um, connection.
We’ve been moored on this island city for nearly four weeks. Park Street is about a mile from our moorage, and its storefronts and energy remind me of NE Portland neighborhoods, like Alberta, Beaumont, maybe Belmont.
Peet’s delivered connectivity and the Major Dickason’s. Fortified by caffeine and Arianna Huffington, I headed back to the marina, intending to wax Cetacean’s gunnel walls. And then, I passed it. A relic from the past. Something as quaint as a dial phone. Paul’s Newstand sat placidly on the corner of Park and Santa Clara. It really was a newsstand, something out of a Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn movie. Someone was dozing inside, surrounded by neatly stacked quarters and copies of… newspapers.
Cetacean’s gunnel whispered “Wax me, wax me.” So, I refocussed on being productive, passed the stand and made for the boat. But, halfway down the street, my walkabout muse tugged at my ear. “Forget the gunnel. This is one of those opportunities to learn something special about Alameda. Turn around and talk to the guy sitting inside the newsstand.”
So, I returned to Paul’s Newsstand. Paul is long gone, but Harvey Morgan, former car salesman, former City of SF transit employee; and now, genial fisherman/retiree, sells the SF Chronicle, the Oakland Tribune and the Alameda Sun to anyone willing to lay down fifty cents for a daily edition.
“The Chronicle has got to be a third smaller than it used to be,” I commented to Mr. Morgan.
“The internet is ruining the industry. I was born in 1937 and started working in San Francisco in the 1960s. The Chronicle was a big thing back then.”
“Why are you running this stand?” I asked thinking that he ought to be out enjoying this fine day instead of sitting in that tiny box. Of course, he was doing just that – enjoying this day while making those proverbial connections (this time with me!).
“Well,” Harvey said, “You gotta do something with your life after 30 years of retirement,” he chuckled. “I fish too and need money for bait – ha ha! Me and Everett Dixon just sell papers out of this old stand. The Chronicle and local people pay to keep the building here. Here’s the whole story,” he said, handing me a dedication flyer covered with pictures of and anecdotes about the original owner, some supporting characters and the newsstand. “Alameda folks are really proud of this little establishment. I like it too. Being here gets me out, gets me talking with people.”
“My husband and I sailed to Alameda from Portland, Oregon,” I said, hoping to keep the conversation open ended – who knew where it might lead?
“You know,” Harvey interjected, “Like I said, I like to fish, but I prefer the Sacramento River. If I sail and fish in The Bay, I end up just feeding them!” Then he laughed again, clearly enjoying reminiscing about being seasick. “Have you sailed under The Bridge (meaning of course, the Golden Gate)? You gotta watch out for the supports on the right. That’s the Potato Patch. I was out there once and just about lost everything in my stomach.”
“We were careful and avoided that spot but I know what you’re talking about,” I said.
I asked Harvey if he would mind my taking his picture for my next blog post. “Okay,” he said. “Just don’t do a profile shot of me. I don’t like my neck.”
Norah Ephron said the same things about her own neck. Interesting.
We bid each other goodbye. I headed back to the boat with all my good intentions. Harvey withdrew into his newsstand. Someone I met on my way home (the gunnel still isn’t waxed) remarked that newspapers are not “going to go away.” Well, Alamedans seem to love Paul’s Newsstand and their newspapers – the stand was rededicated amid great fanfare in April of 2011. In solidarity with the good people of Alameda, I spent a few minutes jotting down notes for this post … on paper.