Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tito Gaona, Like a Kid, Says Goodbye to a Red Ring in Venice

Strange to note that its exposed frame looks so Art Concello, so aeronautic and really not of the big top at all.  So much like the sleek structure for a seat wagon ingeniously designed by Concello back in 1948.

 Tito's great dream failed to fly

Sorry to say as the curtain comes down, that the Venice Ringling arena never struck me as glamorous or "circusy."  No atmosphere. Too much Concello.  The setting holds greater meaning, me thinks, to performers like Tito Gaona than to fans like me.  Ringling would put together a new show there, whip it into shape and try it out on a new test audience, before hitting the road north for Madison Square Garden.

They dreamed, too, but how many museums can a small circus community support?

But all of that is gone, leaving Tito, who waged a valiant campaign to save the arena, now felling like a kid having just watched a circus throw down the canvas, pack the wagons and rumble off into darkness.  "There was a red ring out there where they trained bears and different acts from Europe," he says.  He envisioned the arena being turned into a museum.

After the Clyde Beatty Circus left the town of my boyhood, Santa Rosa, back in the early 1950s, there were three circles traced in the dirt.  I know the feeling of loss, Tito.  If you're lucky,  you might find a few ticket stubs amidst the Venice ruins.

Art Concello designed it to be functional, period

The great flyer did everything he could to save the architecturally sterile arena.  "It was a sentimental thing that I thought everybody would stand up and help,” he told Josh Taylor of ABC's Mysuncoast.com  “Save this landmark. This landmark was Venice."

Some things just aren't worth saving.  Other things more than worth saving are callously ignored. Hell, and I do say Hell, we haven't even ONE Concello seat wagon to walk around, stare at in retrospective wonder, dream over and under and around. Not ONE, damn it!   Who let that happen? 

I hereby challenge the millionaire land grabbers at the Ringling Art Museum, fighting to trump paintings with peanuts,  to build from scratch a full scale Art Concello seat wagon.   I know of a rich model builder there who could easily make it happen.  For him, chump change.  Or maybe down in Baraboo, where they  have experience building full scale model circus wagons

In spirit, I agree with Tito Tito, who, in many sawdust quarters, is everybody's favorite trap star.  He flew like a well controlled fireball. Sizzled, from swing to catcher’s grip, turning three and flashing his sky-wide smile out of another aerial orbit. 

"To save something historical is very important,” told the circus fireball to Josh Taylor “That's why Europe is so famous."

The spirit of Gunther Gebel Williams may remain, it alone, in the form of a little barn in which the great German animal trainer paced his cats through practice. 

“At the same meeting where Venice City Council members approved the demolition of the large arena,” reported Taylor, "a majority said to hold off on destroying a small octagonal building commonly referred to as the Gunter Gebel-Williams building."

"It just gives me chills to walk in here,” says Tito. “A tribute to Gunther Gebel-Williams. A great man.  A great performer."

Well, Tito, when Bob Mitchell once drove me down a Florida highway, stopped along an open field,  pointed to an object half burred in the distance, I got out and crunched through rattle snake-laced grass to reach the thing, to climb up into a small back section, and for a magical moment stand inside a piece of hallowed history, where once, big top icons dressed and rested between performances: A Concello seat wagon.

I know the feeling, Tito.  It gave me chills.

Thanks to Don Covington for linking me to this report, filed yesterday

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sunday Morning with Don Marcks: When Circuses Landed Major Sponsors -- When Kelly Miller Pachyderms on Parade Pitched Chevrolet

While I tend not to regret having taken circuses to task (or did I blast them?) for the crass insertion of advertisements during the performance, I can be nice when it comes to ads on the edge that do not stop the flow of action.  Yes, I am a Pep and PACE-aholic.

Such as, so charming an image from out of the past, this from Don’s letter to me dated October 25, 1958 – anybody out there alive that far back?

“Would be sort of nice to have that idea as the Kelly Miller show had, a large elephant and a small elephant with No Job To Big for the Chevrolet and No Job Too Small for the Chevrolet.”

He waxed reflective: “Actually, you might say this is too commercial but yet all circuses throughout history have done that sort of thing so it wouldn’t be out of line.”

The practice also showed up in circus parades, Don reminded me.  “... but guess they like the money that is in it despite the fact that we don’t care too much for it.

Right on that point, too.  However, that stuff never much riled me.  Such ad art, in motion, never stopped the show.  I think they had painters on the payroll who, daily, created simple ads  on large sheets of paper for advertisers, which they hung around the tent. 

In recent times, I’ve blasted Cirque du Soleil for its high-tech neon ads encircling the tent on the sidewalls.  Ringling, back in the fifties, took a lot of heat for signing onto a multitude of walk around clown gags pushing various popular products, toothpaste to  Tums (for the tummy).  The spectacle became such an orgy of commercialism, the show finally put a stop to it.

Then again, however, I enjoyed the veiled commercials if they were funny, although I can’t recall specifics.  I’d like to see today’s jesters spoofing some of the more obvious targets. Oh, just for starters, the ad for a certain pill to give couples in need a thrill.   Can you see them going to town with this?  

My newly late friend Liz once commented that sometimes, the best thing about television were the commercials.  Either those, or her  favorite program, Masterpiece Theatre.

Towards the end of Don’s two page letter, this:

“If ever you wish to come over it would be nice to have you once again.  Hope to hear from you again and to see you too.”

That’s how it went.  He was a most generous correspondent. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

1955: In the Ringling Backyard ...

How I love this photograph.  There she sits, and how slyly ... one of my aerial idols, Pinito Del Orro (I assume),  relaxing in front of her "private" dressing room, in the back end of a Conecllo seat wagon.  To us then, such quarters seemed absolutely glamorous.  Gone are the days, yes.

I came across this image while moving through back posts as I assign each topics for my massive indexing underway.  

So, here it is, posted again for your charmed consideration. I wonder who took the picture?  Anybody care to make a guess? I would love to have it super-enlarged and framed for my yet-to-be Wall of Fame.

Enjoy the Greatness that was Ringling!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Morning with Don Marcks: When Getting Published Was Magical and Rare -- or Vainly Expensive

Before Amazon and the others, “self publishing” was called vanity publishing.  When somebody excitedly told you their book was getting published, that was cause for celebration.  It meant they had enough talent to land a real publisher willing to invest time and money -- not to mention maybe a dash of blind courage -- in bringing their book to market.  It was like getting cast in a Broadway show.  A publisher has accepted my book!

That world is gone.
From Don’s letter to me, dated November 6, 1983:

“She says she is having very difficult luck in trying to get someone to publish her book “One Night Only”  And that they don’t have the $5,000 it takes to have a book published on your own.  This is, of course, a novel about show people, based on the John Strong Circus.”.

Ah yes, five thousand dollars and more.  A vanity press took your money after telling you how wonderful your book was, and not long after, sent you a few hundred or thousand copies in boxes, and good luck trying to sell them.

Luckily for the millions who want to write, now there are respectable options, and some cost not a penny.

Two years ago, I tested self publishing, on Amazon’s Create Space, and did not spend a single penny.  I was determined to see if I really could bring out a book without spending a cent on it.  Used a different name, subject was not what you’d expect.  Surprisingly, the book has done decently well, nothing like what it would likely do with a well established royalty publisher, but not in any sense a flop, as sales were slow in starting, but book continues to sell.  So,  in July, I put it in the Kindle Store as an e-reader, charging less.  I’m in control of the whole thing.  That’s fun.

But in cases like this, of course, I can't call up friends to say "I FOUND A PUBLISHER!"

It’s a godsend for my being able to put out books I can’t find publishers for.   One, so far.  And maybe another.  Still, with each, I will first submit to the very very few publishers out there of reasonable size, still willing, as most are not, to accept a manuscript directly from the author.  Now, virtually all will only consider you through an agent, and so I feel little sympathy for them in the Amazon versus publisher wars.

“One thing she did ask is if I knew what your Russian circus book was doing.  Said she sure would like to know.

Circus Rings Around Russia sold only between 450 and 750 copies; contradictory royalty statements from the publisher point to both realities.  I have not a clue.  Three of my other books did much better.

“She also says that she has five novels written, but none published, and I gather she doesn't like agents and such, so I would guess it will be all the harder to get something published.”..

I had an agent once, a real New York agent named Bertha Klausner,  wonderful lady who lived on Park Avenue and represented, among others, Eleanor Roosevelt, Upton Sinclair, Fidel Castro, Basil Rathbone and a lovely dinner guest whom I would meet when she had me up to her suite for an evening meal: The guest at our small table was Clare Booth Luce.  Lovely lady.  I was young, and the young have an edge, right?  And nothing of mine (musicals and plays) that Bertha sent out got even optioned.

And now, in default, I have a very respectable agent, far from a vanity press, called Amazon.  One thing of which I feel fairly certain.   The royalty statements they keep are accurate, above board.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Kelly Miller Circus Website to Runaway Clowns Steve Copeland and Ryan Combs: Come Back, Please! .... Well, How Do You Read it? .... Hey, I've Got More Big Top Bits to Go -- Come Back, Please!

 Not 1, not 2 or 3 or 4, but 10 photos of Steve and Ryan appear on the Kelly Miller website

Something about Kelly Miller’s quirky website, capriciously out of sync with the PRESENT tense, that keeps me wondering why Hugo Central features photos of long-departed jesters Steve Copeland and Ryan Combs?  Hardly a space for the new replacement clown.  Here’s why, guessing:  They’re either falsely luring repeat customers into the tent by promising more antics from the dynamic duo, or this website is morphing into a picture gallery of  K-M performers, yesterday, today, and maybe tomorrow --- or none of the sideways.

Might John Ringling North II rue his having nudged the guys to speak with Circo Hermanos Vazquez about work? That's where they ended up going.  Will be interesting to see if they stay the course next season, or giggle elsewhere.

Okay, so that didn't grab you?  So let me try harder: How deadly the naive assumptions of a school  teacher posing as an animal trainer? She, not named, while taking her students to the Monaco Circus in Cusco, Peru, dared to enter the big cage, intent on demonstrating that the lion in there was not aggressive. Oh, sure, teach!  A big NO. Demonstration turns into horror show when teacher, once inside, gets viciously grabbed by the not-mild beast, dragged out of the cage by its teeth, and dangled around the ring “like a rag doll,”as reported by Chuck Burnes in Circus Report.  Good grief!  A teacher that stupid?  The show's real trainer applied a rod against the overly flirtatious beast  and managed to subdue its terrifying courtship. If only Dr. Phil had been there, all parties might have behaved better. at least until Jerry Springer could intervene ...

Music is in the ear of the beholder, and the bigger the ear, the better.  These elephants are making it their own way, so maybe it's time to revive Johnny North's  whimsical elephant ballet?  This takes us to North Thailand, where sixteen mammoths who make up the Thai Elephant Orchestra play especially designed instruments.  Three CDs released so far.  What next for the prima pachyderms? A stint on Bangkok's Got Talent?  Dancing with the Stars?  Beethoven under the big top?

Big Apple’s date on big screens,  nationwide, is fast approaching.  A goggle search reveals the show will be seen in about 25 movie houses in and around the epi-center of entertainment, that being L.A.  Most venues tape delaying (a wise box office move) rather than streaming live, 9:30 PST.. This is a big excitement, and I can’t wait ...  But, maybe not quite unprecedented, as previously I poised.  In back checking some of my own more sobering work, sans the silly dots, I see that a complete performance of Ringling- Barnum was televised from the Garden in New York in 1948 (and why am I wondering if this really happened?), at the bonny dawn of television.  Most of those tuning in were likely New Yorkers boob tubing it inside bars, where the new magic screens were being shown around then, to jump start early patronage.

END RINGERS: Peter Peke, in exit mode from a visit to Cirque du Soulei’s terrific Varekai, being asked by a fellow, “So, how did you like the plot?”  Pausing, pickled, and by this posting pardoned, a thematically challenged Pepke piped,  “I wasn't aware there was one.”   Neither was anybody else, except for Cirque’s most  self-deluded fans, having to hallucinate in order to find and follow the Big Theme ... Billy Barton's first posting for Circus Report, back in October, 1975, reprinted by the same: “Greetings from the first column by the Rex Reed of the circus.  Nothing is sacred, kiddies, and inasmuch as we all love secrets, I promise not to keep any.”  When reading CR, I always save, for last, the best part, reprints from old Barton columns.

 Swinging singer, Franchesca Cavallini, sings "I am the circus."

...  Carson and Barnes, from reports, surely looks more than one notch higher in creative production, what with a singling aerialist Franchesca Cavallini, and dancers who look like dancers..  I wish the Byrd of Byrds would fly west next season.  I promise to buy peanuts!. ...  Don Stacey thumbs upping a new DVD that sounds divine.  Sixty three minutes of footage, World Circus, from visits by Moon Productions to eleven countries, following “five top international circus acts.”  Interviews, also included, feature the likes of Kenneth Fled, Paul Binder, Tim Roberts, and other big top luminaries.  Here’s a link to buy: www.worldcrcusculture-movie.com 

OFF THE LOT, ACROSS THE STREET: Football Maximus, drop dead and let Big Bang Theory back on Monday Nights! I'll take Sheldon and his goofy friends any day over the sorry spectacle of young "athletes" prepping for a life of brain damage and pain. ... Did you read about those London tunnel thieves, digging holes to reach up into shops bearing ATMs and expensive loot?   They're even "digging" above ground ... .Ooops, there’s my bus!  See you next time! ...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Reading Planet Circus: Yes to Those Resilient Russians, Ring Wizards Who Flourish in Post-Soviet Times

   The Old Circus (aka: Nikulin Circus) in Moscow.

Flaring high over the new issue of Planet Circus is a very fine account by Gregory Ostrowski — Russian Circus - The Long Way in 95 Years.  Ostrowski follows the birth of the Soviet Circus in 1919, and shows how it has managed to grow and flourish over the years, even into the difficult post-Soviet era, when massive government funding dried up, leaving artists to more or less fend for themselves.  Soyusgoscirk (circuses of the Soviet Union) now it calls itself Rosgoscirk, for Russian circuses.

Now, it struggles for other forms of funding.  But now, it still produces world class acts and programs of deft invention.   In many ways, competing principally with China, Russia still leads the way.   Where there were once some 60 plus permanent arenas (spread through the since-disbanded 15 Soviet republics), Russia alone now operates about three dozen venues, and keeps eight tents on hand for touring.  That’s a heartening achievement, given the economic turmoil in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse.  If you love circus art, you have to love these indomitable  Russians.

From Whence the Montreal Monster?

Ostrowski, it would appear, takes on the Cirque du Soleil’s claims of modern-day reinvention by tracing the birth of the modern circus we know today back to 1930s Russia.  He is essentially correct.  It should be no secret to insiders that  Cirque’s founding artistic director, Guy Caron, was swept away, found his muse and his way, at a performance of a touring Moscow Circus troupe in Canada in 1970.   For six years following, he studded circus art in communist block Hungary at the State Circus School.

When I first saw Cirque du Soleil, in its first away-from-Canada date, in Los Angeles in 1987, I knew that its roots were in Russia. 

Quoting Ostrowski

“It is possible to say that in the late 1920s, for the first time in the world, the whole state branch of circus arts was created in Russia.    Nowadays when we create a circus program in many ways we must remember that the origins of this part of circus activity are not the remote past, they arose in the mid 30s of the last century.”

“Then there were the first attempts to create programs with a single thematic content...”  Yes, true, as when they tried rendering revolutionary poet Vladimir Mayakovsky’s “Moscow is Burning” in circus action, only to discover how difficult such well-intended ventures can be, and still are.   But those bold new concepts, drawing from the collective contributions of artists from many spheres,  would come to influence alternative circus programming in venues of higher learning and creative endeavoring. 

Thus, a flavor of justifiable pride rightfully informs Ostrowski's article, though murky it may be on occasion, as when overplaying box office demands (not all the seats in all the outlying regions were ever so easy to fill as he would have us believe), or advancing contradictory stats, to wit, for example, he writes of there being “36 circuses all over Russia,” but he also writes of there being some 3,000 artists who “perform in 24 circus programs.”  What about the other half dozen, I wondered.

Still on Top 

Nonetheless, Ostrowski’s central thesis holds.  The Russians have managed to sustain their artistic dominance.  Consider their showing at the leading circus festivals, or in the rings of major world circuses.

I study the picture, posted above, of the Old Circus in Moscow, focusing in on the small area just below the bandstand, and how fondly I recall sitting there one night, 35 years ago this very month, with my interpreter, Tanya Matveeva, whom I had just met outside the building.   We were embarking on a series of interviews in Moscow for a book I was researching on the history of circus in Russia.  

The thrill of discovery that evening, and of the sharing souls in the days to come who would answer my many questions, would surely mark a high point in my circus-going adventures.

And I got to see the great Karandash!

Say what you may about Russian society and politics.  In rings of wonder around the world, they still take big bold moves.  They still push boundaries.  They sill thrill.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Bad Movies Drive Me Back to TV Land .... Call Me a Born Again Boob Tube Believer

 Judy Dench and Steve Coogan in Philomena, one of only two films nominated for Best Picture  of the year that fully impressed me.

Thanks to Netflix, I was able to watch all of the nine films that were nominated last year for Best Picture.  I could hardly believe how awful most of them are.  What were Academy voters thinking?  There were, to be sure, two outstanding exceptions, shown in these photos, each finely wrought.

Facing a first date:  Joaquin Phoenix in Her.

The two exceptions that won me completely over are Philomena, with Judy Dench, and Her, a brilliant and disturbing look into a future when human beings (what’s left of them) form virtual relationships with Operating Systems -- PC  voices interacting with desperate electronic addicts.  Given the astonishing evidence out there of a preference for digital interactions over in-the-flesh, I can actually see such a thing happening, and it turns my stomach.

Her is a scary, challenging, and provocative flick.

All the other seven, for a variety of reasons, left me bored, exasperated, or thoroughly turned off.  A few, in fact, I did turn off.  Perhaps, it was just a matter of finding them a very difficult lot to sit through.

And the experience made me appreciate what TV has to offer.  Lately, I’ve finally given Big Bang Theory a chance, and what a blast.  Some of the best writing ever for a comedy sit com.  I love the very ordinary characters, even if Sheldon, were he not a sit com icon, would be under 24  hour psychiatric observation.  Will he end up married to the female nerd?  I doubt that.

I just discovered a big reality TV comedy contest called Wipe Out.  Talk about obstacle addicts making ragged Ann and Andy flop dolls of themselves, across a maze of amusing obstacles.   Just watching them, after missing a hurdle, getting tossed into water or mud,  for me, amounts to a howling good laugh.  No brains required.  There’s that big rubbery sledge hammer thing that smacks them good when they fail to avoid it.  And the two narrators sound like low key carnies in a shady penny arcade, providing a satire on sports casters in general.  It's a hoot!

Downton Abby:  Yes!  Finally, I have fallen for Masterpiece Theatre, and in a big way. I rented every episode up to the one that I first saw. I'm also enjoying The Paradise.  And as for Agatha Christie's  Poirot, even though I often get tangled up in trying to keep track of too many characters, David Suchet, above, has created one of the most memorable characters in the history of drama.  Just watching him carry on is a supreme pleasure. 

Jeopardy is kind of interesting, even if I can't answer the vast majority of the questions.  Alex Trevek  should shave his newly acquired mustache, either that, or audition for a role on Masterpiece Theatre.

I imagine that are many more shows I would enjoy, were I to take the time to check them out.  But I resist becoming a prisoner to TV.  And, after all, I still watch movies from NetFlix, even if last year's acclaimed gems left me dumbfounded.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

A revolutionary New Day for Watching Circuses: Big Apple Circus LIVE on Big Screens, Nationwide

I am waiting for Saturday morning, November 8,  at 9:30, when I will be inside a movie house in the Bay Area watching a live performance of the Big Apple Circus, from Lincoln Center in New York.

I can’t think of a precedent for this: A complete performance from start to finish, in real time.

We talk about watching a circus in person as being by far the best way to see it.  And, indeed, it is.  But what we are talking about is the very unpredictable nature of circus art itself, such that, sitting there in our seats, we know that at any moment danger or worse could visit the big top.

A missed triple.  A missed connection.  A wild animal going wild on its trainer.  Worse yet, getting lose and running away. 

Do you ever go to a play, a musical, a ballet, the opera, or a pop concert wondering who that day might stumble and fall, get hurt, or face the final curtain?  Do you ever fear for somebody's’ life watching great ballet dancers soaring over a stage? I do not.

And another thing:  The wow factor.  At a circus, we root for the juggler to keep all of the hoops and clubs in motion, the flyer to avoid the net.  Do you root for actors or singers in a like manner?

At a circus, we know of the darker potential realities that lurk in the shadows.  And so, watching circus performers prove their skills in the living present is what gives a circus performance a heightened power, each of the tricks the thrill of achievement before our eyes.   No second takes under the big top.  No editing before or after the act. There it is, in the beauty of indisputable raw truth. 

When Big Apple Circus, Hats off to them! --  hits the screens come November 8, another first for me: Two Big Apple shows in the same year!

Who could have ever guessed that such a day would come?

The crowds, will they come?  Have no idea.   I hope they do.  All of us who do not live in Big Apple’s limited touring range may be able to “go to” this wonderful circus every year.

Now, that’s revolutionary.   And to think, Paul Binder's troupe finally did make it out to the West Coast.


Wednesday, October 01, 2014

San Francisco in the Movies — Before the Tourists Came and the Families Fled

For me, I much prefer a San Francisco in memory. Real town.  Hard working people.  Families.  Sophisticated shopping for the rich and upwardly striving.  A real amusement park, Playland-at-the-Beach, for the masses.  That gone, too.   Produce and plants and factories.  Ships of the world docking at dozens of mighty piers, offloading and on-loading.  Short line freight trains sharing space with city streets.

Today, I go over there and feel crushed under noise, obnoxious congestion,  and tourism, crushed by more high rise condos going up, still, over land fill by the bay, down there where the wrong earthquake could reap a tragic outcome.  Jackhammers pound incessantly away.  People, struggling to pay rent, are run out of their rent-controlled spaces (evicted) their buildings being converted over for office or retail rising on new technology, or more high rises to favor the rich. Digital dough is swamping this town. Sure, a beautiful city.  But I like it less and less.  Not at all sure, had I the money, that I would even want to live over there. 

Some remarkable photography of the city that was comes through, unexpectedly, in movies made way back when.  Other night, I saw The Lineup, and marveled at black and white images, snapped  off my screen.  This is may give you as flavor of how the city looked and felt before Oakland's deeper water ports stole away San Francisco's shipping trade to containerized ships,  Before Pier 39 turned the place into a Disneyland. 

The Ferry building is now a thriving food arcade, pricey and fashionable.

Ships of commerce once docked along the Embarcadero.  

Some forty-plus piers thrived with shipping activity. Now, they house amusements and museums and offices,  or have been demolished to make way for a ballpark and condos.

A short line railroad once used these tracks.  Now,  they run a collection of old city street cars, loaded with tourists, headed for Pier 39's trivial attractions.  Slow as snails.   If you go, walk.

It was a working class town, believe it or not.  In my youth, I was employed for a time as a clerk for Planters Peanuts.

I love this shot, showing the Cow Palace in the background, about ten years after it was built. Ringling packed the arena the first year.  Turnaways.   

The iconic Golden Bridge retains its majesty, but soon, its famed architecture will be compromised by the installation, just under the deck of nets designed to catch and thwart mortals seeking to bring their lives to an end.  

The Palace of the Legion of Honor, intact.

Sutros Baths, just above Playland, was a great place to go, full of atmosphere, penny arcade amusements, old Barnumesque exhibits, model circus wagons by Bill Taggart, an ice rink, and. in its glory days, several giant swimming pools.  It burned down in 1966, the cause highly suspicious.

By the time The Lineup was filmed, the pools had been shut down.  Sutros was nearing its end.  The ice rink was about the only major draw.

One of the best scenes from the film.  The chief gangster, in a wheel chair, left, comes to collect a stolen treasure.   Little does  he know he's about to go ice skating, but on wheels rather than blades

 Oops! Bye, bye!

The Bay Bridge and Treasure Island form one fabulous backdrop.

When asphalt assaulted the city's beauty.  This is probably the Embarcadero freeway.  Below, a rare view of it, still under construction when the film was shot, around 1957.  It was a monstrosity, perhaps, fatefully speaking, the driving reason for the 1989 earthquake, which effectively rendered it inoperable.  And so it was taken down.     

Another thing about going to San Francisco.  And here, you need to listen to me!  I used to love to walk across the city, from the Ferry Building out to Ocean Beach, nearly every week.  But I came close twice to being hit by a car, and learned that San Francisco was the most dangerous city for pedestrians in California (evidently, no longer true).  Still ...

If you go there to walk, revise what I said above -- don't!