Saturday, September 24, 2005

Trapped In Paradise

Every evening, as I walk through my tony Presidio Heights neighborhood, I marvel at my apparent luck. Perfectly clean sidewalks border gardens of roses, dahlias and golden poppies. Giggling, cherubic children ride their bikes with decorated helmets or swing under the watchful eye of an Hispanic and/or Filipina nanny. Golden retrievers blissfully greet me as I admire one grand home after another.

On my route into the Presidio itself (my private sanctuary), I pass by what is known as Dueling Mansion Corner - two huge homes sitting side-by-side, each one so eager to be the biggest that their roofs actually cut into one another. Further along, I listen to the trickling water fountains and admire the marble steps leading to the front door of the Koshland House, also known as Le Petit Trianon. Built in 1902, this city landmark (#95) recently sold for $29 million and is often the setting for societal functions of Old Money - cotillions, high teas, balls, galas and so on.

Once, I had a college student come live with me and she'd asked me to speak to her mama in Dallas, to confirm the area's safety and, hence, her daughter's. "White people go jogging here at night," I blurted, and, by god, that was good enough for her.

My neighborhood is ghastly beautiful, frighteningly perfect and I cannot wait to leave.

Knowing how starkly this world contrasts with the realities that fill the daily headlines, I get embarassed and impatient. Living in a rent-controlled apartment one block away from one of the nation's richest and most powerful senators (Feinstein) is more than ironic for someone like me. Would it kill them to take out just one Baby Gap and replace it with a decent burrito place? What good is a dress shop where you have to make an appointment?

Meanwhile, I ponder all the new building that will soon take place in the battered South and I wonder: How great would it be to be part of a civic rebirth? How often does one get that chance? It's got me thinking crazy thoughts. I'm tired of not being where all the action is - it might soon be time to grab a hammer and head east . . .

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