In 2007, I began writing a screenplay in earnest. I was unemployed, and I ran a story idea past Jack Kelly, who said, "It's good, but you have to 'do it!'".
Well, I did it, and actually got enough positive feedback to keep the dream alive. Arriving in Madison in 2009, I decided to convert the project to prose.
In movie terms, the story pans out to about to an hour and twenty minutes. In conversion, the story is a novella. Try as I might, I am not given to flowery prose.
The story is about race relations, and about San Francisco's vibrant, diverse neighborhoods. It takes place in the late 1950's, when race gangs were prevelant, but also takes into account complexities arising from Labor uprisings in the 1930's.
There is a football team, a neighborhood bar, Mission High, the waterfront, and San Francisco, itself, all vying for central character. Inside these are a wide array of characters who seem to add equally to the final narrative, just as in life.
I am proud of this work as a love letter to a city that no longer exists. I hope that it gives generations of San Franciscans a context for loving their city, and knowing where it comes from. I am trying to introduce it to the curriculum of the San Francisco high schools.
I found a publisher that specializes in new authors. They will edit the work. They will help and guide the cover artwork, digitization, platforming, licensing, distribution, ISDM, a radio interview and publicity campaign, as well as a few print copies.
These print copies I will reserve for the top 35 donations.
My committment to them contactually is around 3,000 dollars, and that is the minimum I need to raise. Additional to that, I would hope to have enough for a book tour. Optimally to New York and other cities, but especially, at least, to San Francisco for signings, interviews and sales.
I will use anything above the 3,000 for this purpose.
Thank You for reading this, and hopefully for contributing to the most important thing I have ever endeavored to do.
Here is a sample chapter:
The afternoon sun sits high above the wide old cobblestone street. It is partially paved, laced with railroad tracks, bounded by houses on one side and a block long corrugated metal structure on the other. Today, there are bluebird skies and not a whisper of a breeze.
This is San Francisco, an impossibly bright early September San Francisco in 1957. Ernie McNealy, a tallish, athletically built black man is walking down the sidewalk of an industrial section in the Mission district. It is hot and, wearing a dark brown sports shirt with long pants, he must be feeling the heat.
Mac stops and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. Peering up to the corner he sees an obscure wooden sign reading “Deer Inn”. Placing one hand on his hip, he straightens back and looks the length of the imposing structure across the street. On it there are tall black painted letters that read “Republic Steel”. Then, he looks back at the bar’s location across the street.
McNealy muses to himself, “Anyone can get a drink at a ‘union’ bar…anyone ‘union’.”
During this time of day the bar would be filled with retired and off shift steel workers, longshoremen, and assorted tradesmen from this multi-racial working-class neighborhood. These were men who had forged friendships in mutual support during labor strikes as far back as ‘Bloody Thursday’ and the General Strike in 1934; struggles that have long since crystallized San Francisco’s reputation as a “union town”.
As he approaches the simple wooden corner building, the pavement gives way in a steep slope, dipping almost a half-story beneath an overhang. There, in the welcome shade, is a worn swinging door. McNealy extends his hand to push and ducks in.
Pushing through the door, McNealy stands in blackness, unable to see. He instinctively holds his hand up like a visor, stoops a bit and steps forward as the door closes behind him.
“Sheww!” he exhales.
Out of the darkness, a bright voice chimes in, “Heyy, what’s shakin’ Coach?”
“Hot!” comes his reply, as he pulls and flaps his shirt for air. The sound of a fan grows and fades as a slight breeze rushes across his face.
A different voice, abrupt and with a slight brogue speaks, “You should change those damn colors! I never liked ‘em.”
More voices from around the room add:
”Brown and gold…that’s Mission!” comes another from nearby.
And from the back someone demands, “Siddown!”
A thin voice with a Russian accent offers, “Maybe if you had taken the time to participate…”
“Kolov!? Who woke you up?” retorts the brogue, “Don’t you know? I was preserving my body. I’m a machine!”
There are yet more cat calls from many voices.
Kolov continues, “Nooo, no, no, you boys. It is true! He has been working his switch every day for the last 35 years!”
The place erupts in laughter.
His eyes now adjusting to the darkness, Mac finally draws down his hand and takes in the bar. It is an old Victorian place. There is a small wood paneled room, a second room with tables, and a kitchen with the light off. Interspersed with pictures of local football and baseball heroes are oil paintings of bare breasted women with bouffant hair styles.
Seated between the doors to the kitchen, the cigarette smoke, and the extra room is a bent hawkish old man from where the Russian voice has been coming. There is a rainbow of ethnic faces sitting and standing about the rest of the room.
Coach McNealy approaches the near end of the bar. In accordance with an old San Francisco tradition dating back to the Gold Rush, there are no stools at the bar. He addresses the bartender, who is dressed in a white short-sleeve button down shirt and a black tie tucked into a white apron tied about his waist.
“You have a soda pop of some kind?” he queries.
“Yessir, I got Coke and…err…ahhh…” responds the bartender leaning back and looking down, then opening a refrigerator door, “Coke.”.
“Coke is fine, thanks” says McNealy with a smile.
From the end of the bar comes the brogue from a short, stout red headed man wearing suspenders. This is Terry Guillory. “So rumor has it you’re recruitin’ kids from all over the city for the JV’s this year.”
Again, there is a hubbub, as the denizens of the bar react to the words. The Coach sets his Coke on the broad mahogany bar and waits. As the commotion begins to fade, he starts to speak slowly, evenly, lifting his eyes to the room.
“Well now, gentlemen, that’s wrong.” Pausing for effect, Mac gestures in a southerly direction, “Fact is, I’ve been recruiting down there in Daly City, too!” There is laughter from around the bar.
He continues, raising his hand for silence, “I guess you all know I’m new around here, so I’ll be clear. I’m looking for kids who want to commit to our whole football program at Mission High. Coach Olivier (O-liv-ee-yay) and I want to build a winning program for years to come. But I can guarantee you this: no matter who comes in from outside, if your kids go to class, show up to practice with their heads on right, and work hard- they will get to play football on this team…and other schools are going to know we came to play.”
Coach McNealy ends as calmly as he had begun, but firmly. Around the bar, men raise their glasses, and there is a general nodding and agreement. The red headed man engages McNealy’s eyes, nods and raises his glass.
A skinny, brown skinned man named Sandoval, wearing a cast and seated against the wall with his leg up on another chair leans forward and impulsively swings his cane, only nearly missing people and beers.
“See, I told you he was going to be alright! All of you were ready to sell this guy right down the river. You too Ju-u-u-neee!” he finishes; now pointing his cane at a stout, middle-aged black man.
“Awww, why you callin’ me out?” the man pleads, putting down his glass on a nearby table.
Another black man, Avery Parker, about the same age, tall, sinewy and strong looking speaks over the top of his beer, about to take a sip.
“Because y’ both black”
Sandoval leans forward on his cane and sweeps his palm outwardly, as if to say, ‘there you go’.
“For real?!?”, June starts, “Ma-a-a-n , you mean?…awww, here we go, this is how it starts… come on, brother, let’s go…” he steps forward, arm extended as if to bring McNealy with him on his way out. Once again the bar erupts in laughter.
Chuckling, Coach McNealy, picks up his Coke and takes another sip. The bar returns to its general murmuring.
“Pretty lively place!” McNealy says to the bartender.
“Well, Coach, you’re kind of a new celebrity around here…a new hire hit’s the old rumor mill pretty hard.” he puts a glass he had been polishing down behind the bar, and looks up, “But y’ see …most everyone in here went to that school…except Kolov.”
“You will never know…” the old man’s voice creaks wryly from his perch, somehow having heard the whole conversation.
“Well, thanks.” says the coach to the bartender, finishing his soda; he raises his hand in farewell to the bar, “Gentlemen…”
“Coach!” comes the response from several voices around the bar.
McNealy pivots and pushes through the swinging door in a single motion, without a sound.
“That door always makes noise.” says a voice.
“The black man is smooth.” counters Avery.
“Smooth? So, what’s your excuse?” says Sandoval teasingly.
The door smacks closed with a shudder.
(These 2 chapters were written in 2000 and sat unchanged for 7 years until I got it together to write the rest of the story)
- Wendy warner
- Jeff Schultz
- Lisa Marine
- Cindy Sawyer
- Randy B
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