Meg B. in San Quentin Village

Birdland and the Banana Belt

I worked for 16 hours at San Francisco General Hospital yesterday. The final 8 hours was spent on 6B, where I worked with Trent. Trent is an erstwhile Marinite-turned-realtor who tells me all kinds of stuff about Marin, the county I've lived in for 30 years. He is trying to get "vested" so as to sweeten his retirement while one can still do that working for the City. I also worked with Carlos, with whom I had a few good laughs about Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, and Alejandro Toledo, president of Peru (Carlos is Peruvian). I tell him I think Toledo is handsome, that he reminds me of an Inca warrior and I'd have him for my new boyfriend instead of Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, who Carlos thinks is a communist. I listen to JB, a patient I know well, sing at the top of his lungs all night long -- "Old King Cole was a merry old soul and a merry old soul was he." JB is a black man who everyone is afraid of because of the verbal abuse and the obscenities he spews when he's off his meds, which is often. What they fail to remember, if they know him at all, is that he has never laid a hand on anybody and is a kind soul, alternately calling me a bitch because I know his case manager, "who had me arrested for nothin'," then hugging me and asking me about my son. JB has a grown son in Iraq.

Trent tells me about "birdland," a section in the flatter part of Mill Valley where the streets are all named after birds. If you live there you are pitied at cocktail parties because it's lower class (although the median price for houses is seven figures).

Trent said that he has gone to cocktail parties where people who live in "the banana belt," a small portion of Sausalito on the water, brag about the microclimate they live in, which they claim is much better than in the hills. Real estate prices in the hills, however, are so obscene that one cannot do anything but drive by.

The glitterati of Marin have it all balkanized into tax brackets and resale value.

In all my years in Marin, I had never heard these neighborhood tags.

Trent hates Marin and thinks all the people who were born and raised here have serious psychological problems, a sense of entitlement from being raised around money, whether one has money or not. I think he's right, and it makes me wish I had gotten out of here long ago, when Bette did, taking her son to the wine country to be raised among the lower-income folks there who have nothing to do with grapes or wine.

Trent knows nothing of Lucienne O'Keefe, who is anything but entitled. O'Keefe is an activist of the highest order, with a rap sheet a mile long for civil disobedience. She's in her 70s and is an ex-nun who has lived here at least as long as I have. She has dedicated her retirement from the Longshoreman's Union to full-time activism.

Or of Norm "The Red" Gover, or Duncan Draper, or Kathy Rolston, who all more or less do the same.

Huge accident on the Waldo Grade last night -- two people killed in a 31-car pileup when a drunk driver lost control of his vehicle in a deluge of snow and sleet. Yes, snow and sleet, on the northbound lanes of 101 going into Marin from the city.

Traffic, myself included on the way home from work at 7 a.m., was diverted through the banana belt to points further north.

I have "Old King Cole" stuck in my head as I try to discern climate differences while driving through Sausalito.

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